- Composed by Craig Armstrong
- Sony Classical / 2015 / 54m
Thomas Hardy’s Far From the Madding Crowd about a farm owner who attracts a trio of very different suitors hasn’t been short of cinematic adaptations over the years; the first recorded was a hundred years ago in 1915. The most famous is probably John Schlesinger’s 1967 version with Julie Christie and Terence Stamp. It received a modern reworking recently as Tamara Drewe. The 2015 version comes from BBC Films, stars Carey Mulligan and is directed by Thomas Vinterberg, who co-founded the Dogme 95 movement with Lars Von Trier.
The elegant music comes from Craig Armstrong, his first score for a film like this I believe; and many people will be hoping that it is a long way from his last. The gorgeous main theme is established in the “Opening”, the highlight of which is the rapturous solo violin. It’s very reminiscent of Vaughan Williams and a style that has also been appropriated by James Newton Howard for some of his M. Night Shyamalan scores, particularly The Village. Its pastoral nature, evocative of rolling fields and a wispy breeze, is the sound of England.
“Corn Exchange” is much lighter, just as delightful; airy and playful. A more serious side is then developed in “The Great Misunderstanding”, the violin still providing the delicate colour but now accompanied by more sombre strains from the whole orchestra. “Spring Sheep Dip” brings back the jaunty sound and is everything you might expect a piece called “Spring Sheep Dip” to be. “Oak Returns” sees romance coming more to the fore, a subtle yearning slowly giving way to a lusher expression of emotion.
In “Never Been Kissed” there’s a sadness, the violin solo tentatively suggesting a growing exploration of feelings. A gorgeous duet between violin and harp opens “Hollow in the Ferns”, a warm feeling added from the larger string section suggestive of light poking through the trees. It’s one of the score’s real standouts, just beautiful. “Bathsheba and Troy Wedding” is not all fun and games – there’s a real sadness running through it, a feeling that this is not the right thing.
“Fanny and Troy” is a dramatic turning point of sorts, a dynamic cue full of tragedy. In “Troy Swims Out”, a piano solo accompanied by piercing strings is impressively haunting. “Boldwood Variation” marks a return to warmer feelings, a sumptuous romantic piece with an air of English stateliness to it; just wonderful. Then in “Time Moves On” the happy, summery style from much earlier in the score makes a welcome return, a spring back in the step. “Oak Leaves” has a bittersweet feel to it but that doesn’t last long because immediately afterwards “Bathsheba and Oak Unite” in the most upliftingly romantic way. The score comes full circle with a return to the beautiful main theme for the end credits before the composer rounds the disc out with an album arrangement, the rapturous “Far from the Madding Crowd Love Theme” which I predict is going to get an awful lot of airtime on Classic FM.
Spread through Armstrong’s score are a few songs and other source cues – a couple of hymns, some folk songs and ditties – which I prefer to programme out but your tastes may differ (the exception is “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” which works very well where it is placed). Far From the Madding Crowd is very different from anything I’ve heard from the composer before and I have to say it’s just gorgeous, one of the best things he’s ever done. Romantic and beautiful but much more substantial than the Rachel Portman template usually applied to these things, it’s a serious work and deserves a very wide audience. Certainly one of the scores of the year.
Rating: **** 1/2