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The Iron Lady
  • Composed by Thomas Newman
  • Sony Classical / 2011 / 54:42

The most famous British leader this side of Winston Churchill, Margaret Thatcher continues to inspire reverence and hatred from the British people today in almost equal measure, just as she did during her decade-and-a-bit in office.  The Iron Lady tells of her remarkable rise to – and subsequent fall from – power, with Meryl Streep attracting her usual rave reviews in the lead role.  Surprisingly, the music isn’t by Alexandre Desplat, who seems to have become a sort of court composer for the United Kingdom.  Instead, Thomas Newman gets another high-profile piece of Oscar bait to work with, a welcome return to such territory for the composer.  His music is very quirky – going through a wide range of styles – but remains compelling throughout and is his strongest in quite some time.

There is serious drama here – “Grand Hotel” is where the IRA tried (and very nearly managed) to blow her up; “Crisis of Confidence” and “Community Charge” are gripping pieces of high drama chronicling Thatcher’s ultimate fall from grace – there is heartfelt, affecting music (“Denis” is full of affection, “Airey Neave” even more so) – and even some good old British pomp and circumstance, particularly in “The Great in Great Britain” and the fabulous “Discord and Harmony”, which sees Newman emulating the most famous protagonist of the style with great skill).  For the most part, this is Newman in his full orchestral mode – he doesn’t stick with a single idea long enough for there to be a theme which sticks in the memory quite like those great ones he wrote in the 1990s – but there’s just a whiff of one of those near the start of “Swing Parliament”.  The score’s main theme does have a hint of Desplat about it, filtered through this composer’s own extremely distinctive style, and that’s fascinating to hear – “Nation of Shopkeepers” does it best.  This is a very strong album, seeing Newman back in very fine form (and frankly any CD which contains a track called “Fiscal Responsibility” is surely an automatic must-buy).  ****

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  1. Kevin (Reply) on Saturday 24 December, 2011 at 07:31

    I’m so excited for this score. Newman hasn’t written orchestral music this forthright since Little Women.