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Colourful, intricately ornate music is another winner from Desplat
A review by JAMES SOUTHALL
Music composed by
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Album cover copyright (c) 2006 Milan Records; review copyright (c) 2006 James Southall
Chronicalling Queen Elizabeth II's reaction to the events unfolding following the death of Princess Diana in 1997, Steven Frears's The Queen has attracted quite some acclaim, not least for Helen Mirren's performance as the long-serving monarch. The British public's inexplicable reaction to Diana's death continues to baffle me (of course it was a shame, but seeing people bawl in sorrow several weeks after the event was bizarre indeed) as does the world's infatuation with one of the film's other main characters, Tony Blair - but still.
The film music world's infatuation with Alexandre Desplat is entirely less controversial to me - his is the freshest voice to emerge in many years, and each new project seems to bring something new. For The Queen he melds ornate, distinctly British classical idioms with a hint of the modern world through the liberal use of electronic embellishment - if anything, it's like a more cheerful version of his outstanding music for Birth.
The main theme introduced in the opening track is unsurprisingly stately and noble; there's an intricate, off-kilter waltz in "Elizabeth and Tony"; some slightly darker, more urgent, more modern music in "People's Princess". Desplat's approach here reminds me a little of what Thomas Newman sometimes does when he decides to inject some neoclassicism into his scores, with crystal-clear, delicate, precise orchestration recorded with a very naturalistic approach, giving it a sense of excitement at the same time as timeless beauty.
Of course, there has to be sorrow somewhere along the way, and it comes most notable in the elegy "Mourning" which is delicately moving; Desplat manages to avoid such music for the most part elsewhere, concentrating instead on accentuating the film's themes of presenting a veneer of life going on unchanged for the monarchy while everything else seems to be getting torn apart around it, by injecting an almost tragi-comic sense of rhythm and life.
The Queen is not perhaps one of Desplat's more striking compositions, but repeated listening is extremely rewarding, with the composer once again demonstrating that there is a place for highly-considered, carefully-orchestrated music in modern films. The score is available from Milan Records, the album's only misfire being the inclusion of Verdi's "Libera Me" which is a truly beautiful piece, but completely at odds with the original score. Otherwise, this is a deeply-rewarding, highly-recommended soundtrack.