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Fantastic, deeply moving, highly-personal score amongst Doyle's best
A review by JAMES SOUTHALL
Music composed by
* * * * 1/2
Album running time
Album cover copyright (c) 2005 Scion Films (Wah-Wah) Production Partnership, Lorna Nasha, IMG Productions; review copyright (c) 2006 James Southall
Starring Gabriel Byrne and Miranda Richardson, Wah-Wah is an autobiographical tale from Richard E. Grant (directing for the first time) and received a lot of positive reviews, if not good box office performance, on its release in 2005. Some time later, the soundtrack album has appeared from Varese Sarabande, and it turns out to be a noteworthy release, featuring Patrick Doyle's finest score in many years. While Doyle has attracted much praise for his recent large-scale scores for Harry Potter and Eragon, it is in this score, which will be heard by far fewer people, and praised by far fewer people, where the composer's true voice can be heard - it's one of his most personal and affecting works.
Doyle sets out the scene in the opening cue, "Swaziland", with a moving theme for strings and piano, played with grace and beauty by the London Symphony Orchestra. He ratchets up the emotion all the way in "Train Away", showing (as if it needed doing) that a skilled composer can wring just as much emotion from a modestly-orchestrated piece from this as from the full-scale orchestral efforts most attempt. It's unbelievably moving, with the constantly-tinkling piano adding the touch of humanity to the sad, heartfelt string theme weaving all around it. Top-notch.
He goes further in "The Key", this time using a wash of almost Herrmannesque high-register strings to open the piece in elegaic fashion before reducing things down much further with successive passages for violins, oboe, muted horns, flutes, horn and then back to the strings - again, this is a composer making a powerful dramatic statement in an intelligent way. The opening of that cue is then turned darker, deeper and bleaker in "The Shooting", another piece with great power.
Things finally take on a sunnier air in the brief "Wonderful News" and then the delightful "Monica", a beautiful, uplifting theme. "Goodbye Swaziland" begins with another uplifting, anthemic piece before changing tack entirely into a presumably traditional, not composed by Doyle (though the CD credits don't say this), African choral piece. A reprise of that track's gorgeous opening theme is then heard in "Independence" before once again the music heads back into its anguished state (not surprisingly, given the track titles) in "Months to Live" and "Harry Dies", though there is certainly a strong sense of both beauty and nobility running through these pieces.
Doyle then closes the score with the soaring, unstintingly beautiful and moving "Please Forgive Me" and then a piano suite of the score's main themes (played by the composer himself) - the latter shows off another layer of emotion to the music, and is a splendid way to close the album. This is Doyle at his best - touching, moving music with a real heart, written with sincerity, graceful throughout. It's undoubtedly one of his finest scores and I recommend it to all.