Latest reviews of new albums:
Wolf Hall
  • Composed by Debbie Wiseman
  • Silva Screen / 2015 / 56m

A handsome BBC adaptation of Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies, Mark Rylance gives a stunning performance as Thomas Cromwell, Henry VIII’s chief minister, as it chronicles his part in the king’s split from the Roman church and follows events up to the execution of Anne Boleyn.  With a terrific cast (Damian Lewis also stars, as Henry) it is very engaging, though its sympathetic presentation of Cromwell – seen by most historians as a self-serving, bullying figure – does suggest it’s to be taken with a pinch of salt.  The score is by Debbie Wiseman and is one of her best – it’s absolutely captivating.  It is credited to The Locrian Ensemble, a famous chamber string ensemble in London but evidently augmented by other soloists (some authentically Tudor) for this recording.  At the heart of the score is the outstanding main theme, with a hint of darkness and a slightly Machiavellian feel, as if a web is being spun around the listener; perfect for Cromwell.

“Forgive Me” features a beautiful piano solo, more than a hint of sadness but a great beauty.  “Anna Regina” is even more beautiful, capturing the tragedy of Henry’s second wife.  At the other end of the scale is “Master of Phantoms”, a dark and at times surprisingly aggressive piece of action/suspense.  It’s impressive how the composer has managed to craft something which manages to have a somewhat authentic period feel and yet work perfectly as modern dramatic underscore; it’s so uniquely crafted to Wolf Hall, refreshingly different from other music being written.  I have to say it is a bit miserable at times, as demanded by the show; but it certainly keeps my attention rapt throughout its running time and is an album I can imagine returning to frequently.

Rating: **** | |

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  1. mastadge (Reply) on Sunday 15 March, 2015 at 15:43

    Can’t wait to hear it. Sounds like this year’s Black Sails.

  2. ANDRÉ - CAPE TOWN. (Reply) on Monday 16 March, 2015 at 10:07

    James, you usually provide much more detail of the musical content of a CD…why was it so lacking in this review? I love music of the Renaissance and Elizabethan ages, and hope that themes for Anne Boleyn are saurated with period instruments. Boleyn’s courtly, French upbringing saw her infusing Henry’s Tudor Court with gaiety, merry-making and sophistication. Does WISEMAN’S score reflect the Elizabethan pavanes, marescas & sarabands that the Courtiers would have danced to? GEORGES DELERUE wrote the music for ‘Anne of the Thousand Days’ using ethnic period instruments for the glorious love themes[including the love ballad], courtly dances and music for Anne’s beheading [she was also accused of dabbling in witchcraft]. It’s one of my favourite Renaissance scores and DELERUE’S exquisitely crafted music needs digital remastering & a legitimate CD release. It’s not a lengthy score, so releasing it with his very beautiful music for ‘Interlude’ would make an ideal coupling.

  3. , Andre>>Cape Town (Reply) on Saturday 27 May, 2017 at 20:48

    I bought Wolf Hall -listened to it a few times, but won`t be playing it again. I couldn`t detect a period feel at all, and her themes are unmemorable. However, I do recommend WISEMAN`S music for `The Musical Zodiac`,her first commission as Classic FM`s Composer in Residence. I happened to switch on Cape Town`s Classical/Jazz FM Radio Station and was immediately beguiled by what was playing…music of exquisite beauty, similar to a Rachel Portman film score. I phoned through to the Radio Station and was given details, by the presenter/compiler, that the music represented WISEMAN`S take on the twelve astrological star signs–cosmic energies that influence our lives. Even if astrology isn`t part of your belief system, the music is worth listening to. Unlike White Hall, I listen to this orchestral celebration of the Zodiac repeatedly—there`s melody, harmony, humanity and an impressive performance by the National Symphony Orchestra.