The Master of Ballantrae
Prometheus (PCR 501)
Year Released: 1984/1998
Conducted by Bruce Broughton
The Sinfonia Of London
|2.||Off To Fight||:41|
|5.||The Battle at Sea (Part 1)||6:15|
|6.||The Battle at Sea (Part 2)||1:24|
|10.||James Closes In||2:32|
|12.||Trouble Sleeping / Dead Man Gone||4:23|
|13.||The Devil's Diary||1:08|
|16.||Dreams of the Dead||:53|
|18.||The Legacy and Finale||3:32|
|Total Album Time:||49:39|
|by Dan Goldwasser
on June 23rd, 2001
The 1953 Errol Flynn film, The Master of Ballantrae (based on the novel by Robert Louis Stevenson) was remade into a television movie in 1984. Hired to score this piece of swashbuckling cinema was Bruce Broughton, who in 1984 made the transition from composing for television to composing for feature films (Ice Pirates). Broughton's orchestral approach to the film was both lyrical and energetic, and it is surprising that there was no release of this score until recently, on the Prometheus label.
The main theme is a surprisingly simple, yet amazingly memorable one - it sounds like something one would associate with a 19th century sailing ship. According to the liner notes, Broughton researched hundreds of old themes in a London library to use as a model for this film, and composed the score in the style of 18th-century Scottish music. His research certainly paid off, and the resulting score is a period one, with all the trimmings. But it is during some of the more dramatic action sequences ("The Battle at Sea, Part 1") in which Broughton demonstrates what would end up becoming his strength. Some large orchestral moments reminiscent of the work John Williams had done for Star Wars provided ample sources of tension where needed. There is little doubt in my mind that Broughton applied the experiences learned on this score to his future scores, most notably Young Sherlock Holmes, which was done the year after and had a slightly similar style.
There are three types of music in the film: the peppy upbeat main theme (used in different ways), the tense dramatic action and suspense cues, and the soft, romantic moments that take advantage of the string and flute sections of the orchestra. Broughton even gets a chance to write a very traditional-sounding classical cue ("Colonial Minuet"), complete with harpsichord, strings, and flute. One track which stands out as a very dark piece of music is "Dreams of the Dead", which involves creative use of the percussion section to add just the right amount of creepy-ness to the score. This track is immediately followed by "James' Death", which has the same creepy-ness (sustained strings, and brooding woodwinds) and occasionally reminded me of another Broughton score, The Monster Squad (at least the quieter moments, that is).
A nice addition to the score, which runs about 48 minutes long, is the inclusion of the original television teaser music, which Broughton apparently wrote just for the commercial. Most people know of Broughton from his work on Silverado, Tombstone, Young Sherlock Holmes, Lost In Space, and others. But I would have to say that a pivotal score in his career is The Master of Ballantrae, not only for the memorable themes and orchestrations, but also because it was a score that he apparently drew from in his career as a feature film composer.
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