The Lion in Winter
Varese Sarabande (302 066 571 2)
Release Date: 2004
Conducted by Allan Wilson
The Slovak Radio Orchestra and Chorus
|1.||Family at War||2:38|
|4.||Legend of King Lear||1:18|
|7.||Elinor of Aquitaine||3:21|
|9.||I'm Sick of War||1:40|
|13.||You Love Nothing||1:30|
|14.||I'm Not a Fool||2:06|
|16.||How Clear We Make It||3:54|
|17.||Amors de Terra||2:18|
|19.||Get Me a Priest||2:08|
|20.||He Never Meant to...||2:35|
|21.||I'm an Old Man||0:57|
|22.||Philip and Henry||1:39|
|23.||Until We Bury You||3:57|
|24.||Deny Us What You Will||1:35|
|26.||What About the Baby||1:38|
|27.||All That I Ever Loved||2:53|
|Total Album Time:||61:47|
|by Michael McLennan
on September 27th, 2004
Whatever one's opinions of the dramatic merits of TV movies, the Hallmark Hall of Fame series in collaboration with Varese Sarabande have of late brought film score lovers some of the most vibrant orchestral film scores of recent years, with titles from Trevor Jones (Merlin, Gulliver's Travels), Chris Gordon (Moby Dick, On the Beach), Richard Harvey (Arabian Nights, Animal Farm), Anne Dudley (The Tenth Kingdom) and Paul Grabowsky (Noah's Ark), among others. British composer Richard Hartley has contributed to this deluge of quality scores himself, providing an excellent score for Hallmark's redux of Alice in Wonderland and a less accessible one for Don Quixote.
And so we come to The Lion in Winter. A classic film from 1967 with Katherine Hepburn and Peter O'Toole at their best as the two halves of the most troubled marriage in the history of the English monarchy, Henry II and Elinor of Aquitaine. And even if that casting didn't grab you, there was always the allure of the textbook perfect James Goldman script (based on his play), formative performances for Anthony Hopkins and Timothy Dalton, and a John Barry score that is easily among that composer's top five. All these elements conspire against the success of any remake, and especially for film score fans. For while the Hallmark remake boasts the intriguing pairing of Glenn Close and Patrick Stewart at its centre – an unlikely but possible rival to the Hepburn-O'Toole duet – few would see Richard Hartley as likely to trounce John Barry.
And trounce Barry is something Hartley does not do. But while it's not the most memorable score for a medieval period film ever made, it's a high quality score and one of Hartley's best to date. The highlights are many on the lengthy album put out by Varese Sarabande. The almost Elgarin regal textures building out of the brass and strings in "A Family at War" set the stage for an epic time in English history. The lovely solo woodwinds of that track lead into "Salisbury", a dour cue that is transformed by choir and brass into an epiphanic moment. Martial snares announce the coming of the main theme in "Main Title". It is a striking theme with great some great brass harmonies, the choir again lending some Latin intonations to resolve the piece.
While the main theme does return throughout in various forms, this is really an album where nearly every cue offers up an impressive motif of its own. The woodwind theme of "Legend of King Lear" brings a tear to my eye every time I hear it. The heart-breaking theme for oboe and flute in "You Love Nothing", "I'm an Old Man", "Deny Us What You Will" (here for cello as well), "All That I Ever Loved" and "End Title" (introduced with a great Thomas Tallis quotation) adds poignancy to the second half of the album in particular. As well, there is a great regal finality to the theme Hartley introduces in "Until We Bury You" and which dominates the finale piece "The Brothers".
As with the Barry score, Hartley has characterised Elinor with a stunning piece for mixed choir heard in "Elinor of Aquitaine" and reprised in "End Title". Another common element with the Barry score is the use of medieval style songs in "The Chancellor", "I'm Sick of War" and "Santa Nicolaus" (complete with a mixture of acoustic of synthesized and acoustic medieval instrumentation). While nothing haunts the listener quite like Barry's "The Christmas Wine", Hartley's songs are well written.
There is too much to talk about in this score, and possibly that is an indication of one problem with the album. It takes a while to get to the stirring finale of "The Brothers", and it isn't always an exciting journey, suggesting that the midsection of the album is longer than it should be. Honestly though, I couldn't pick a cue I would get rid of, every cue having it's own distinctive qualities, whether it be the soft lute writing of "Amors de Terra" and "The Crusades" or the martial brass fanfares of "Revenge" (which sounds like it could have been temped with Shearmur's The Count of Monte Cristo). In any case, it's not much of a criticism to say that an album has too much music in the age of programmable CD players. The score is a credit to Hartley, who clearly deserves to be regarded alongside George Fenton, Stephen Warbeck and Debbie Wiseman as one of the best modern British film composers. Kudos also to Hallmark for their continued commitment to quality orchestral film scoring, and to Varese Sarabande for making a lengthy release of score available on album.
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