Zing! Went the Strings of My Heart: Five Romantic Movie Scores
Recommended by Kathie Gladden, a Canton Public Library staffer and Internet Branch contributor.
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Far From the Madding Crowd(1967)
British composer Richard Rodney Bennett earned an Oscar nomination for his score of this 1967 adaptation of Thomas Hardys tale of romance and betrayal, set in rural mid-19th Century England. A work of piercingly sweet sadness, its themes perfectly evoke both the windswept isolation of Hardys Wessex countryside and the melancholy hopelessness of heroine Bathsheba Everdenes love for the faithless Sergeant Troy. Accentuated by an extended opening flute solo, this score is influenced by Bennetts classical leanings and is reminiscent of Debussy. (See the Movie)
I was half-asleep on a transatlantic flight when I first heard Alexandre Desplats Golden Globe-winning score to this 2003 film. Based on Tracy Chevaliers lyrical novel, The Girl with a Pearl Earring tells of an imagined relationship between Johannes Vermeer and his servant girl, Griet, the model of the titular painting. The delicate and haunting musical themes penetrated and lingered in my jet-lagged brain. Variations on both the title theme and Griets Theme are reprised throughout in swirling eddies of strings, flute, piano and celeste (a keyboard instrument in which hammers strike bells.) Desplats name is not well known outside Europe but, based on this gem (and his recent Oscar nomination for The Queen), it should be. (See the Movie)
When asked which of his own scores he likes best, John Williams usually picks Jane Eyre, and so do I. A pastorale work written for the 1971 British TV version of Charlotte Brontes romantic classic starring George C. Scott and Susannah York, Jane Eyre is unlike any of the more histrionic compositions for which hes known. While using a full symphony orchestra, Williams brings a chamber orchestra feel to this score. The Jane Eyre Theme a yearning, wistful, primarily piano piece altogether suits its namesake (The Meeting is a pensive re-statement of the theme in flute and guitar), while the Overture uses harpsichord, oboe and strings to bring an appropriately Gothic tone to a movie about isolation, madness and bittersweet love. (See the Movie)
Not everyone would agree that this film is a romance. What with rapes, decapitations and sundry other acts of mayhem, this 1992 version of James Fenimore Coopers novel of life and love during the French and Indian Wars has more dispassionate gore than your average slasher film. But the use of strings, horns and percussion; the recurrent Celtic themes throughout; and especially the echoing thunder of the main theme, resonating bravery and heroism, stir up such an emotional maelstrom that, in a musical sense, Last of the Mohicans is indeed a romance. (And at my nephews recent wedding, a cut from this album was playing as he led his new bride into the reception hall. What could be more romantic than that?) (See the Movie)
This is another film that is a romance only in the broadest sense. Agnieszka Hollands enchanting 1993 version of Frances Hodgson Burnetts classic tale of the lonely orphan, Mary Lennox, and the neglected garden she restores to life, is exquisitely complemented by fellow Pole Zbigniew Preisners score. Making delicate use of piano, guitar and strings, the musical themes have a sweetness that is more precise than cloying. Especially affecting is the opening title, whose mysterious, atonal Eastern theme reflects the haunting past that follows Mary to England. The rich sadness and joy of the film itself will bring you to the edge of tears. The music will tip you right over. (See the Movie)