I would have thought providing a soundtrack for Pride & Prejudice brought composer Dario Marianelli his fair share of sleepless nights. Whereas writing music for a romantic film shouldn’t necessarily be too taxing, it becomes impossibly easy to overindulge, to drown the music in schmaltz. On top of that is the knowledge that Carl Davis and Melvyn Tan produced a wonderful soundtrack to the BBC TV serialisation of the book, now 10 years old.
Happily for the most part Marianelli avoids the temptation to go down the overly romantic route, and coming to his aid is the pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet, who plays the opening Dawn Music with great sensitivity as if it were a Chopin prelude, bringing out the chromatic theme that assumes such nagging importance throughout the score. That’s not to say the music isn’t tender – haunting even – which it frequently is.
Stars And Butterflies expands on the chromatic theme with the help of a small string orchestra, Marianelli making economical use of his forces. However at this point it is possible to detect the beginnings of overindulgence, the suspicion growing that the whole soundtrack could become a piece of artful lounge music.
Thankfully this is dispelled by the rustic dance music of Meryton Townhall, all scraping bows and bouncy rhythms, a perfect vehicle for the subtle moves of the dancers. From here on the musical tapestry takes on a wholly different appearance, jumping between styles with occasionally alarming ease as a few of the numbers are cruelly truncated.
The Postcard To Henry Purcell, a promising set of variations on the theme taken by Benjamin Britten as the basis for his Young Person’s Guide To The Orchestra, elaborates skilfully on the source material but could have done with a bigger canvas to work on. The Militia Marches In has only just got going when it stops after just a minute, its charmingly out of tune theme little more than a musical snapshot.
Where Marianelli really triumphs is in the more substantial later numbers, with Darcy’s Letter and Your Hands Are Cold bringing some much-needed urgency to proceedings, a yearning in the string arpeggios heightening anticipation.
As you might expect the main theme returns at the end, Mrs Darcy given her due by Thibaudet and the strings. The pianist is uniformly excellent, opting for a more subtle classical approach rather than seizing every opportunity to overdo the expressive rubato. It means Marianelli’s score receives the best possible performance and renders it a largely successful enterprise, if meagre value on CD at just over forty minutes.