Home > Reviews > BRIDESHEAD REVISITED – Adrian Johnston


Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

A romantic drama based on Evelyn Waugh’s 1945 classic British novel, Brideshead Revisited stars Ben Whishaw and Matthew Goode as Sebastian Flyte and Charles Ryder, two young men who meet at Oxford University, and experience love, life and aristocratic decadence in England prior to the Second World War. Having already been turned into an acclaimed TV series in 1981 with classic music by Geoffrey Burgon, Julian Jarrold’s big screen update boasts an impressive supporting cast – Emma Thompson, Michael Gambon, Greta Scacchi – and new music by composer Adrian Johnston, who seems to excel at writing music for these very austere, very English costume dramas.

As is often the case with these things, Johnston’s music is generally lush and romantic, with heavy emphasis on piano, woodwinds and strings, and with that quintessential sound of “Englishness” that composers like Patrick Doyle, George Fenton and (oddly) Dario Marianelli often have in their scores for these kinds of film. Despite their being no strong central recurring theme, the album is generally consistent in tone and orchestration, and features a number of standout individual moments.

The opening “Sebastian” is a lovely, mellifluous solo piano piece that recurs during the sumptuous “Arcadia”, and in the enchanting “Orphans of the Storm”, where it combined beautifully with a solo cello. Some of the cues, such as “Memory”, “A Crock of Gold” and “Contra Mundum”, have a slight hint of melancholy to them, underpinning the classical beauty with a darker flavor, although these are counterbalanced by cues such as “Guilt” and “Venice”, which open up into bright, sweeping, attractive fanfares.

One or two tracks feature a distinctly Desplat-style bubbling undercurrent in the piano and woodwind writing, which is very pleasing indeed, and it is also worth noting the lovely harp solo that features in “Faith”, the smooth saxophone in “The End of Our Day”, and the heartbreaking cello performance during “Between Dreaming and Waking”. A couple of source music cues – “Wise Old Wine” – round out an extremely satisfying album, although the recommendation comes with reservations for those who find understated, classically-inclined dramatic scores a little too reserved for their tastes.

Rating: ****

Track Listing:

  • Sebastian (2:12)
  • Memory (1:42)
  • Guilt (1:51)
  • Oxford (1:57)
  • A Crock of Gold (1:22)
  • Arcadia (1:44)
  • Gravely Injured (0:39)
  • That First Visit (2:21)
  • Faith (2:18)
  • Wise Old Wine (3:18)
  • Venice (1:58)
  • The Lido (2:38)
  • Carnival (2:05)
  • Desire (2:03)
  • Contra Mundum (1:24)
  • Mid-Atlantic Jungle (2:54)
  • Between Dreaming and Waking (1:45)
  • Orphans of the Storm (0:57)
  • Rex (2:05)
  • Near Escape (2:19)
  • The End of Our Day (1:34)
  • Clouds Gathered (2:09)
  • A Small Red Flame (1:37)
  • Always Summer (2:29)

Running Time: 47 minutes 21 seconds

Chandos CHAN-10499 (2008)

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