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CINDERELLA – Patrick Doyle

cinderellaOriginal Review by Jonathan Broxton

Walt Disney are currently undertaking an interesting exercise whereby they are re-making many of their animated classics as live action films; last year, Sleeping Beauty was re-imagined as the action packed Maleficent, and next year Beauty and the Beast is set to hit cinemas in an all-new setting. This year, however, it is the turn of Cinderella, which was originally produced by the mouse house in 1950, and is now receiving a lavish big screen re-telling from director Kenneth Branagh. For those who don’t know, the story is largely based on the popular fairytale novel Cendrillon by Charles Perrault, first published in 1697, and tells the story of a young woman who is mistreated by her cruel stepmother and her wicked step-sisters, and dreams of escaping her life of domestic drudgery. One night, when her family is away attending a ball given by a handsome prince, to which Cinderella has been expressly forbidden from going, she is visited by her kind fairy godmother, who uses her magic to create a ball gown and glass slippers for Cinderella to wear, and a carriage to take her to the palace. At the ball, the Prince sees and instantly falls in love with the beautiful Cinderella, but circumstances contrive for her to have to flee the palace at the stroke of midnight, before the Prince learns her identity. His only clue is one of the glass slippers, which Cinderella accidentally leaves behind in her haste… The film stars Lily James as Cinderella, Game of Thrones alumnus Richard Madden as the Prince, Cate Blanchett as the Stepmother, and Helena Bonham-Carter as the Fairy Godmother, and has a glorious original score by Patrick Doyle.

The Cinderella tale has inspired countless operas and musical works; over the years, composers as storied as Giacchino Rossini, Gustav Holst, and Sergei Prokofiev have set the story to music, and now it is Patrick Doyle’s turn to capture the magic and romance inherent in the story. This is the 11th collaboration between Branagh and Doyle, an enduring composer-director relationship that stretches back to 1989 and encompasses some of the best scores of the Scotsman’s career, including Henry V, Much Ado About Nothing, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, and Hamlet. For the last couple of years Doyle has apparently been trying to re-invent himself as a composer for mainstream Hollywood action movies, as his scores for films like Thor, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, and Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit attest. Cinderella, however, sees him firmly back in the genre for which I personally believe his music to be best suited: timeless, elegant romances with a hint of enchantment, performed by a full and lush symphony.

Right from the outset, Doyle envelops the listener in a world of fairytale magic and wonder through his light, sparkling orchestrations and pretty, elegant themes. A large symphony orchestra, led by strings, is accompanied by effervescent woodwinds and twinkling metallic percussion in the opening cue “A Golden Childhood,” setting the mood of cheerfulness and whimsy. One of the score’s recurring themes, which is directly related to Cinderella’s memories of her mother, is introduced in this cue: it’s a variation on the 17th century English folk tune ‘Lavenders Blue’, which is perfect for the time period, and even has prescient lyrics (“Lavenders blue, dilly dilly, lavenders green, when I am king, dilly dilly, you shall be queen”). The song is sung by the mother at the beginning of the film, and is reprised during the movie’s climax, while the melody of the song features prominently in several additional cues, including “Fairy Godmother,” during the latter part of “Who Is She?,” and in “Ella and Kit”.

The relentless cheerfulness and prettiness continues through much of the score, dancing through cue after cue with an array of notable moments. There is string-led introspection in “The Great Secret,” an airy duet for woodwinds and guitar in the first half of “A New Family,” period English country classicism in “Life and Laughter,” effortlessly graceful piano lines in “The First Branch,” and even a subtle choir sounding above charmingly whimsical harp and harpsichord performances in “Nice and Airy”. The beautiful, if slightly darker, writing for cello and piano in the emotional “Orphaned” is a notable highlight. There are more than a few echoes of scores like Much Ado About Nothing, Mrs. Winterbourne, and especially Sense and Sensibility in these cues, and it’s wonderful to hear Doyle returning to his much-loved 1990s roots almost 20 years after the fact. There’s something quintessentially English about this music – again, possibly due to the fact that it’s rooted in traditional folk tunes – that just appeals to my taste immensely.

The moments of Disney magic involving the Fairy Godmother character and the good-natured help she gives to Cinderella, transforming various objects into others which allow her to go to the ball, are lush and delightfully appealing. “Fairy Godmother” and “Pumpkins and Mice” both channel the charming beauty of his Harry Potter score, allowing the light and whimsical orchestrations and flighty rhythmic ideas to rise to the fore, and feature several prominent performances of Cinderella’s theme. “You Shall Go,” meanwhile, has an excited, optimistic sense of anticipation, that gradually gives way to another glorious performance of Cinderella’s theme as she arrives at the Prince’s castle.

For the ballroom scenes, Doyle wrote six original classical pieces for the actors to dance to on-set, months before the actual score was written, all of which are absolutely superb and could easily be mistaken for long–forgotten period pieces by Strauss or one of his esteemed contemporaries. The sprightly “Valse Royale,” the refined “La Valse de l’Amour,” and the rich and ebullient “La Valse Champagne” are all lovely, while the energetic “La Polka Militaire” ramps up the tempo with the addition of a snare drum undercurrent. Later, “La Polka de Paris” is lively and slightly mischievous-sounding, while “La Polka de Minuit” is breathless and infectious. These are interspersed with several other romantic performances of Cinderella’s theme; in “Who Is She?”, which clearly accompanies the Prince’s first sight of his love, and his becoming immediately smitten, and in “A Secret Garden,” which deconstructs the theme into a lovely, intimate piece for harp, light chimes, and pizzicato strings – until the spell is broken by a peal of tolling bells, and all hell breaks loose.

On the few occasions the film allows him to, Doyle also takes full opportunity to bring out his action music big guns, via “The Stag,” parts of the aforementioned “Pumpkins and Mice,” and the show-stopping “Pumpkin Pursuit”. “The Stag” actually begins and ends with a pair of hauntingly gorgeous cello solos, but in its middle section increases its sense of scope and grandeur significantly, picking up a more prominent brass section, syncopated piano lines, and a throbbing, militaristic percussion beat underneath a series of heroic fanfares. “Pumpkin Pursuit,” meanwhile, is just a knockout, a flurry of swooping strings, blaring brass fanfares, woodwind accents, and intricate percussive ideas that give cues like “The Creation” from Frankenstein and “Part Them They Are Incensed” from Hamlet a run for their money.

The score’s finale runs the gamut of emotions, from heartbroken disappointment in “Shattered Dreams,” to determined forthrightness in “Searching the Kingdom,” before climaxing in the glorious “Courage and Kindness,” which crescendos beautifully in its final moments with a spine-tingling performance of Cinderella’s theme, accompanied by chimes, tolling bells, and a choir.

Disney’s album concludes with three songs, notably an original pop effort called “Strong” written by Doyle, Kenneth Branagh and Tommy Danvers, and performed by Sonna Rele, a London born singer-songwriter who was discovered by multi Grammy-Award winning singer-songwriter/actor Ne-Yo and was hand-picked by Branagh to contribute to his film. There are also two covers of songs from the original 1950 film, “A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes” and “Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo,” performed by Lily James and Helena Bonham-Carter respectively. The digital soundtrack includes three bonus instrumental tracks of the aforementioned songs, while the physical CD includes an insert to download a new original song written by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez and performed by Idina Menzel and Kristen Bell from the animated short film “Frozen Fever”.

I’ve been an admirer of Patrick Doyle’s work ever since I first discovered his music in the early 1990s, and I have always had a special affinity for those films that allowed him to write emotionally strong, thematically driven orchestral scores, especially ‘period’ pieces. Cinderella ticks all the boxes of everything I love in a Patrick Doyle score, and then some; the romance inherent in the story suits his musical nature to a tee, the magical undertones give it a wonderfully appealing tone, and the interpolation of the English folk song into his score complements his original themes perfectly. In terms of sheer enjoyment, this is probably my favorite Patrick Doyle score in a decade – at least since Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and Eragon in 2005 and 2006 – and if the film charms audiences as much as its music charmed me, Doyle might find himself going to the Academy Awards ball in 2016 – although if he does, he will most likely go there in a limo rather than a pumpkin carriage pulled by artificially enhanced mice.

Buy the Cinderella soundtrack from the Movie Music UK Store

Track Listing:

  • A Golden Childhood (3:57)
  • The Great Secret (3:01)
  • A New Family (2:15)
  • Life and Laughter (1:35)
  • The First Branch (2:11)
  • Nice and Airy (1:53)
  • Orphaned (3:47)
  • The Stag (4:56)
  • Rich Beyond Reason (1:43)
  • Fairy Godmother (2:48)
  • Pumpkins and Mice (4:33)
  • You Shall Go (3:02)
  • Valse Royale (2:06)
  • Who Is She? (3:20)
  • La Valse de l’Amour (2:34)
  • La Valse Champagne (1:35)
  • La Polka Militaire (1:48)
  • La Polka de Paris (1:23)
  • A Secret Garden (2:48)
  • La Polka de Minuit (2:03)
  • Choose That One (1:17)
  • Pumpkin Pursuit (2:29)
  • The Slipper (1:00)
  • Shattered Dreams (4:10)
  • Searching the Kingdom (2:52)
  • Ella and Kit (2:12)
  • Courage and Kindness (4:39)
  • Strong (written by Patrick Doyle, Kenneth Branagh and Tommy Danvers, performed by Sonna Rele) (3:14)
  • A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes (written by Mack David, Jerry Livingston, and Al Hoffman, performed by Lily James) (2:01)
  • Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo (The Magic Song) (written by Mack David, Jerry Livingston, and Al Hoffman, performed by Helena Bonham Carter) (1:22)

Running Time: 78 minutes 33 seconds

Walt Disney Records (2015)

Music composed by Patrick Doyle. Conducted by James Shearman. Orchestrations by James Shearman. Recorded and mixed by Jake Jackson. Edited by Christopher Benstead. Album produced by Patrick Doyle.

  1. March 19, 2015 at 9:26 am

    As creatively bankrupt as these live-action remakes seem to be, they have at least provided some opportunities for wonderful fantasy scores. How would you compare Doyle’s effort to the 1950 original by Oliver Wallace?

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