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NICHOLAS AND ALEXANDRA – Richard Rodney Bennett

October 12, 2020 Leave a comment Go to comments


Original Review by Craig Lysy

Producer Sam Spiegel had long aspired to make a film set during the Russian Revolution and decided to roll the dice after witnessing the stunning success of David Lean’s film Doctor Zhivago. His initial intent was to derive his screenplay from historical events recorded in the public domain, however he changed course and decided to adapt Robert H. Massie’s popular 1967 novel Nicholas and Alexandra. He purchased the film rights and hired James Goldman (The Lion in Winter) to write the screenplay. Yet the task was onerous with countless rewrites as four directors came and went. It was only after Franklin Schaffner came on to direct that a final screenplay was realized. Spiegel vision was to create an epic film in the tradition of Doctor Zhivago and Lawrence of Arabia, yet he was constrained by Columbia studio executives who were reluctant to offer a generous budget after terrible financial setbacks with The Chase and The Night of the Generals. As such he could not afford actors Peter O’Toole, Vanessa Redgrave and Rex Harrison. He did however manage to secure the services of Laurence Olivier as Count Witte. Joining him would be less familiar actors including Michael Jayston as Tsar Nicholas II, Janet Suzman as Tsaritna Alexandra, Tom Baker as Rasputin, Michael Redgrave as Sazonov, Jack Hawkins as Vladimir, Harry Andrews as Grand Duke Nicholas, Roderic Noble as Tsarevich Alexei, Ania Marson as Grand Duchess Olga, Lynne Frederick as Grand Duchess Tatiana, Candace Glendenning as Grand Duchess Marie, Fiona Fullerton as Grand Duchess Anastasia, and Irene Worth as the Dowager Tsaritsna Marie.

The story unfolds in the Russian Empire from August 12, 1904 with the birth of Alexei Romanov during the Russo-Japanese War, concluding in July 17, 1918 with the gruesome murder of the imperial family. The monarchy is under duress due to humiliating and grievous loses in the war, and mounting civil unrest as worker exploitation and a burgeoning movement for democracy challenge the Tsar’s autocracy. Against this backdrop a male heir is at last born to ensure the continuity of the Romanov dynasty, yet ironically the birth serves as a catalyst for bringing down House Romanov when Alexei is diagnosed with the blood disorder hemophilia. An obsessed Alexandra turns to a debauched monk Rasputin who she believes has Divine sanction due to his mysterious capacity to stop Alexei’s bleeding episodes. His presence undermines the Royal Family with both the aristocracy and people who see him as a malignant presence near the throne who violates both Alexandra and her daughters. Nicholas and Alexandra were deeply in love and the bleeding episodes were extremely painful for Alexei and placed the royal family under great stress, which they never revealed to the public. When Nicholas declares war and enters World War I it unleashes all the long festering problems in Russian society, which he exacerbates by abandoning the capital to command troops on the front. With the incompetent Alexandra and Rasputin running the government, governance and civil society collapse. A very harsh winter in 1917 causes food riots, and mutiny in the army, which bring down the monarchy. Alexander Kerensky forms a parliamentary government and seeks a peaceful means for the royal family to depart, yet the United Kingdom will not accept them. Kerensky therefore decides to send them east for their safety as the better armed Bolsheviks have cut off all the other exit routes. The Romanov’s arrive in the Siberian city of Tobolsk, but the overthrow of the Kerensky government by Lenin and the Bolsheviks soon places them in the hands of local Bolsheviks. When a civil war with Loyalists explodes, they move the royal family to Yekaterinburg, which is more secure. However, when loyalists threaten to take the city the Ural Soviet decides to murder the royal family to ensure there will be no return to rule by the Romanovs. Their gruesome murders shock the conscience of the world and brings a tragic end of 300 years of rule by the Romanov dynasty. Despite its lavish production, compelling story-telling and fine acting performances, the film did not resonate with the public and was a commercial failure earning only $7 million, far short of its $9 million production budget. The film however received mixed critical acclaim, with the Guardian writing “Nicholas and Alexandra boast terrific acting performances and gorgeous production design, but is bloated and unwieldy. Despite this, it secured six Academy Award nominations for Best Picture, Best Actress, Best Cinematography, and Best Film Score, securing wins for Best Art Direction and Best Costume Design.

Spiegel’s used his British production company Horizon Pictures for the film, which would hire mostly British actors and be shot in Spain and Yugoslavia. As such he tapped British composer Richard Rodney Bennett for the project. Bennett relished taking on the assignment given the epic sweep of the story, which provided an immense canvass upon which to compose. He understood that at its core this was a love story, a tale of Nicholas and Alexandra who along with their beloved family are caught in the implacable destructive tidal currents of war, as we bear witness to the end of a grand romantic age, which succumbs to the cruel brutality of a violent new order. That he would have to infuse Russian auras and sensibilities into his soundscape was a given, but he also needed to speak to the royal magnificence and supreme power of the Tsar, as well as the undying love he and Alexandra shared.

His soundscape is supported by four primary themes; The Imperial Theme speaks to the power, Divine Right and royal authority of Nicholas II Romanov, Emperor and Autocrat of all the Russians. It offers a classic ABA construct with the long lined A Phrase austerely born by reserved French horns nobile, strings solenne and timpani. The choral infused B Phrase is wistful, and emotes as a lamentation. The theme supports Nicholas II in his capacity as Tsar, but also by extension the royal family. The Love Theme penetrates the imperial veneer and offers a tender intimacy, which speaks to the undying love of Nicholas and Alexandra. From the first day Nicholas was enraptured by his “Sunny”, with her sparkling red locks. They were one of the only royal couples to not have private bed chambers, preferring to sleep together every night. Bennett speaks to their love with a repeating, descending eight-note phrase born by warm strings tenero. There is a yearning in the notes, two hearts so full of longing, fulfilled with every moment together. The spritely Happiness Theme bubbles with woodwinds animato and offers a repeating eight-note phrase abounding with happiness and sparkling a joy di vie. It supports moments with the Tsar’s children as well as times when Nicholas and Alexandra have shed the heavy mantle of office to experience the simple joys of life. The People’s Theme is broadly applied and juxtaposes the Imperial Theme. It serves as the identity of the common folk, Lenin as the leader of the Bolsheviks who desires to topple the monarchy and bring about the new order, and Rasputin whose debauchery knows no bounds. The theme emotes as a simple repeating, ten-note Russian folk song, with a wide range of emotional expression from sad to festive. Lastly, I discuss the score’s journey and transformation from consonance to dissonance. As the war takes a horrible toll and events begin to spin out of control the scores melodic consonance begins to unravel. Dissonance becomes increasingly more prominent when Nicholas lays down the supreme power, abdicates and is placed in custody, which leads ultimately to a horrific end to his life and his family.

“Overture” offers a magnificent score highlight, which features an extended rendering of the Imperial Theme. The cue opens the film and supports the roll of the opening credits, which display over the flickering light of a large glass candle holder. We are bathed in red auras and in a masterstroke, Bennett sets the tone of the film with this evocative exposition, which is both austere, and wistful. The theme unfolds AABAB with a glorious crescendo empowering the third iteration of the A Phrase at 0:57, which is resplendent, with full chorus and twinkling chime and glockenspiel adornment. A molto tragico reprise of the B Phrase by tremolo strings at 1:25 is supremely moving, and ushers in French horns, which harken back to the A-Phrase, which dissipates on a diminuendo of uncertainty as the camera pans to present the loving gazes of Alexandra who has just given birth and Nicholas, who utter no words yet speak volumes with their eyes. “Nicholas And Alexandra” offers another score highlight where we a graced by a tender woodwind rich exposition of the Love Theme. We see the adoring eyes of Nicholas and Alexandra for their son Alexei as they sit in their bedroom. After four daughters they are both happy and relieved that they have at last a male heir to ensure the continuity of the Romanov dynasty. Their eyes reveal their love for each other and Bennett offers a supremely moving soliloquy of the Love Theme. The transfer from strings to solo flute delicato is tender, heartwarming and creates a perfect cinematic moment.

“The Royal Children” offers a splendid cue with beautiful interplay of the Happiness and Love Themes. We open with the playful joy di vie of the Happiness Theme as we see the children playing outside in the snow. As the camera shifts into the living quarters the royal couple entertain a visit by beloved Uncle Nicholas. Bennet supports the scene with a tender rendering of the Love Theme, which he transfers from oboe delicatio and strings, to flute, to a warm French horn, which play tenderly beneath the dialogue. Some disquiet is heard as Alexei is brought in and they notice a bruise on his elbow. As Nicholas and Uncle Nicholas depart a reprise of the Happiness Theme closes the scene. “Departure” reveals Nicholas and Alexandra in their private quarters preparing to depart for a birthday celebration for Nicholas’ mother Marie’s at the Winter Palace. The children are assembled and a tender rendering of the Love Theme supports their goodbyes and departure. The music for this scene is not found on the album. “The Royal Palace” reveals the grand golden doors of their private quarters opening as the couple assumes the formal disposition of Tsar and Tsaritsa. Elite silver armored personal guards display swords of obedience and bow in deference as the royal couple walk austerely to their carriage. Fanfare reale and drums declare the Imperial Theme, which unfolds as a grand marcia pomposa. The confluence of music, pageantry and cinematography is superb.

“The Fateful Meeting” reveals the birthday gala supported by traditional waltz and polonaise music, which perfectly establish the formal ambiance. Uncle Nicholas introduces a staret Grigori Rasputin, who instantly bonds with Alexandra. Later as Nicholas and Alexandra dance a waltz, she lovingly whispers to him that “she adores him”. Devastating news greets them as they arrive home, the diagnosis by a physician team that Alexei has the incurable blood disease of hemophilia. Nicholas is devastated and Alexandra is in denial, refusing to accept the diagnosis. The music for these scenes is not found on the album. “The Blessing of the Troops” Nicholas and Alexandra are at the train station for the traditional blessing of the troops soon to depart for Korea. News arrives that Alexei is bleeding and Alexandra feels panic, yet Nicholas orders her to continue composed until their train arrives in 30 minutes. As they arrive home, they are greeted by their court. They want to run to their private quarters, yet must remain formal and composed. A beleaguered rendering of the Imperial Theme carries their progress with Alexandra counting every step to the grand doors. As they enter and the doors close, they run upstairs to find Alexei bleeding from his navel. The music for this scene is not found on the album.

“The Sunshine Days” offers a delightful cue that features an extended exposition of the Happiness Theme. The royal family is vacationing at their warm weather estate Lavadia in the Crimea. Summer cloud filled skies drift over the tree tops supported by woodwinds giocoso and shimmering strings. We see the Olga, Tatiana, Marie and Anastasia preparing to play tag ball with their tutor Gilliard, which builds at 0:22 with anticipation on tremolo strings and trilling woodwinds until 0:33 when the Happiness Theme joins to mark the start of the game. The melody loses energy at 0:44 and sadness enters when Alexei gets the ball but gives it back unable to join in play. Wistful flute and harp speak to his disappointment as a worried Nicholas and Alexandra look on. The cue from 1:29 is dialed out of the film. Prime Minister Stolypin joins them and is invited to the beach for sun and fun, which is supported by the playful Happiness Theme (not part of this cue). Tense textural, non-melodic music joins as Alexei recklessly climbs up a rocky cliff to Nicholas with Nagorny in pursuit. (Not found on the album). Later as Nicholas and Alexandra stroll before dinner a choir of balalaikas carry their progress. Nicholas confesses his undying love for her and they embrace and kiss. I surmise that the cue from 1:29 on, which features a heartfelt rendering of the Love Theme was replaced by the Balalaikas in the film.

“Alexandra” reveals that Nicholas has ordered Rasputin to depart to Siberia due to his debauchery. He and Alexandra quarrel in their bed chamber as she is angry, distraught and demands Rasputin’s return. Nicholas refuses, is insulted by her rebuke, and in the heat of the moment blames her for giving Alexei hemophilia. His words are devastatingly hurtful and we see her painful anguish. She tearfully acknowledges her blame for his ailment, which elicits Nicholas to come to her and give a comforting and loving embrace. Bennet supports the pathos of the scene with a wistful and sad rendering of the Love Theme by solo English horn, with a transfer to strings. Schaffner dialed the music out of the film. In “Lenin In Exile” offers a fine exposition of the People’s Theme. Lenin receives a communique of bad news; the deporting of Stalin to Siberia, multiple arrests of party officials, confiscation of their weapons cache, and infiltration by the Okhrana secret police. He loses hope, and Bennet supports his musings with his wife with a despondent rendering of the theme by solo oboe doloroso and strings of despair. “The Romanovs” reveals the country’s grand celebration of 300 years of Romanov rule. Celebratory fanfare joins with the uplifting pride of the Imperial Theme, yet film imagery is dichotomous; we see the imperial officer corps, the wealthy, and the aristocracy celebrating as impoverished city workers and indentured serfs in the countryside look on in despair.

“Assassination of Stolypin” reveals Nicholas and his daughters attending an opera in Kiev and witness the assassination of his prime minister. Nicholas is outraged, has had enough with restraint and orders a massive brutal crackdown by the Okhrana to extinguish all revolutionary activities. A dark rendering of the Imperial Theme full of malice supports his fateful order. The music for this scene is not found on the album. In “The Princesses” the royal family is vacationing at the hunting lodge in Spala Poland. We see the girls painting with Julliard and Alexei falling on a wood bridge, and then joining Alexandra for a carriage ride. Bennett supports the scene with the playfulness of the Happiness Theme rendered as a valzer gentile. At 1:00 we shift scenes to the carriage, where the theme is transformed into a travel motif. We notice that something is wrong with Alexei at 1:57 as tremolo strings usher in tense formless textural writing as he alerts his mother that he is bleeding.

In “Breakthrough” Rasputin has replied to Alexandra’s desperate letter and advises that Alexei will survive, but that she is to keep the doctors from him. She is overjoyed, but Nicholas, Vladimir and Dr. Botkin are incredulous. As she dons her ruby necklace, Alexei’s favorite, and prepares to begin a bedside vigil, a ghostly dissonant rendering of the Love Theme by distraught strings supports. She and Nicholas enter his room, open the window shutters, and as light shines on Alexei face the Love Theme at 0:43 warms as he offers “good morning mother”. “Rasputin’s Return” reveals his drunken seduction of three peasant daughters in Siberia as he journeys back to St. Petersburg. A festive rendering of the People’s Theme supports his debauchery. The music for these scenes is not found on the album. In a scene change Nicholas in formal military apparel rides off with Alexei supported by fanfare militare. We conclude ominously with horns grave in Alexandra’s chambers as Rasputin enters, kneels in submission as Alexandra kisses his cross.

“War” is a brilliantly conceived and executed cue, achieving an exceptional cinematic confluence. Regretfully most of the music is not found on the album. Arch Duke Ferdinand, heir to the Austria throne has been assassinated by a patriotic Serb. Count Witte counsels Nicholas to not mobilize as this would precipitate war, yet Nicholas never the less mobilizes in solidarity with their southern Slavic cousins. As Witte states this is madness, Bennett supports by sowing tension with eerie, dissonant, and formless textural writing with martial drums. When foreign minister Sazonov arrives to inform Nicholas that the Kaiser had declared war on Russia, a grim statement of the Imperial Theme supports the revelation. After Nicholas announces the news, his generals and ministers shout out “God save the Tsar!” An incredulous Witte looks on with despair and utters these prescient words, which Bennett supports with as reprise of the eerie, dissonant, and formless textural writing buttressed with martial drums of doom. The confluence of his acting, words and music reveals Bennett’s mastery of his craft;

“None of you will be here when this war ends. Everything we fought for will be lost, everything we’ve loved will be broken. The victors will be as cursed as the defeated. The world will grow old, and men will wander about, lost in the ruins, and go mad. Tradition, restraint, virtue, they all go. I’m not mourning for myself, but for the people who will come after me, they will live without hope. And all they will have will be guilt, revenge, and terror. And the world will be full of fanatics and trivial fools.”

We switch to the Duma where Kerensky gives an impassioned nationalistic speech to defend “Holy Russia!”, which Bennett supports with an Imperial Theme bursting with Russian pride. In another change of scene, the royal family stands in the palace chapel for the blessing. The album cue enters here with a solemn Russian Orthodox liturgical music with wordless choir. At 0:50 as they depart and assemble on the balcony, we bear witness to thousands of troops standing in formation. French horns solenne sound the Imperial Theme joined by reverential choir. Slowly, yet inexorably the music swells with nationalistic pride as the troops shout out repeatedly – “God save the Tsar!”. At 1:22 two dissonant descents usher in a grim marcia militare as waving crowds cheer their men marching off to war. As the march unfolds, the film changes to black and with still photos of each of the combatant’s leaders, all supported by patriotic cheers in their native language; Tsar Nicholas II of Russia, Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany, Emperor Franz Joseph of Austria, Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau of France and King George V of the United Kingdom. We close at 2:14 with a return to Nicholas II in real time supported by a choral empowered nationalistic rendering of the Imperial Theme, which slowly dissipates into nothingness as “Intermission” displays on the screen.

“Entracte” offers a magnificent score highlight, which features an inspiring resplendent soliloquy on refulgent strings emoting the Love Theme. At 1:30 we segue into the grim marcia militare, which culminates with a grand, choral empowered reprise of the Imperial Theme. “Despair” reveals a contemplative Russian Colonel viewing sunrays shining through a bank of trees onto a river strewn with corpses. Grim strings of death support the moment. As he inspects the latest rag tag soldiers to arrive, we see old men, teenage boys, and some lacking rifles. Drums of doom and an eerie, formless shifting textural sea supports the inspection. He orders his Captain to march them to the front, knowing he is sending them to their doom. Martial drums join the eerie dissonance as the Colonel looks on in despair. As he walks into the forest an otherworldly dissonance replete with twinkling metallic accents support him lying on the ground and gazing upwards as shimmering yellow leaves descend. Slowly he pulls out a revolver and shoots himself in the mouth. The music for this scene is not found on the album. “The Journey To The Front” reveals Nicholas’s fateful decision to take command of the troops at the front, leaving the government in the hands of Alexandra and Rasputin. A forlorn flute emotes the Love Theme as we see him reading a loving letter from Alexandra on the train. Horrific dissonance enters at 0:24 as we see two starving Russian soldiers skinning a rabbit and then devouring it raw. When their Captain arrives and orders them to move out at 0:44, a bee like string tremolo ushers in grotesque dissonance as they shoot him in the head.

“Military March” offers a classic martial marcia festivamente. The film scene to which it was attached was evidently edited out of the film. “Rasputin’s Death” reveals Prince Yusupov and Grand Duke Dimitri hosting Rasputin at a dinner party where they intend to murder him. They use hookah smoking and alcohol to dull his senses, as well as a drag dance performance to “Yankee Doodle Dandy” to distract him as they lace his drink with cyanide. When it fails to kill him, Prince Yusupov shoots him in the back. Yet Rasputin manages to escape and music enters as he struggles to leave. A horrific, dissonant crescendo swells until 0:23 when it crests as he is shot several more times. As he writhes in agony a new monstrous discordant crescendo resounds with thundering drums and blaring horns of doom, climaxing in a grotesque maelstrom as he is brutally bludgeoned to death with a large chain. We conclude on a diminuendo of death as Felix and Dimitri gloat over their handiwork. In “The People’s Revolt” we see desperate starving people smashing bakery windows to steal bread, which erupts into a full-scale rebellion. The People’s Theme supports scene after scene of people breaking into bakeries to obtain bread. At 0:41 a grim diminuendo enters as mounted troops confront a crowd, which has broken into a granary. The People’s Theme resounds at 1:03 when the Captain sees their desperate faces and slices open the gain bags.

“Alexandra Alone” reveals Alexandra at Tsarskoye Selo tending to her children who have all come down with the measles. Gunshots are heard which alarm her and the children and she is desperate for Nicholas’ return. Bennett sow’s tension with an eerie textural milieu with random percussive accents. A Love Theme full of unease struggles to emerge, yet never coalesces into a cogent statement. As she steps out on the balcony troops guarding the palace salute and she is reassured. The next day in “Alexandra Alone 2” reveals gunshots, which again alarm Alexandra. Bennett reprises his tension motif, an eerie textural milieu with random percussive accents. This time when she steps out onto the balcony, she discovers that the troops have deserted and the palace is unguarded. As she flees to her children, a desperate rendering of the Love Theme carries her progress until a power outage traps her in the elevator. The music for this scene is not found on the album. In “House Arrest” Nicholas has abdicated for himself and Alexei after the army mutinied. They spend time in the Tsarskoye Selo garden planting vegetables as the Kerensky government decides their fate. Woodwinds offer the Happiness Theme as a gentle pastorale to support the moment. The music for this scene is not found on the album.

“Lenin’s Return” reveals his return to St. Petersburg aboard a train supported by a grand rendering of the French revolutionary anthem Le Marseille. The music for this scene is not found on the album. In “Farewells” the family has packed and prepares to depart for the Siberian town of Tobolsk. A solo flute doloroso emotes an aching Love Theme as Vladimir says goodbye to the girls and the Alexei. The music sours at 1:26 when Alexandra’s demand for memorabilia is rebuked by Kerensky who states, “Frau Romanov, you have kept your head. You should be grateful”. As Nicholas comforts her the warmth and hope of the Love Theme returns on exquisite solo violin and carries their departure. “The Bolshevik Revolution” reveals the Bolsheviks implementing their plan for an armed takeover of St. Peterburg’s vital facilities to topple the Kerensky government. Aggressive drums of war and martial horns propel them to victory as Lenin deposes Kerensky and declares the new socialist order. The music for this scene is not found on the album. In “Dancing In The Snow” the guards are dancing to a festive Russian folk song. The girls ask permission to join and Alexandra agrees. As they join at 1:25 the music intensifies and everyone is enjoying the moment. We close on an ominous diminuendo as soviet soldiers climb over the wall, open the gates and enter.

“House Arrest” the family is placed under house arrest and photos taken. Afterwards they share the duplicates with each other supported by the fun of the Happiness Theme. Alexei is despondent and takes a sled to the upstairs and closes the door carried by plaintive People’s Theme. He rides it down and crashes into the door causing a new hemorrhage in his knee. “Departure From Tobolsk” reveals the family being taken to Moscow for trial. Bennett sow’s unease with eerie textual writing, which features foreboding string figures, ghostly woodwinds, illusive twinkling metallic accents and ambient drums. They are stopped Halfway by armed troops of the Ural Soviet, who forcefully take custody of the royal family, moving them to a more secure Soviet stronghold at Yekaterinburg. “Arrival in Yekaterinburg” offers a supreme score highlight with a stunning cinematic confluence. The family disembark at the train station and are met by a massive angry jeering crowd. A powerful molto tragico exposition of the Imperial Theme carries the scene as we see the crowd break through the barriers and angrily claw at the family as guards move them to jail trucks. We see in the eyes of the people their hatred of “Bloody Nicholas” and his family, and in the eyes of the royal family, terror as all non-family members except Dr. Botkin are separated from the family. Regretfully, this powerful exposition is not found on the album.

“Elegy” offers a sublime score highlight whose scene must have been edited out of the film, or was conceived for the cellar scene and then edited out. I believe it the later. It offers an elegiac rendering of the Imperial Theme so full of heartache. Its articulation has been embellished and offers a glorious impassioned string ascent, which is breath-taking, and brings a quiver and a tear. The music however then undergoes a fateful descent, ending in a well of sadness. In “The Murder Of The Romanov’s” the decision is made to murder the entire family lest they fall into the hands of the approaching loyalist forces. They are taken to the cellar, and after waiting several minutes, which seemed like an eternity, armed men enter and kill them in a hail of bullets. The scene is unscored, and we flow into “Epilogue” for the roll of the end credits, which commence with a close up of the bloody bullet pitted wall. With the roll of the end credits we shift to the same red glass burning candle holder seen in the opening credits. A dark bass sustain opens and ushers in elegiac exposition of the Imperial Theme, rendered molto tragico. The B Phrase is bypassed and we flow into an impassioned ascent for a dramatic restatement of the A Phrase, which culminates with a flourish, and the subsides with sad finality.

The score for Nicholas and Alexandra was only ever released on vinyl LP, by Bell Records in 1971, and has never been legitimately released on CD in any form (although a bootleg, from the British label Artemis, did appear on the market in the early 2000s coupled with Bennett’s score for the 1972 film Lady Caroline Lamb). I believe Nicholas and Alexandra to be a gem from the Silver Age, which must be provided a digital remastering and reissue of the complete score. Schaffner’s plodding pace, especially in the second act, as well as the bloated production hurt the film’s story-telling and reception by the public. Bennett’s music however almost rescued the film with one of his most eloquent and heartfelt scores. In a masterstroke he conceived the Imperial Theme, which captured the emotional core of the film, the terrible tragedy, which brought down the Romanov dynasty and ushered in the cruel and violent Bolshevik new order. Powerful expositions of this theme elevated many scenes to the sublime. The tender Love Theme humanized Nicholas and Alexandra and made them more accessible and relatable. In scene after scene the music was just as effective in conveying the powerful emotions unfolding on the screen as the actor’s words, often achieving a stirring cinematic confluence. I highly recommend this score and hope someday for it to be fully restored in complete form and re-issued with modern, state of the art technology.

For those of you unfamiliar with the score, I have embedded a YouTube link to a suite, which features the Imperial and Love Themes: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8R1WPfyViw4

Buy the Nicholas and Alexandra soundtrack from the Movie Music UK Store

Track Listing:

  • Overture (2:19)
  • Nicholas and Alexandra (1:26)
  • The Royal Children (1:23)
  • The Royal Palace (1:00)
  • The Sunshine Days (3:21)
  • Alexandra (1:18)
  • The Romanov Tercentenary (0:52)
  • Lenin in Exile (1:21)
  • The Princesses (2:20)
  • Breakthrough (2:35)
  • The Declaration of War (2:55)
  • Entracte (2:40)
  • The Journey to the Front (1:02)
  • Military March (2:40)
  • Rasputin’s Death (1:28)
  • The People’s Revolt (1:19)
  • Alexandra Alone (1:11)
  • Farewells (2:30)
  • Dancing in the Snow (1:11)
  • Departure From Tobolsk (1:30)
  • Elegy (1:38)
  • Epilogue (1:50)

Running Time: 39 minutes 49 seconds

Bell 1103 (1971)

Music composed by Richard Rodney Bennett. Conducted by Marcus Dods. Performed by the New Philharmonia Orchestra. Score produced by Richard Rodney Bennett.

  1. Philip Boleyn
    June 26, 2021 at 7:07 am

    Many thanks for this excellent review and analysis. I often wonder why so many wonderful scores from the 1970’s failed to be transferred to cd format. I have the vinyl of Nicholas and Alexandra (well-played) and I found it ONLY in the UK. Film scores like ANNE OF THE THOUSAND DAYS, A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS, BROTHER SUN, SISTER MOON have never been given a really good format for distribution. Often times it seems to be tied up in legal battles.

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