Entertainment Music

Tuesday 25 July 2017

A soundtrack that's fit for a king . . .

The movie The King's Speech is threatening to sweep all before it at the Oscars in three weeks, and I must admit I'm right behind it. It made for two spellbinding hours in the cinema, the perfect blend of style and content.

The soundtrack is sublime. There's the beautifully understated score by Alexandre Desplat, which has earned him his fourth Academy Award nomination. And then there are the classics.

There are extracts from Beethoven's Emperor Piano Concerto, his 7th Symphony, a hint of the Brahms Requiem. And there are two splashes of Mozart, the opening movement of his clarinet concerto, and one of my favourites.

Beyond the boundaries of that corner of north-eastern France that gave its name to the bubbly we know as Champagne, can there be anything more sparkling than the overture Mozart composed for The Marriage of Figaro?

Its themes have precious little connection with what follows, but it does set the scene superbly.

Think Rimsky-Korsakov's Flight of the Bumblebee. That's the kind of frantic pace that Mozart brings to the opening from the strings. Then there's the typically masterful deployment of the woodwind to inject pathos. Mozart, empathising with his players, even gives the two bassoons a good look-in as well.

The layering of the various parts is divine, the whole piece kicks along enthusiastically, almost demanding a smile. Interjections from the wind let it breathe, but it's mostly momentum, driving on to its exhilarating conclusion.

Its use in The King's Speech is a masterstroke. The poor, stuttering royal is being coached out of his speech impediment by the unorthodox voice trainer. You really must see the movie to get the effect. The use of the Beethoven, too, is masterly. The gentle, yet powerful, second movement of his 7th Symphony accompanies the speech of the title. This is the part of the symphony, eulogised by both Schubert and Wagner, that sounded so good when it was first played, it provided the encore!

The glorious elegance of the slow movement of the Emperor concerto helps the film to its conclusion.

It may be ironic that it's German composers who are deployed in a movie that has as a subtext the imminence of Hitler's war. But then, isn't the beauty of music that it lives and breathes, whatever the circumstance.

George Hamilton presents The Hamilton Scores on RTÉ lyric fm from 9.30 each Saturday morning.

ghamilton@independent.ie

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