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GOSFORD PARK: SOUNDTRACK

Review by Brad Green:
I feel sorry for anyone young and blinkered enough to equate the entire murder mystery genre with Inspectors Morose and Waxworks. Dogged detectives to be sure, but their contemporary cases are dull as petty crime compared to the investigation of dark deeds amidst the mores of an older England.

Great murder mystery is as much about mood and ambience as clever dicks revealing whodunit. Even the eternal appeal of Doyle’s and Christie’s sleuths sprung as much from the fertile atmosphere of their stories as Holmes’ and Poirot’s idiosyncrasies. And if any modern auteur is a master of milieu it is Robert Altman; no one else can juggle a galaxy of stars, multi-layered plots and brisk editing with such aplomb. Instead of causing confusion, he allows his audience to inhabit a cinematic world, and one of the key elements making it easy for the audience to find its bearings is the music.

There are four features to this soundtrack, each evocative in its own way. Three belong to Patrick Doyle’s score and the third is a collection of Ivor Novello songs. Novello is actually written into the film as a character, where he is played by Jeremy Northam, who also performs most of these witty ditties. Northam does well enough to make me wonder whether he might nab a spot at next years Proms; Jeremy Irons having previously made good work of a Noel Coward medley on the famous Last Night of that FA Cup-meets-Beethoven fest. Curiously, Coward who was Novello’s friend and rival for pre-eminence on stage, screen and music hall, also appeared as an historical figure recently, in the light, BBC tele-comedy series Goodnight Sweetheart.

Doyle’s score makes rich use of a small ensemble. There are seductive piano, guitar and strings melodies that reflect the same ostentatious opulence as Richard Robbins beautiful scores for Merchant/Ivory productions, and hint at a touch of the ominous lurking behind the elegance. These are the high society cues, music for the aristocrats and parvenus of the upstairs drawing room. Yet just as romantic and suggestive are the themes for the downstairs populace: again beautifully orchestrated with a minimalist approach and given earthiness by the introduction of folksy accordion. These two styles of cue are punctuated by Novello’s music hall tunes and the third element of Doyle’s score: some exquisite period jazz, swinging on the melodic lines of a sweet and reedy saxophone.

As one cue makes way for the next, and the styles merge in and out, the atmosphere slowly thickens against a backdrop of decadent decor. Luminous as the combined flames of a candelabra, ironic as the mannerisms within the manor of the story’s setting and redolent of thrilling intrigue, this is a soundtrack to be enjoyed from first track to last without having to endure a moment’s incidental filler.

Published March 28, 2002

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TITLE: Gosford Park
ID: 28947 03872
SCORE: Patrick Doyle
ADDITIONAL MUSIC: Ivor Novello
VOCALISTS: Jeremy Northam; Abigail Doyle
TRACKS: 24

GOSFORD PARK: SOUNDTRACK







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