Film Music Review
The Sammy awards







Editor's Choice
Best of the Month
for May 2005


16 Tracks (Total Time = 55:39)

Music composed and orchestrated by Nigel Hess.

Album produced by Nigel Hess.  Solo violin played by Joshua Bell. All tracks performed by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Nigel Hess, except track 13 performed by the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields, conducted by Michael Stern.  Piano solos on tracks 8 and 16 by Simon Mulligan; tracks 2 and 15 by Nigel hess.  Recorded and mixed by Toby Wood at Phoenix Sound Studios, London in February and June 2004.  Edited by Erik Jordan. Mastered by Martin Gibbs. Soundtrack supervisor: Roger Watson. Music consultant: Quentin Williams. Music associate: Francis Shaw.  Track 13 recorded at Abbey Road Studios, London, June 11-13, 2003.

Sony Classical SK 92689

Rating: ****

With all the attention put on the big blockbusters like BATMAN BEGINS and REVENGE OF THE SITH, I'm afraid this beautiful score by Nigel Hess might get overlooked.  It certainly doesn't deserve such treatment.  

Nigel Hess is primarily known from his work on television in the theater, especially the Royal Shakespeare Company, where he contributed twenty scores for their productions.

LADIES IN LAVENDER was written and directed by Charles Dance and stars two distinguished Oscar-winning actresses, Judi Dench and Maggie Smith, playing two elderly sisters, and a young German actor, Daniel Bruhl, portraying Andrea, a Polish castaway.  The sisters discover him washed ashore at their home in a Cornish fishing village during the 1930s.  They soon discover that he is a gifted violinist.  

The score by Hess features prominent solos expertly performed by the gifted classical violinist, Joshua Bell.

In addition to the Hess score, Bell also performs several classical pieces: "Meditation from Thais" by Jules Massenet (arranged by Hess - track 5, 4:59), "Introduction and Tranatella" by Pablo de Sarasate, Op. 43 (track 8, 5:15), Debussy's luscious impressionistic piece: "The Girl With The Flaxen Hair" (arranged by Craig Leon - track 13, 2:36 ), and "Variations on The Carnival of Venice" by Nicolai Paganinni (track 16, 9:18).  All these violin pieces are a necessary addition since the character portrayed by Daniel Bruhl is a talented violinist.  In addition to the Massenet piece, Hess also arranged a rollicking Polish Dance titled " Zabawa Weselna" (track 10, 2:49).  

I must say that the opening title track with Joshua Bell playing the main theme is a ravishing beauty (4:04). WIt harkens back to the beautiful themes composed by such Golden Age film composers as Korngold and Steiner.  This main theme isn't just stated briefly, as so often happens with many film scores today.  Instead, it is expanded and developed by Hess within the opening title track, which ends on a high note -- pun intended!

Another highpoint is "Fantasy for Violin and Orchestra" (track 4, 3:39) which is again sensitively performed by Bell and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Hess.  

On this soundtrack, the violin playing by Joshua Bell is superb in its expressive emotion.  In the CD notes Nigel Hess said of Bell: "He takes the music I've written to a whole new level. Hearing him play was like stepping into a really expensive Rolls Royce."  

Movie critic Rex Reed perhaps said it best when he wrote: "By the time the music swells (courtesy of exquisite violin solos by Joshua Bell), so do the tears in the eyes of everyone in the audience who can still find a pulse beat."

But you don't have to see this film to enjoy the gorgeous soundtrack. It's well worth your time to purchase this CD so you can enjoy this highly sensitive film score.  You can learn more about the film score, the composer, and the director from the CD notes which are tastefully designed.    

I hope Nigel Hess continues to be given the opportunity to compose more serene scores like LADIES IN LAVENDER.  He is a composer who has proven his enormous talents.  

This is one of the most beautiful film scores of recent years.

Highly recommended.

--Roger Hall, 16 May 2005    



LADIES IN LAVENDER has received a special

Sammy Award



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