TV

Soundtrack review: Wolf hall (Debbie Wiseman – 2015)

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“Wolf hall” is British period drama about Thomas Cromwell’s rise to power in the 1500s. It’s the TV adaptation of a very famous trilogy of books. The score was written by Debbie Wiseman and people have been saying great things about. The British TV show scores I’ve heard lately (“Broadchurch” was the most recent one) have been brilliant so there are good premises for this one.

The themes of the show are politics, despotism, machinations. That was a very dark period and get that from the Cello heavy “Beginnings”. I instantly think of a dark dungeon where the shadows play tricks on me. There are sacred choirs echoes in this cue but the most interesting part is the insane string arrangement at the end. It sounds as if someone is furiously ripping the strings apart yet still managing to make music out of this. This madness returns in “Austin Friars”.

“Prophecies and dreams” starts again with the sweetest of violins playing over a harp background and I really feel like I’m dreaming. Darkness is still present in the music and it’s not the darkness of the night…it’s thicker, like a cloud that I know will be there when I wake up. This sleep sounds like a preoccupied one and soon the mood of the cue changes and the muffled and rhythmic drum beats are ominous and unsettling. The second half of the cue is a string improvisation that to me sounds period British to the core.

There is something familiar and comforting to me in the dark renaissance sound of this score. I like the slow moving music and I love the sudden bursts of energy. “Devil’s spit” is a brilliantly constructed cue which doesn’t need more than a skilled string player to get me very involved. “Monstrous servant” begins with some sort of flute before the string theme that’s the backbone of “Wolf Hall” starts playing again. I am beginning to recognize a common theme and I like it. The identity of the score is very clear and it’s been a while since I’ve heard something like this. I love a good string play and I get plenty of it here. The score is borderline melodic horror and when the strings get louder I’m starting to get worried. There’s a permanence menace in the music but I can’t turn away.

“Forgive me” gives center stage to the piano and I am more and more immersed in the music. The score gives me the feeling of being trapped in a lonely castle which I haven’t discovered yet. I am alone in there and I have to find my bearings and the room where I could relax for a bit. This cue is that room where I managed to keep the shadow away for a couple of sweet minutes.

“The scholar” and ” Master of phantoms” get a little too subdued for my taste. They still entertain the atmosphere but the music loses me a little bit in this section. But when the beautiful string melody returns in “Anna Regina” it’s my turn to be subdued and hypnotized. The music does a great job of setting the time and place of the story and it doesn’t slip from that spell for one second. It might get tiring or even boring for some but it caught me in the right mood to appreciate it. I like feeling the soft touch of dark silk that “Wolf Hall” is draping me with. 55 minutes of this might feel like a little too much but there are enough twists and turns to justify it.

“Wolf Hall” is the serious and quiet little kid who won’t give you moments of extreme emotion or epic adventures but will provide you with deep and thoughtful conversations. I liked what I heard.

Cue rating : 88 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 23 / 55

Album excellence: 41%

Highlights:

Beginnings
Prophecies And Dreams
Devil’s Spit
Monstrous Servant
Forgive Me

Anna Regina

The Unicorn’s Horn

Crows

 

About the author

Mihnea Manduteanu

I have been listening to film music for 25 years and writing about it since 2014. I've written over 1000 reviews and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I am also a member of IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association).

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