TV

Soundtrack review: Poldark (Anne Dudley – 2015)

Album Artwork

Poldark is a BBC series inspired by a long series of historical novels set in the 1700s and 1800s. I haven’t watched the show but it sounds like a lot of fun because I haven’t found a single reference of something happy going on during the many years of the story. But all this drama and bleakness usually makes for compelling music, especially if the composer is someone like Anne Dudley. I love her music.

The first cue is fittingly titled “The crossroads”; it’s right there and then that you must decide whether you’ll go on or stop listening. The violin motif that opens this score and bleeds through this cue can be too much for some to handle. The weight and the sadness it paints is one of a kind and makes for a poignant welcome into the moors of this story. You will meet again that violin motif in a more hopeful form, hand in hand with the piano in “Theme from Poldark”.

If you do decide to go on, beautiful surprises will wait for you, like the wonderful period fair cue “The Bal Maidens”. The music manages to bring the times when this story takes place to the present and it’s not something you hear often. That cue is just an oasis of light in this thick and sorrowful composition. Some cues are so heavy they feel like end credits. Others are subdued and heartbreaking, like “Love of my life”. There are barely any changes in mood in “Poldark” but I imagine this fits the flow of the story best.

The sound of this score is about as period British as you might imagine. This means it is extremely elegant and beautiful but also quite cold. I can feel the sadness in the music, I can feel the seriousness of it all but I can’t connect very well with it, I can’t make these feelings my own. The music is very mature and it truly comes from another time. There’s nothing wild in it, there’s no explosion of emotions that could make me flinch and embrace the score. “Poldark” is an eternal roll of the end credits of something you haven’t been involved in from the beginning.

In this sea or orchestral simplicity and efficiency there are some moments that stand out. They aren’t necessarily full cues but just motifs that pop up every now and then like the almost ambient middle section of “The longest walk”, the reflective parts from “Truth and consequences” or the way the violin revolts and comes alive in “When the land meets the sea” and “A seam of ironstone”.

“Poldark” sits quietly on the edge of excellence but has a hard time achieving it. Most of the cues knock but elect to sit quietly in front of the door, broken, instead of entering. The music is beautiful, make no mistake, but distant and even if I feel the sadness of the characters and the story I can’t relate to them enough to make me return to this score. This musical ship will continue its road without me. I will still hear the echoes of that violin long after it has gone from my sights, but that too will fade away.

Cue rating: 82 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 4 / 50

Album excellence: 8%

Highlights:

The Bal Maidens

Daring to Hope

Theme from Poldark

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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