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Soundtrack review: David Copperfield (Malcolm Arnold – 1969)

Film scores

Soundtrack review: David Copperfield (Malcolm Arnold – 1969)


“David Copperfield” is a 1969 British American international co-production television film directed by Delbert Mann based on the novel of the same name by Charles Dickens. This movie was the last one to be scored by famous British composer Malcolm Arnold. He was famous for writing light music and the 2015 release of this score give me a chance to satisfy my curiosity about such a score. I am usually frowning at “light music” and it’s interesting to hear a composition by one of the most famous from this genre.

The main title is actually quite beautiful and elegant. This orchestral piece has classic written all over it. it sounds more like an ending with majestic horns and sweeping string sections. “Main title” also makes me think of those orchestral themes that are used at award ceremonies to introduce winners or special features.

I like this score. I like it from the beginning because this might be light music, but it’s light orchestral music. Not epic or dramatic, just flowing like a spring on a quiet summer’s day. You can’t ignore something like that. The music is beautiful and joyous and because the orchestra is small it gets a feeling of playfulness. I hear the exuberance and innocence of child’s play in this music; I see Mary Poppins, I see games, I see cartoon animals.

“David Copperfield” doesn’t sound like it was written for this drama and for this story. It sounds as if it was written for a festival in which people come to celebrate the works of Charles Dickens or for the award ceremony in which the movie itself has the chance to win something. Malcolm Arnold wrote a light and celebratory orchestral composition which could work for pretty much anything except a drama. This makes it lack a clear identity. These days we use very often the term “generic” for a score but can there be a “generic orchestral score”? If so, “David Copperfield” is it. I can’t identify a theme or a motif that could hold this jolly balloon to the ground. No, this one will keep floating depending on the wind. Sometimes it will stop and bring joy to some, and then it will leave again and stop in another place.

Cue rating: 85 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 6 / 28

Album excellence: 22%


David Copperfield: Agnes’s Arrival/Mother’s Funeral

David Copperfield: Mr Micawber


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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