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Soundtrack review: Sherlock – series 4 (David Arnold and Michael Price – 2017)

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Soundtrack review: Sherlock – series 4 (David Arnold and Michael Price – 2017)

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“Sherlock” is a crime drama television series based on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes detective stories. Created by Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss, it stars Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes and Martin Freeman as Doctor John Watson. Thirteen episodes have been produced, with three-part series airing from 2010–2017, and a special episode that aired on 1 January 2016. The series is set in the present day, while the one-off special features a Victorian period fantasy resembling the original Holmes stories. The music is written by David Arnold and Michael Price and unfortunately this has been the only place in the last few year where I could hear David Arnold who I dearly miss both in James Bond movies and in blockbusters. This is a review for the music of series 4.

British TV dramas (and there are a lot of them currently) are bringing some great scores, most of them dark, and Silva Screen does a great job of releasing them. This one starts with a playful harpsichord musing that actually makes me think of Hans Zimmer’s take on Sherlock. Then the violin joins in and “The stranger” ends up like a wicked waltz. The fun wickedness blends into the next cues and I am loving the playful melodic mood of this score. It’s just the beginning of course because then the murders start and the mood completely changes to a darkness which in “AGRA” reminds me of Bernard Herrmann’s “Cape fear” actually which for me is one of the scariest soundscapes ever. The suspense alternates with the playfulness and romance and this makes the score absolutely charming.

I like the flow of this score and the story it tells; from frights it goes to emotion when it needs to while still keeping the music rich and layered. There are a lot of thrillers these days that keep me music very low in a quiet suspenseful limbo that gets boring; here we have two gifted composers who have fun writing this score and when I hear a cue like “Running away” that combines the frantic atmosphere with the most delicious solo violin motif I know I will love this score. The music is exciting and varied and I love how the composers improvise and use the instruments, how the combine the piano with a barely touched string with matching paces and how vivacious the music is in some moments. Each cue reserves surprises as delightful piano or string motifs pop up around every corner to make the music even more meaningful and to eliminate any fear I might have about finding filler cues in this score. This also keeps me excited about listening to the next cue because I know that after a tense opening I might get the most romantic piano motif or an angelic woman’s voice vocalising in an Edda Del’Orso manner which is one of my soft spots. A cue like “Who I want to be” will not be missing from my end of the year list of best cues.

The music of series 4 of Sherlock is the best yet. The suspense is constructed thoroughly with a weave of strings and the piano motifs are beautiful and poignant. The use of piano in this score is truly remarkable with its various degrees of intensity, from quietly ambient to furious. David Arnold and Michael Price wrote an orchestral score that’s both dark and playful and they created a complex musical tapestry that I can’t get enough of. Every one of the 94 minutes of this album is worth listening to and I hope they continue the show.

Cue rating: 92 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 46 / 94

Album excellence: 49%

Highlights:
Absolute Trust
Running Away
Cheating
Never a Field Agent
Get Your Attention
Stopped Lying Down
Too Heavy
Window Deduction
No Charges
Who I Want to Be
She Was Different
Doing a Good Thing
3 Suspects
Brother Mine
I Had No One
Always the Grown Up
Who You Really Are

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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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