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Soundtrack review: On Chesil Beach (Dan Jones – 2018)

Film scores

Soundtrack review: On Chesil Beach (Dan Jones – 2018)

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Adapted by Ian McEwan from his acclaimed novel of the same name,”On Chesil Beach” stars three-time Academy Award nominee, four-time BAFTA nominee and recent winner of a Golden Globe, Saoirse Ronan (Lady Bird, Brooklyn, Atonement) and Billy Howle (Dunkirk, The Sense of an Ending, The Seagull). It is directed by Dominic Cooke, four-time Olivier Award winning and BAFTA nominated theatre, TV and film director and writer. “On Chesil Beach” centres around two young spouses, Florence (Ronan) – a violinist in a string quartet, and Edward (Howle) – a graduate student of history, on their honeymoon on the dramatic coastline of Chesil Beach in Dorset. However, the hotel is old fashioned and stifling, and underlying tensions between the young couple surface and cast unexpected shadows over their long-anticipated wedding night. Dan Jones wrote the score

This release contains a lot of famous orchestral pieces among the score cues, for a more complex listening experience. I will review just Dan Jones’ work and it starts right up my alley with the minimalistic, almost invisible “Talking to the birds” and the joyful, tender “Into the woods” which doesn’t need more than a minute to put me in a fairy tale mood; it’s a cue fit for an enchanted forest wit a sublime violin motif that plays with the other strings and creates an atmosphere of celebration of life. This is one of those orchestral pieces that are showstoppers for me. I get that wonderful relaxing feeling that I almost always get from the king of meaningful minimalism, Rob Simonsen. Dan Jones writes the same way, short, moody cues that compensate in depth what they lack in length, reflective pieces that I simply love. When I listen to a cue like “A walk in the meadow” it makes sense to have all those classical symphonic pieces in this release since the composer matches them with his own craft.

I always notice the sound of the solo violin in a score and this is how I discovered fantastic musicians like Hillary Hahn, Joshua Bell or Katia Popov (who we tragically lost this month). This time it’s a new name for me, Esther Yoo who graces this album with her talent and brings that emotional release I’m always looking for in film music. With every new cue “On Chesil Beach” develops as a more rewarding listening experience, emotional, elegant, poignant. Sometimes, the violin slows down, getting even more intimate, more personal, and a cue like “Lulworth Cove” simply leaves me speechless.

“On Chesil Beach” is a beautiful score in which I discover more layers and hidden gems with every new listen. From the magnificent violin solos that just carve me up inside to the orchestral zest that matches the giants around it to the reflective, minimalistic cues that are not symphonic, everything about this score spells emotion. I really wish Dan Jones’ composition was longer but in the same time I am glad such a composition exists. For me this score is one of the best surprises of this first half of 2018 and I invite you to listen to it because it’s one of those compositions that will stand out and leave a mark.

Cue rating: 88 / 100

Highlights:
Into the Woods (Dan Jones)
Walk in the Meadows (Dan Jones)
Walk from Henley (Dan Jones)
Lulworth Cove (Dan Jones)
I’d Do Anything (Dan Jones)
Mary that girl
Cold Shoulder (Violin Solo Version) (Dan Jones)
Chloe (Dan Jones)

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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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