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Cinderella (Patrick Doyle)

March 19, 2015


Patrick Doyle, 2015, Disney
30 tracks, 78:18

Kenneth Branagh breathes new life into the classic fairytale “Cinderella”. Or is it really Patrick Doyle who brings this story back to life?

Review by Pete Simons

What is it?

Directed by Kenneth Branagh and based on the famous fairytale by the Brothers Grimm, the story of “Cinderella” follows the fortunes of young Ella (Lily James) whose merchant father remarries following the death of her mother. Eager to support her loving father, Ella welcomes her new Stepmother (Cate Blanchett) and her daughters Anastasia (Holliday Grainger) and Drisella (Sophie McShera) into the family home. But, when Ella’s father unexpectedly passes away, she finds herself at the mercy of a jealous and cruel new family.

What does it sound like?

Scoring “Cinderella” is Branagh’s long-time collaborator Patrick Doyle. After a number of modern thriller/action scores like “Jack Ryan”, “Planet of the Apes” and “Thor”, the Scottish composer is allowed to return to his lyrical, orchestral roots – and the result is simply mesmerising.

Doyle’s “Cinderella” is a lush, romantic and fully orchestral score. Opening cue “A Golden Childhood” introduces a chirpy little theme (here for bells and piano, from 2.25) that at once reminds me of Alan Silvestri’s playful style and of Disney’s classic feel-good songs. Earlier during this cue and again in “The Great Secret” we hear the makings of Doyle’s main theme, though they are only makings at this stage. And the themes keep on coming, as “A New Family” presents a lovely and lyrical melody for strings and woodwinds.

The entire score revolves around these themes and each one returns numerous times, in various shapes and forms. As the story begins to unfold, so does the music. From “Fairy Godmother” onwards things start to really heat up. The last minute of “Pumpkins and Mice” presents Ella’s theme in its most glorious and obvious form yet. It’s a magnificent melody. The harmonies, the melodic line… for me it’s just perfect. It is mirrored (even more joyously) in “You Shall Go” and various cues thereafter. There is no point in me going through each cue. The melodies are everywhere! And the joy of listening to this album comes from discovering them.

The score is dominated by strings, woodwinds and mallets. In the best possible way, Doyle chirps, plucks and twinkles his way through the film. Strings keep things moving along with infectious ostinatos – of the classical kind, mind you! Yet, there is always time for heartfelt solos like the cello in “The Great Secret” and “Courage and Kindness” or the violin in “Pumpkin and Mice”.

In the past I have sometimes, though only a little, struggled with some of Doyle’s themes. I find he had a tendency of returning to the same note a little too often within the melody. At times that annoys me, especially when such melodies are carried by horns, as it creates a jarring, resonating sound. I’m not sure if I’m explaining this in a way that make sense, but… my point is: he doesn’t do it here*. “Cinderella” flows and flows graciously. I’d go as far and say that overall this is Doyle’s most mature work to date. Certain individual cues from “Henry V”, “Hamlet”, “Frankenstein” and various others cannot be topped, but on the whole “Cinderella” displays the best, most detailed writing and orchestrating I’ve heard in a long time from any composer.** (*Okay, he does it in the chirpy theme, but it makes sense there, so we’ll leave that one alone! **Wait until you read the review that goes live on Saturday 21 march.)

A story like “Cinderella” doesn’t offer much in the way of action, but during the one instance where it does Doyle delivers in spades. “Pumpkin Pursuit” is unbelievably energetic and powerful. I sincerely hope no brass players were killed during the recording of this cue! There is also some darker writing during the second half of “A Secret Garden”. And I suppose some of the action is represented by the various polkas, which I’ll address in the next paragraph. The score closes, brilliantly, with “Courage and Kindness” in which Doyle reprises several of this themes. It all comes to a glorious end with choir, bells and a typical Doyle send-off.

Doyle infuses his score with various waltzes (e.g. “Life and Laughter”, “Valse Royale”, “La Valse De L’Amour” and “La Valse Champagne”). These are overtly joyous cues, mostly written in a Straussian style. It’s instant happiness. The writing and orchestrations feel absolutely genuine for a ballroom setting – and one might be forgiven for thinking they were real classical pieces. In addition, there are three polkas: “La Polka Militaire” (which reprises the chirpy theme and just makes you want to twirl around until you fall over), “La Polka de Paris” and “La Polka de Minuit”. The latter is simply astounding and is made from the stuff that makes people clap along without even realising they’re doing it. Yeah, you know the ones. That pesky “Radetzky March” comes to mind. ClassicFM will have a field day with this album, I’ll tell ya!

The album conludes with three songs. “Strong” is based on one of Doyle’s themes, whilst “A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makes” and “Biddidi Bobidi Boo” are new recordings of classic Disney songs (from their 1950 “Cinderella” film would you believe it).

Is it any good?

Doyle’s “Cinderella” is an outstanding score for full orchestra and choir, though with an emphasis on strings, winds and mallets. The writing and orchestrations are arguably the most matured and most detailed of Doyle’s already impressive career. There are some magnificent themes here, that reappear throughout the album. At 78 minutes it is a long album and could maybe have been a little shorter, but it is a very consistent and coherent album (even though some cues change direction three times in as many minutes). The recording and mixing is superb, lending the music a real sense of gravitas despite all the fluffy 3/4 meters and twinkly glockenspiels.

The ‘classical’ waltzes impress with how genuine they sound. Now I have to admit that the grumpy old fart in me struggles a little with so much overt happiness and excitement, but I cannot deny the technical brilliance of those cues. Recently Doyle has written a number of modern thriller scores and he did that very well; but there really is no match for Doyle in full orchestral swing, especially with a story like “Cinderella” at hand. Though he’s never really been away, this feels like an embrace from an old friend. Warm, familiar, and with lots of wonderful stories to tell. And thank you Kenneth Branagh for letting him!* (* Didn’t I say something similar in my “Wolf Totem” review? Ah well. Does that make me the James Horner of soundtrack reviews?)

Rating [4,5/5]


1. A Golden Childhood (3.56)
2. The Great Secret (3.01)
3. A New Family (2.15)
4. Life and Laughter (1.34)
5. The First Branch (2.10)
6. Nice and Airy (1.53)
7. Orphaned (3.46)
8. The Stag (4.56)
9. Rich Beyond Reason (1.43)
10. Fairy Godmother (2.47)
11. Pumpkins and Mice (4.32)
12. You Shall Go (3.02)
13. Valse Royale (2.06)
14. Who Is She (3.20)
15. La Valse de L’Amourc (2.34)
16. La Valse Champagne (1.35)
17. La Polka Militaire (1.47)
18. La Polka de Paris (1.22)
19. A Secret Garden (2.48)
20. La Polka de Minuit (2.02)
21. Choose That One (1.16)
22. Pumpkin Pursuit (2.28)
23. The Slipper (1.00)
24. Shattered Dreams (4.10)
25. Searching the Kingdom (2.51)
26. Ella and Kit (2.11)
27. Courage and Kindness (4.38)
28. Strong (Performed by Sonna Rele) (3.13)
29. A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes (Performed by Lily James) (2.00)
30. Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo (The Magic Song) (Performed by Helena Bonham Carter) (1.22)

Blooper reel

I have not once been able to spell “Cinderella” correctly without first typing “Cinederella”.

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