Burgon: Brideshead Revisited: The Television Scores of Geoffrey Burgon

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COMPOSERS: Burgon
LABELS: Silva Screen
WORKS: Brideshead Revisited: The Television Scores of Geoffrey Burgon
PERFORMER: Lesley Garrett (soprano)The Philharmonia/Geoffrey Burgon
CATALOGUE NO: FILMCD 117 DDD
The phenomenal success of Brideshead Revisited, with its lush evocation of a lost grandeur, was helped in no small part by Geoffrey Burgon’s score, the wistful melody of the theme shared between oboe and horn, those most pastoral of instruments. Composers of film and TV music are often regarded as poor relations of the exponents of concert-hall music (in artistic if not pecuniary terms), but this pleasant disc is a reminder of how skilful a task it is to write potent mood music without upstaging what’s on screen.

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Here Burgon shows a resourceful use of the theme and variation form: the theme from Brideshead is transformed into a depiction of a hunt, while that of Bleak House becomes an oompah backdrop to the streets of Victorian London. There are also clever elements of pastiche, particularly in the trenchant music to Testament of Youth, deriving from Stravinsky and Shostakovich. Also included is the ‘Nunc Dimittis’ from Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, perhaps losing some of its ethereal eeriness by substituting soprano for treble (pace Lesley Garrett).

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The playing seems somewhat under-charged: but that might be in the nature of the music, whose interest may not survive continual replaying. William Humphreys-Jones