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Composed and Co-Produced by:
Patrick Doyle

Conducted by:
Robert Ziegler

Orchestrated by:
Lawrence Ashmore
John Bell

Co-Produced by:
Maggie Rodford

Sony Classical

Release Date:
December 10th, 1996

Also See:
Henry V
Secondhand Lions

Audio Clips:
2. Fanfare (0:30):
WMA (195K)  MP3 (242K)
Real Audio (150K)

5. The Ghost (0:30):
WMA (195K)  MP3 (242K)
Real Audio (150K)

8. "What players are they" (0:33):
WMA (215K)  MP3 (266K)
Real Audio (165K)

26. "Go bid the soldiers shoot" (0:32):
WMA (209K)  MP3 (258K)
Real Audio (160K)

Regular U.S. release.

  Nominated for an Academy Award.


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Buy it... if you appreciate Patrick Doyle's consistent quality of orchestral respect and seek one of his more varied and percussively creative scores, even if it fails to generate the gravity of melodrama expected for this play's convoluted plotline.

Avoid it... if the composer's tepid attempts to address the character-centric thematic core of the topic will fail to adequately generate the tension and conflict you expect for any musical representation of this play.

Hamlet (1996): (Patrick Doyle) While directing Henry V and Much Ado About Nothing and co-starring in Othello, actor, screenwriter, and director Kenneth Branagh had always dreamt of bringing an ultimate version of William Shakespeare's famed "Hamlet" to the big screen. Through history, actors such as John Gielgud, Richard Burton, Laurence Olivier, and Mel Gibson had appeared in the title role, and Branagh was prepared to tackle the same challenge with all the authenticity that the original story conveyed. Unlike the other interpretations of the story, Branagh's Hamlet of 1996 was meant feature every word of dialogue from the play, causing a massive running time of over four hours that would necessitate an intermission. Despite this length, Branagh's idea worked, the film providing a much more rounded and understandable tapestry than shorter interpretations. Also of note is the fact that Branagh doesn't force the story to brood in despair, allowing for the more positive moments to shine clearly. Reception of the movie by audiences was cool if only because of the massive running time, but an outstanding international cast led the film to critical success and several Oscar nominations for art direction, costumes, screenplay, and Patrick Doyle's score. By 1996, Doyle's career was almost inseparable from Branagh's works, with only Ang Lee's Sense and Sensibility from the previous year standing out as a noteworthy exception. His children's adventure scores of the early 1990's were nearly anonymous and difficult to obtain on album. Doyle's music for Branagh's productions had always been appropriately lyrical and romantic, though often restrained in scope out of respect for the constant overlying dialogue that was usually the purpose of his films. With Hamlet, the size of the picture, as well as several flashback scenes without original dialogue, allowed Doyle to unleash the full force of his orchestra in the fashion of Frankenstein and his other horror works. At the same time, Doyle was instructed to produce fanfares worthy of the monarchy of Denmark, with melodic resonance expressed at levels not yet heard from the composer. The odd thing about his perspective on Hamlet however, is that despite this great opportunity, Doyle wrote one of the more disjointed and confused scores of his career, one of hidden structural torment that may not be particularly easy to grasp for casual listeners.

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Doyle's usual keen sense of lyricism in Hamlet will provide enough cohesion in the score for some enthusiasts of the composer. But he doesn't very clearly express the totality of his thematic identities, usually content to intellectualize them to the point of subtle sterility. Even with this plethora of interesting characters, high drama, and ghostly politics, Doyle's end result is a whole lot of great ideas that start and die, leaving the score in sum to be lacking in any overarching identity outside of its demeanor. The primary theme for the titular character, a "simple" one by Doyle's admission, is remarkably similar to thematic constructs for his much lesser scores, heard best in the opening, finale, and closing cues of Hamlet. It interestingly shows little remorse or even beauty, for that matter, and it proves difficult to adapt to the contemplative moments of the lead character's soliloquies. Doyle also wrote themes for Claudius and Ophelia, however neither of these themes is enunciated to effective levels and they are typically developed only in the stewing of the tense string section and occasional woodwind fragments. There is still more depth to Doyle's ensemble here than in previous Shakespearean scores by the composer, with "The Ghost" (among other cues) providing outstanding rips of percussion and brass. At the very least, Doyle does accomplish the weight needed to anchor this level of drama, and because of his constant layering of strings, the score suffices at maintaining the necessary tone. But the audience will be confronted by fragments of themes and other motifs, one of which is surprisingly similar to what Basil Poledouris would write for Les Misérables not long after, that never congeal into a delineated, larger canvas, and disappointment sets in as those ideas never reach fruition. Only the main theme, with its grand choral finale, reaches back to the elegance of Henry V to close out the score. Placido Domingo's performance of that theme, "In Pace," is restrained also by the same lack of orchestral power and enthusiasm that haunts portions of the rest of the score. In short, Hamlet, more than any other Shakespearean work (except Othello, maybe), needs strong, obvious musical identity for several characters, and the opportunity to weave those ideas together with obvious contempt and passion is sadly missed here. In the end, for much of its length, the result soothes the listener as did Sense and Sensibility, which speaks directly to the weakness in orchestration, performance, and overall realization of Hamlet. This score teases but fails to deliver on the gravitas of the topic. *** Price Hunt: CD or Download

Bias Check:For Patrick Doyle reviews at Filmtracks, the average editorial rating is 3.81 (in 27 reviews)
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 Track Listings: Total Time: 76:25

• 1. In Pace - performed by Placido Domingo (3:07)
• 2. Fanfare (0:48)
• 3. "All that lives must die" (2:40)
• 4. "To thine own self be true" (3:04)
• 5. The Ghost (9:55)
• 6. "Give me up the truth" (1:05)
• 7. "What a piece of work is a man" (1:50)
• 8. "What players are they" (1:33)
• 9. "Out out thou strumpet fortune" (3:11)
• 10. "To be or not to be" (1:53)
• 11. "I loved you once" (3:27)
• 12. "Oh, what a noble mind" (2:41)
• 13. "If once a widow" (3:36)
• 14. "Now could I drink hot blood" (6:57)
• 15. "A foolish prating nave" (1:05)
• 16. "Oh heavy deed" (0:56)
• 17. "Oh here they come" (4:39)
• 18. "My thoughts be bloody" (2:52)
• 19. "The doors are broke" (1:20)
• 20. "And will 'a not come again?" (1:59)
• 21. "Alas poor Yorick" (2:49)
• 22. "Sweets to the sweet - farewell" (4:39)
• 23. "Give me your pardon sir" (1:24)
• 24. "Part them they are incensed" (1:47)
• 25. "Goodnight, sweet prince" (3:36)
• 26. "Go bid the soldiers shoot" (2:52)

 Notes and Quotes:  

The insert includes detailed information from Patrick Doyle and Kenneth Branagh about the score and film, as well as lyrics for "In Pace." Excerpts from the notes are as follows:

    "In this score Patrick Doyle attempted the most difficult of things for an artist - simplicity. His challenge was to write music that would serve the words and yet, over the course of the film, could build a profound resonance in itself. As with our other Shakespearean work we wanted the instant accessibility that Patrick's gift for melody could provide - a chance to direct the audience's mood through difficult passages, and yet not patronise the viewer or dilute the power of a scene. I think he has succeeded superbly well.

    As with Henry V and Much Ado About Nothing the score is unashamedly romantic. Our Hamlet is not presented as a man predisposed to melancholy. His usual character, described so often in the play, is vibrant, curious, positive. So it is with the music. We wanted, wherever possible, to stress the potential for joy in this court. Hence the wedding fanfares at the beginning of the early court scenes speak of glorious possibility, of a relationship between Claudius and Gertrude which could be full of hope, and a bright new era for the Danish nation. Only we, the audience, and Hamlet himself suspect otherwise. This contrast, expressed through music, between the darkness of Hamlet's mood and the potential for happiness in the lives of the other characters was something we pursued constantly.

    Thus we play the sweetness of the Ophelia/Laertes relationship, the genuineness of the passion between Hamlet and Opheha, and the tenderness of Hamlet's relationship with his father, as positively as we can.

    We resisted Gothic notions of a permanently gloomy Elsinore. For me, the Play is partly a search (through Hamlet's extraordinary mind) for what makes life worth living. When afforded a glimpse of those things that occasionally inspire Hamlet - love, friendship, the theatre - I wanted the music to soar with Hamlet's temporary optimism and hope. And finally, I wanted the audience to leave, not depressed, but shaken by an emotional catharsis that the music would support in the most full-blooded way. Aside from the great choral finale, Patrick gives us a beautiful funeral elegy. "In Pace" is sung (to our honour and delight) by Placido Domingo. That miraculous voice, expressing with such delicacy lyrics from The Book of Wisdorn, sends our hero on his way with a touching dignity. His journey, reflected in the musical score, resolves itself into a peace, which he has pursued throughout the film. We are moved to accept the tragic inevitability of his fate. It seems to me that, through his score, Patrick has realised a very fine musical response to the play. It has lifted the rest of our work in a way I could scarcely hope for, and I thank him for his remarkable talent."

          -- Kenneth Branagh

    "The three principal thematic ideas upon which the score is built are those that reflect the characters of Claudius, Ophelia and, of course, Hamlet.

    The simple, childlike Ophelia melody (first used in track 12) came to me eventually after watching Kate Winslet on the set and being extremely moved by the scene in which Ophelia reads Hamlet's letter to her. In the Confessional scene, as in a number of other scenes, the drama is effectively heightened by interspersing throughout the action a string quartet (and on occasion, a quintet), joined by a full string or mixed orchestra.

    Claudius' theme (stated in its entirety in the Confessional scene - end of track 14) takes the score much further into the realm of 20th-century harmonies; in addition, to compliment Claudius' dark, troubled soul, I decided on a canon as the most dramatic musical device with which to create a feeling of continued restlessness. This canonic theme ultimately provides the basis for most of the driving material and serves as a musical means of linking Hamlet, his father and Claudius.

    Hamlet's theme proved to be the most daunting and elusive; the score could not develop until this materialised. I lost count of how many times I stared helplessly at the last scene before the 'simple' theme reared its salvatory head. The song 'In Pace' clearly weaves together the themes of Hainlet and Ophelia. To have it performed by Placido Domingo, one of the great voices of the century, was a tremendous privilege.

    I had such a happy experience throughout this assignment. The quality of the performances along with all the technical crafts were a constant inspiration. In my opinion, it is unquestionably Kenneth Branagh's greatest work for the cinema, both as a Director and especially as Hamlet. I only hope that my contribution has helped Ken in realising what I consider for him to be a remarkable personal achievement.

    With deepest admiration I would like to dedicate this score to Kenneth Branagh. I should also like to dedicate 'In Pace' in memory of Rhona."

          -- Patrick Doyle

  All artwork and sound clips from Hamlet are Copyright © 1996, Sony Classical. The reviews and other textual content contained on the site may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the prior written authority of Filmtracks Publications. Audio clips can be heard using RealPlayer but cannot be redistributed without the label's expressed written consent. Page created 1/10/97 and last updated 11/11/11. Review Version 5.1 (PHP). Copyright © 1997-2015, Christian Clemmensen (Filmtracks Publications). All rights reserved.