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Composed and Co-Produced by:

Conducted by:
Robert Ziegler

Orchestrated by:
Lawrence Ashmore
John Bell

Co-Produced by:
Maggie Rodford
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Sony Classical
(December 10th, 1996)
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Regular U.S. release.
Nominated for an Academy Award.
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Decorative Nonsense
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Availability | Awards | Viewer Ratings | Comments | Audio & Track Listings | Notes
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.
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WRITTEN 1/10/97, REVISED 11/11/11
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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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Average: 3.36 Stars
***** 134 5 Stars
**** 167 4 Stars
*** 127 3 Stars
** 75 2 Stars
* 75 1 Stars
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The remark about Claudius and Ophelia's themes mystifies
franz_conrad - February 26, 2006, at 3:16 p.m.
1 comment  (3666 views)
National tragedy   Expand >>
Marc - December 31, 2005, at 10:49 p.m.
3 comments  (5167 views)
Newest: March 1, 2006, at 10:05 p.m. by

Track Listings Icon
Audio Samples   ▼
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 Icon
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

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