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Philippe ROMBI (b. 1968)
Film Score: Angel (The Real Life story of Angel Deverell)
Philippe Rombi (piano); Rolf Wilson (violin); Anthony Pleeth (cello); Nicholas Bucknall (clarinet); Jonathan Snowden (flute)
Crouch End Festival Chorus
Symphonic Orchestra/Philippe Rombi
FIDELITE CST 81126.2 [69:14]
Experience Classicsonline

This is the sort of film music that I thought I would never hear again. Harking back to Hollywood’s Golden Age it is reminiscent of the romantic scores of Franz Waxman, Max Steiner and Korngold but without what some might regard as the latter composer’s OTT indulgencies. It is a symphonic score, beautifully crafted and very melodic. In fact it stands very well as music for listening away from the film - a very rare quality these days.

It has to be said straightaway that this 2007 film only came to my attention recently. It was hardly commercial and it seems to have had a limited release. It only reached our local art-house cinema late last year. I was so impressed with Rombi’s music that I hastened to purchase the soundtrack recording – a very rare indulgence for me these days when so many of today’s film scores are nondescript at best and too many others abysmal. 

The music is by classically-trained French composer, arranger and conductor, Philippe Rombi. His handiwork can be heard in: Les Amants Criminels (1999); Swimming Pool (2003); Angel (2007) and Ricky (2009). 

François Ozon’s film Angel is based on the novel of the same name by Elizabeth Taylor - the novelist not the film star. The story is about Angel Deverell, superbly portrayed by Romola Garai, who prefers to live in a dream-world rather than face the realities of living in a dull provincial town, Norley - a thinly disguised Reading in England’s Home Counties. Her impossibly romantic dreams form the basis of her escapist women’s novels that become best-sellers. The screenplay is more sympathetic to her character than Elizabeth Taylor’s darkly comic novel where Angel is treated with unrelenting derision. 

Rombi’s main theme for the film is fragile and sweetly, dreamily sentimental, beautifully heightening the romantic yearnings of the young author. It climaxes joyfully as she reaches the pinnacle of her success to be feted by her adoring fans (‘Success’ and ‘Crowning Moment’). Similarly impressive is the passionate music for her cock-eyed romantic involvement with the ungrateful and untalented artist, Esme (‘Marry Me’). The music often employs the piano in romantic concerto form: ‘Jealousy’ and ‘Together in Paradise’ the latter of which also has a lovely violin solo. The music becomes increasingly tinged with grief and tragedy as World War I and its after-effects rob Angel of her husband and her fans. Her disillusion grows ever more bitter. Rombi’s treatment of Nora, Angel’s devoted companion alternates between warmth suggesting her loyalty and a tart irony that speaks of Nora’s pathetic attachment to the utterly self-centred Angel. There is a feeling of drabness and suffocation in Rombi’s evocation of her home town Norley. Rombi also cleverly and subtly conveys a sense of period in allusions to the music of Elgar particularly in emulating that composer’s writing for woodwinds. 

Below is the track-listing, appended because the titles are lucid and helpful unlike so many these days. 

One of the best romantic film scores in years.

Ian Lace

Track listing:
1) The Real Life of Angel Deverell [2:35]
2) Overture [2:59]
3) Paradise theme [2:46]
4) Angel’s theme [4:20]
5) Inspiration [2:35]
6) The Publisher [3:48]
7) London [0:47]
8) Norley [1:19]
9) Success [1:24]
10) Crowning Moment [1:07]
11) A Gift from Paradise [4;25]
12) Nora [1:14]
13) Visit to Esme [1:09]
14) Jealousy [2:40]
15) Mother’s Death [2:06]
16) Marry Me [1:41]
17) The Portrait/Honeymoon [1:49]
18) Together in Paradise [3:03]
19) The War [3;19]
20) Alone in Paradise [4:09]
21) In the Name of Love [3:08]
22) Esme’s Death [2:08]
23) Angelica [3:56]
24) Silky Boy [1:20]
25) Angel’s Death [4;53]
26) The Dreamed Life of Angel Deverell [2:28]
27) Angel’s Theme (alternate) [3:20]


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