March 2000 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster Len Mullenger

Lesley BARBER Mansfield Park OST    RCA VICTOR 09026 63592-2 [48:46]

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Here is the music from the mildly controversial Mansfield Park, result of the strange ménage à trois of Miramax, BBC Films and The Arts Council. Guess which party were influential in giving the director's chair to self-professed nihilist Patricia Rozema, the Canadian director of I've Heard the Mermaids Singing, and the fascinating The White Room? Guess who promptly added sex to the virginal literary world of Jane Austin, doubtless in a misguided effort to lend the story 'contemporary relevance'. Obviously a modern audience has not the imagination to conceive of romance sans sex, which as we know, hadn't been invented in Austin's time.

The music, by relative newcomer Lesley Barber (previous credits seem to be only for When Night is Falling, Los Locos and A Price Above Rubies), is unlikely to garner much controversy. The main theme is quite captivating, though it takes a few plays to lodge in the memory, and there is much pseudo-Baroque writing that is very pleasant in a light-weight and charming way. Though undemanding, this is a perfectly respectable release, and should make fans of Rachel Portman's Emma content, while even appealing to those who like Michael Nyman's more formally precise scores. I suspect that it is the sort of score that will mean much more having seen the film, and may well grow in stature with subsequent listens. It certainly reveals Lesley Barber as a talent to watch.

All I can say about the last track is, "It's a mystery", which doubtless will be explained by seeing the film itself. Without having done so Salif Keta's song 'Djonga ("Slavery")' seems as bizarrely out of place in this otherwise quintessentially pastoral English world as a Celine Dion ballad would on the end of an historical epic.


Gary S. Dalkin


Gary S. Dalkin

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