Error processing SSI file
Rachel PORTMAN: The Legend of Bagger Vance : Film Music CD Reviews- June 2001 MusicWeb(UK)

June 2001Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster Len Mullenger

index page/ monthly listings /June01/



The Legend of Bagger Vance  
  orchestrated by the composer and Jeff Atmajian; conducted by David Snell
  CHAPTER III Records CHA 1009-2   [47:50 - including 8:16 minutes of songs performed by Fats Waller, Muggsy Spanier and Duke Ellington]

As I note in my review of Rachel Portman's simultaneously released anthology Soundtracks, Portman has a very distinctive style, doing what she does from film to film with really very little variation in approach. Here she is doing it again, wonderfully. Charming as the recent Chocolat was, The Legend of Bagger Vance is simply delightful. There is considerable continuity in that again the music is orchestrated by the composer with Jeff Atmajian and conducted by David Snell. It is a formula which works, so there seems to be no need to fix it.

The film is one of Robert Redford's Americana fables, which just as Kevin Costner's Field of Dreams used baseball, adopts golf as a metaphor for the deeper things in life. The film is set in The South in the 1920's, but while three period songs help set the scene Redford sensibly keeps well away from the ragtime which defined The Sting, (1973) his most successful venture into this period. The songs are fine for what they are, with Ellington's 'Mood Indigo' being by far the best of the trio. But it is the score we are here for.

Portman offers perhaps her richest and most infectiously memorable score to date. Certainly it is the equal of her wonderful work on Emma (1996). There is, as really is to be expected from Portman, a wistful piano theme full of folk colours and shadings. There are variations on this throughout the score, and absolutely gorgeous as it is, developing into a theme of heartfelt nobility, this melody really plays second place in the memorability stakes to a more upbeat tune which appears less often, but as both as a jaunty march and a jazz inflected dance. It is really guaranteed to put a smile on most any face. Elsewhere there is some of the most hauntingly delicate music you are ever likely to hear in a score for a modern American film. Track four, 'Bagger Offers to Caddy for Junuh' and the following 'Bagger and Hardy Measure the Course at Night' are perfect examples of lyrically spellbinding cues where time seems to stop, held in abeyance by sheer beauty.

Alongside Captain Corelli's Mandolin by Stephen Warbeck, also released this month, here we have proof that charm, subtly, taste and an exquisite sense of melody are live and well in the hands of British composers working if not on blockbusters, then on intelligent mid-budget features. As long as work of this quality finds its way into the multiplex we can be assured that cinema hasn't entirely given itself over to the mindlessness of the lowest common-denominator. Fans of the composer should snap this gem up immediately. Those who don't know Rachel Portman's work could find no better time than to start exploring, with both this and Soundtracks currently on the shelves. Each is gorgeous in its own right, but perhaps oddly, I would recommend this over the compilation, as it really is breathtakingly beautiful and intoxicatingly magical throughout. What else to start than with the best?

Gary S. Dalkin


Return to Index

Reviews from previous months

You can purchase CDs, tickets and musician's accessories and Save around 22% with these retailers: - The UK's Biggest Video Store Concert and Show tickets
Musicians accessories
Click here to visit


Error processing SSI file