March 2003 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Gary S. Dalkin
Managing Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster Len Mullenger

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EDITOR’s CHOICE March 2003


My Uncle Silas  
Music composed by Debbie Wiseman
  Available on Universal 472-087-2  
Running time: 60.55
Amazon UK

my uncle silas

My Uncle Silas is a Granada / Yorkshire Television co-production based on stories by H.E. Bates, the same author whose pastoral tales of mid-20th century English life launched Catherine Zeta Jones on the road to stardom in The Darling Buds of May just over a decade ago. Here Albert Finney is ideally cast as Bate's loveable scoundrel, the vibrant heart of a perfectly pitched light comedy drama which has found a welcome home in the early Sunday evening ITV schedules.

Debbie Wiseman is well cast as composer, the charming English lyricism she brought to such projects as Something Here and Stories of Oscar Wilde running through this current score like a languid summer's picnic beneath a willow tree. Anyone delighted by Richard Rodney Bennett's Enchanted April or Rachel Portman's Emma will be immediately beguiled.

It takes little to guess that this is a very traditionally pastoral English score, rich with strings, supported by piano, layered with delicately orchestrated harp and flute melodies. There are several themes, including a particularly elegant melody which appears in several tracks such as 'Ned Hunts Gooseberries', a theme which has a plangent quality bearing a faint ghost of Howard Blake's marvellous work on Ridley Scott's The Duellists. Elsewhere Silas theme is more upbeat and playful, 'the climax of 'Caught Poaching' almost turning into a orchestral homage to a Yorkshire brass band tune in a similar spirit to Christopher Gunning's Yorkshire Glory, his an epic symphonic poem composed for Yorkshire television (recorded by The Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Vernon Handley on Dale DL2 CD). Elsewhere there is a Debussy-like gossamer grace to the flute writing, sample for example 'The Blue Feather', while 'Visiting Mrs Gadsby' becomes an impish jig. Throughout a good nature spirit reigns in a disc which is perfect for a lazy sunny day.

Playful and dreamily romantic by turns, My Uncle Silas is, post-Vaughan Williams, post-William Alwyn, a modern fantasy, an idyll in a century gone by with all the rough edges removed. Escapist whimsy it may be, but it is gorgeous as any Pre-Raphelite vision of an England that never was. As such it is highly recommended to those who sometimes prefer beauty, charm and imagination over grit, grim and 'relevance'. Whatever that may be.

Gary Dalkin

****(*) 41/2

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