December 2006 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Michael McLennan
Managing Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster: Len Mullenger

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Music composed and conducted by Debbie Wiseman
  Available on Silva Screen (SILCD1214)
Running Time: 44:48
Crotchet   Amazon UK

Haunted is a reissue of Debbie Wiseman’s much admired and requested album originally released in 1995 and long since deleted. The film was the penultimate work from the fine British director Lewis Gilbert (Reach for the Sky, Alfie, The Spy Who Loved Me, Educating Rita), adapted from the director by the novel by James Herbert, and boasting a fine cast including Aidan Quinn, Kate Beckinsale, Anthony Andrews and John Gielgud. It is that rarity, a well-crafted and intelligent period haunted house story.

Wiseman’s score is typically lyrical and romantic, the full ingenuity of which can only be appreciated by viewing the film. As she describes in her album notes, she created two main themes, one for each of the two female influences (Juliet and Christina) on the hero (David), “but without resolving musically until the denouement of the film which of the forces was for good and which for evil, and moreover, if either, or both, were created in David’s mind”. As such, bar a brief prologue, ‘Underwater’, listening to the early cues of this disc one would probably assume the music was for a typically sumptuous British romantic costume picture. Certainly Wiseman’s beguiling themes would seem right at home, especially the lyrical ‘Juliet’s Theme’, performed on piano by the composer herself.

However, come track five, ‘Spirits in the House’, the album clearly enters supernatural territory, with wordless female voices giving a glaze of spectral calm to a menacing orchestral landscape. A child-like piano figure leads into another setting of Juliet’s theme for ‘The Mirage’, reprised again in ‘The Ghost Appears’, before the return of the choral music from ‘Spirits in the House.’ ‘Missing Link’ enters darker horror territory with short repeated motifs and percussive effects building a nightmare atmosphere, previous material reappearing in more intense form.

The piano melody of ‘The Missing Link’ suggests a musical clue to the mystery, ‘Christina’s Minuet’ by contrast offers an urgently ice bound musical world of truly forbidding quality. Wiseman offers breathing space with her return to the piano for ‘Imagining Things’, incorporating part of George & Ira Gershwin’s ‘But Not for Me’. (A song not actually written until five years after the film’s 1925 setting).

The romantic terror continues to develop through cues such as the soaring ‘Lovers’, ‘Together Forever’ and ‘Hand in Hand’, while everything falls into place musically in the brief ‘Christina Returns’, 48 seconds of nerve-wracking suspense before the gorgeous conclusion in the title track.

Haunted is a superior score, artfully balancing romance and supernatural terror with Wiseman’s distinctive gift for very British melody. As such, and appropriately given the nature of the film, it is a score in the classic English tradition, a world today occupied by such composers as George Fenton and Richard Robbins, as well as, of course, Wiseman herself. Fine music which works superbly in the film, the disc is just a little repetitive to award the full five stars, but if you know the film or the music, you will want it in your collection nonetheless.

Gary Dalkin

Rating: 4

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