Quick Review: Cinderella


Music composed by Patrick Doyle
Music conducted James Shearman
Music orchestrated by Patrick Doyle, James Shearman
Score performed by London Symphony Orchestra
Recorded at Air Lyndhurst Studios
Album running time: 85 minutes
Available on Walt Disney Records

Never straying far from its fairy tale roots, Disney presents a live adaptation of the beloved Cinderella.  One of the top Disney animated classics, this version of 1950s Cinderella is a more straight-forward retelling, rather than story or character altering film.  I am not going to compare this score to the animated score by Paul J. Smith and Oliver Wallace, since they share no connection.  

Cinderella, directed by Kenneth Branagh, also marks the 11th collaboration with the Oscar-nominated Patrick Doyle.  Besides the beautiful costume and production design, the music creates a world for this story, between realism and fantasy.  Doyle weaves several musical themes throughout the story, as he is known to do.  The main themes include: Ella’s theme, a Love Theme, a lively childhood motif, a Stepmother’s motif, and a variation of the traditional tune Lavender’s Blue.

We begin the album with A Golden Childhood, representing Ella’s life with her father and mother.  It begins sweetly, with flute and string trills.  The music has a lush sound right away, giving the opening a very warm, magical feeling.  We also get hinted at the first reference to Lavender’s Blue, representing the song her mother sang to her.  The orchestra begins to swell before bringing the childhood motif on celeste and piano which gives way to a slower Lavender theme. 

The Great Secret begins almost hushed, with a lovely cello solo in the forefront as hints of later thematic material is used in this tender track.  A New Family presents a new light piano and string melody, while the low woodwinds and strings present the Stepmother’s motif.  Life and Laughter is a purely classically styled piece, one of the waltzes utilized in the score. 

The First Branch is a short, sweet track with an arpeggiated piano part.  Nice and Airy contains Ella’s theme – sneakily hidden among the harpsichord and playful pizzicato.  Orphaned is full of rich and dark string writing, before going into lighter territory.  A haunting cello solo opens The Stag, and transforms into a galloping and rising orchestral moment as Ella rides off.  The music reflects the Prince’s hunting party with a big orchestral grand statement.  As they meet, the music turns lyrical with a bookended cello solo as a horn and flute take over Ella’s theme.  The theme rises to its full sweeping statement.

Rich Beyond Reason begins like another charming waltz and ends with a childhood motif reprise.  Fairy Godmother begins with a melancholy adaptation of Lavender’s Blue, with some light choir and celeste added in for a magical sound.  Pumpkins and Mice continue the lighthearted style from the previous track which builds into an orchestral climax for Cinderella’s coach transformation.  A solo violin takes on the Lavender’s Blue tune, before going into a stunning Cinderella’s Theme complete with choir (I’m sure anyone who knows the story can guess that moment).  The theme continues into You Shall Go, letting it take over with varying orchestration. 

With Valse Royale, Doyle introduces the first of his royal ball “source” music.  Before you can ask “Where’s that beautiful Cinderella’s Theme?,” Who Is She provides the most shimmering and stunning cue of the film as she enters the ball.  Halfway through the track, Doyle adds a love-at-first-sight theme for Ella meeting the Prince before bringing out a full orchestral rendition of Lavender’s Blue. 

La Valse de L’Amour is the music for their first dance – based on their love theme.  La Valse Champagne is another source waltz.  La Polka Militaire, another source dance is based on the childhood motif heard at the beginning of the film (for you smart listeners).  La Polka de Paris continues the dance music throughout the lengthy ballroom sequence.  As Ella and the Prince slip away, they make their way to A Secret Garden.  Ella’s theme is paired down to its simplest of melody on harp and bells, before turning into the love theme.  As the chimes are heard, the rhythm picks up and the strings are let loose to the finish. 

La Polka de Minuit is another (and final) quick-paced dance source.  Choose That One starts some of the chase music, with chimes tolling.  Pumpkin Pursuit is the true action cue of the score – with the strings taking off in rapid patterns with the brass showing off.  The Slipper returns us to the tender strings (and cello solo) heard earlier in the score, and adding a shimmering orchestral sound in this short cue. 

Shattered Dreams is full of melancholy, with flute and English horn blending together.  We hear the Stepmother’s motif in the lower strings/woodwinds while the choir stays in the background and rises to the end. 

Searching the Kingdom brings Ella’s theme into a comical and light 18th century arrangement with a forward momentum.  Trilling flutes, trumpets and harpsichord really make this track enjoyable.  This style has been done by Doyle for other Branagh’s Shakespeare adaptations and work well in this film.  Ella and Kit begins with a slow version of Lavender’s Blue (tying into the sung version not heard on the album) before a solo piano takes over the theme with some new chords underneath and counter melodies added.  Courage and Kindness brings the Love Theme back on piano and flute.  Celeste and harp arpeggios sparkle as the strings take the melody.  Cinderella’s theme is brought back, with a brief cello reprise of the Love Theme.  Lavender’s Blue is also reprised with piano and lush strings before the chimes and choir push the finale forward with one last reprise of Cinderella’s Theme. 

Strong (sung by Sonna Rele) is based on Doyle’s themes is a fine end credits song.  The album also includes the other two end credit songs – A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes (sung by Cinderella herself, Lily James) and Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo (sung by Helena Bonham Carter).  Both of these songs from the original 1950 animated film don’t appear in the film, but add a nice connection to the remake.  Digital releases of the album include instrumental (i.e. karaoke) versions of the finale three tracks. 

Fitting in a musical world between Sense and Sensibility (1995) and Brave (2012), Doyle’s themes match the style and fairy tale environment of Cinderella.  Utilizing the orchestral colors for the romantic fairy tale and magical elements, Doyle brings a lush sound and memorable themes to the film.  Branagh really lets Doyle’s music shine in the film and adds emotional weight to a story we’ve all heard before.  Longtime collaborators James Shearman and the London Symphony help bring the musical performances to life.  Many parts sound like Harry in Winter from ‘Goblet of Fire’ (2005) in style and orchestration.  Still, the score feels fresh throughout, even using the folk song Lavender’s Blue (known to some from a separate Disney film).      

It’s no understatement to say how much source dance music Doyle wrote for the production, some of which were written before or during production.  I can understand how some listeners will skip or delete these tracks for a different flow of the album.  The love theme was one of Doyle’s first parts written for the film, with Branagh wanting something simple and hummable.  The themes weave together seamlessly, all part of a bigger picture.  This score is completely worth a listen.  One of the top scores I’ve heard this year and beautifully matched with the visuals of the film.  

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  1. Cinderella only reminds me of my school fancy dress and Disney channel. I was very excited to wear that princess dress but my mom gave me a surprising news that I have to wear the dress that Cinderella wore in the beginning. Well, now understand I was actually “cinder” Ella. Anyways, I was looking for some shows by Andy Yeatman for my kids.