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
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 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
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.