After being somewhat confused with Fenton’s enjoyable score to Cold Pursuit and then seeing the film, which is categorised by IMBD as an action crime drama thriller (missing out the actual black comedy element) – I understood the scores tone and liked it even more. And here we are, after a long Fenton drought, with a second score in the same year.
Red Joan is the true story of Joan Stanley, a Soviet and Communist sympathiser recruited by the KGB in the thirties. She was undetected for many years and was finally charged with treason when a senior citizen.
Much has been written about this being a wide ‘dramatisation’ of the true story but here I want to highlight the score which is masterfully composed by Fenton who has such a sprawling canvas of work including composer and musical director with the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, TV work and of course film soundtracks including The Company of Wolves, Dangerous Liaisons and The Lady In The Van.
Red Joan is an accomplished score, each cue fitting the whole, weaving throughout with emotions of fear, intrigue and pockets of regret. Starting with Red Joan Theme-Prelude which ambles along with a short piano refrain with an added tinge of defiance of what was done, is done. The refrain expands in the following cue You’re Under Arrest slowly but as realisation creeps in low dark notes appear and in Restraining Order there is such a delicate lightness of touch in the composition, it’s quite beautiful.
The swirling refrain is cleverly repeated in most of the short cues but with the slightest of change which never compromises the intensity of the score. It may not soar or have a memorable theme but this is NOT a soundtrack to be underestimated.
“I regard Red Joan as a personal score – by which I mean personal to the character of Joan My aim was to find a tonal language that sat well with the story of Joan in the 1930s but which never lost the sense of the story being told and remembered by the older Joan. A balance between the immediacy of young Joan’s experience and old Joan’s recollections. My hope is that even when heard away from the film that the music evokes the narrative of this extraordinary story.” George Fenton
1 Red Joan Theme (Prelude) 0:45
2 You’re Under Arrest 2:47
3 Back to Cambridge 2:45
4 The Ghost of Matter 2:22
5 My Little Comrade 2:01
6 The Tower 1:57
7 Restraining Order 2:16
8 Good at Drawing 2:43
9 Leo’s Arrest 1:13
10 Chadwick’s Arrival 1:58
11 Making Land Tomorrow 1:39
12 Maybe One Day 2:08
13 The University 2:33
14 Hiroshima 2:25
15 Agent Lotto 1:54
16 Inspection 2:27
17 The Locket 1:50
18 Photo Secrets 2:23
19 Leo’s Destiny 2:54
20 Special Branch 1:49
21 Two Copies 1:25
22 I’m Not a Traitor 1:56
23 Max In Jail 2:47
24 End Titles 5:16
25 Red Joan Theme (Postlude) 0:40
PLANET EARTH composed by George Fenton Remastered Album Release date: 16th March 2018
Silva Screen Records Press Release: Two welcome additions to Silva Screen’s BBC Earth catalogue, featuring soundtracks to the critically acclaimed BBC landmark natural history documentaries. Released on 16th March, The Blue PIanet and Planet Earth are newly remastered albums, both original scores by the acclaimed composer George Fenton. For the score of The Blue Planet (2001) George Fenton won The lvor Novello, Bafta and Emmy for Best Television Score, whilst for the score of Planet Earth (2006) he won his second Emmy.
Produced by the BBC and narrated by David Attenborough, The Blue Planet series was watched by more than 12 million people when it aired on BBC1 in September 2001. lt has since become a global phenomenon, showing in more than 50 countries. Similar success was repeated by PIanet Earth. The 11-part High Definition documentary series was, by June 2007, seen in 130 countries.
Review: I distinctly remember watching Planet Earth and thinking it way beyond the scratchy school’s video’s I watched at school. It was like nothing else I had seen and being already tuned into film and tv music I remember the music being superb. Listening to it now, it still is. Presented in 11 categories it is a musical symphony to the world.
The Journey of the Sun dictates Fenton’s reachable, classical style. Gentle violins and a solo horn feel as if they are floating in orbit. Elephants in the Okavango captures both the majesty and playfulness of these magnificent mammals. Diving Into leads with a female voice which gives a feel of the centuries of history, a fitting cue for the 2nd category of caves whilst Diving Into Darkness is beautifully ambient. In the Freshwater section there a pulse almost akin to underwater breathing.
Onto ‘Mountains’ and the cue for the old world Gelades monkeys depicts the ferocity of these baboons with tones of wariness shown in the strings. The Karakorum depicts the plains and rich history of Mongolia. We travel into the Desert Winds. The Locusts is a track full of wondrous strings, this is a magnificent cue painting a vast scope with a gentle force. In the Land of Shallow Seas and the antics of Surfing Dolphins – both are busy and joyful cues of brass and strings. Dangerous Landing makes good use of the kettle drum followed by the mellow Mother and Calf-The Great Journey, geared towards the emotions with the grandeur of the string section, which is simply beautiful. A cue dedicated to fungus – The Cordecyps has an eeriness played out with clarinet and chimes which suits these somewhat strange and other worldly organisms. The Redwoods is a fitting majestic piece symbolised by trumpet and strings. This is followed by a comic , track called Fledglings with a slight hint of a tango at the start and pizzicato strings.
Ice World next with trumpet opening The Humpbacks Bubblenet and another dance comes to mind as the orchestra momentarily waltzes. A clumsy jaunt is played out on the strings in Everything Leaves but The Emperors, bass and percussion takes over giving an excellent backing for waddling penguins.
Planet Earth aired on UK tv in 2006 so the poignancy of The Disappearing Sea Ice is fairly low key, with plaintive voice and cornet. 12 years on if re-composed I am sure this would have been an even more low-key cue. It ends with The Choice Is Ours, a moving track about our future and the responsibility we have towards our planet. The underlying cello’s echo the dangers and the sad strings are telling.
This is a breathtakingly rich score, beautifully orchestrated with cues full of emotion and wondrous moments of sheer beauty. This re-issue sounds very fresh and I was totally engulfed in it. The CD booklet also has a stunning set of photo’s from the series.
Composed and duction by George Fenton Performed by the BBC Concert Orchestra