Monday, April 03, 2023

Movie Music: Rachel Portman's "Emma" (1996)

Rachel Portman is one of those composers whose scores I almost always enjoy. She's great at writing joyful music that moves scenes along, and she can layer deep emotions under the surface of that joy as well. 

"Main Titles" gives you a great idea of what the tone of the movie will be before anyone says a single word of dialog. It begins softly, sweetly, a little bit pensive even, then picks up tempo and becomes sprightly and humorous. Then it ends with grace and dignity.

"Harriet's Portrait" makes me smile, and not just because the part of the film it belongs to makes me laugh aloud. It's such vivacious music, isn't it? Playful and bright and energetic.

"The Dance" is pure fun. It makes me want to cavort. Sometimes I do. It's a little bit repetitive at first, and you can envision people doing an English Country Dance with it's fancy patterns, and then about 40 seconds in, it gets louder and boisterous, and yeah... who can resist dancing to such music?

"Emma Insults Miss Bates" is a more serious track, as befits a more serious scene. You hear that same theme from the opening credits, only now it's very slow and sad, mournful in places. Emma grows up quite suddenly in this scene, realizing that her behavior can affect others in bad ways as well as good, and this delicate, wistful song fits the scene perfectly.

The entire soundtrack is delightful -- you can listen to it on YouTube here. It's one of my favorites to listen to in the spring, when I'm feeling very bright and hopeful, but with a touch of wistfulness here and there too.

(This review originally appeared here at J and J Productions on March 4, 2016.)

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