Top critical review
Dialog abounds and overshadows this beautiful score
on August 18, 2016
I could not have afforded $50 for this CD, but I was thrilled to find it available through my library on Freegal. I love and collect scores from time period films and was glad to acquire another one, but, like many others, I was surprised to find that this soundtrack is hardly a score at all. As others have commented, it is riddled with dialog. Now, I like a snippet of dialog here and there, a few seconds of speech to remind me of a specific scene I enjoyed. But about 2/3 of this CD (which is only 23 min long) has talking overlapping the music (or without music altogether). That presents a problem if you would just like to enjoy listening to the music alone (as another reviewer stated, if we wanted the words in their entirety, we could watch the movie again).
Since Amazon gives so little information on it, and since it's rather expensive to purchase, I thought I would add some detailed information about each track, so buyers know ahead of time exactly what they are getting and whether it is what they want.
1. Negative Capability (3:55) – Starts with Fanny saying “I still don’t know how to work out a poem.” Followed by Keat’s explanation of experiencing a poem like being in a lake (about 1 min dialogue). The rest is instrumental music.
2. La Belle Dame Sans Merci (2:28) – Recital by Keats of the poem of this name, all 12 four-line stanzas, with no musical accompaniment at all.
3. Return (0:58) – Instrumental, mostly strings.
4. Human Orchestra (1:48) – An “instrumental” performed by voices (no words, just sounds)—think an orchestral version of a capella.
5. Convulsion (0:52) – Instrumental, also mostly strings.
6. Bright Star (1:49) – Fanny reciting the poem of this name, partly crying or trying not to cry; beautiful violin solo in the background.
7. Letters (3:49) – Instrumental only first 30 seconds; then Fanny and Keats reading the letters they have sent to each other over the instrumental.
8. Yearning (2:24) – Another letter from Keats, starting with “My sweet creature, when I send this round, I shall be in the front parlor…” with no music, but some nature sounds (birds chirping, etc) for first 35 seconds; then switches to an instrumental for the rest of the track.
9. Ode to a Nightingale (5:24) – Starts with birds chirping first 20 seconds; then Keats reciting the poem of this name (all 8 ten-line stanzas) with cello and vocalizations (male and female) in background. (I think this was what played during the credits, if I remember correctly.)
So, if you don't count the "Human Orchestra" (which is made of voices, but has no words), there are only 2 tracks on here that have no dialog and are purely instrumental, and these 2 tracks are both just under a minute long. Of these two, "Return" is not very pleasant to listen to (it almost sounds like the instruments are being tuned) and ends rather abruptly, without the feeling of actually having started and ended a real piece, more like a cut out of a full piece, or part of a practice session by the musicians; "Convulsion" is a pretty track, but very short. I think I will try to use a digital music editing program to split some of the tracks that are part dialog and part instrumental into separate pieces, so that I can listen to just the instrumental portion when I'm in the mood. The violin solo underneath Fanny's recital of "Bright Star" is gorgeous, and I would loved to have it without the voice over it, but unfortunately I don't have the capability of separating the two. It seems that with a soundtrack this short, if they weren't adding other pieces, they could have included versions with and without the overlapping dialog (like karaoke CDs often have the with-lyrics versions, as well as the without-lyrics versions), so that we could pick our preference. I do like the additions of light nature sounds in some of the pieces; this really captures the mood of the film, which was often set outdoors.
Overall, like many others have said, I think it would have been an excellent soundtrack if there had been less dialog and more of the score. I wanted to love it, and was predisposed to do so, but I can only like it in a middling sort of way since there is so little of the score standing alone.