MP3: Mr. Holmes (2015)

August 6, 2015 | By


MrHolmesScore: Excellent

LabelLakeshore Records

Released:  July 24, 2015


Tracks / Album Length:  16 tracks / (38:40)

Composer: Carter Burwell

Special Notes:  n/a




Carter Burwell’s never stopped working since making his debut with the Coen brothers’ Blood Simple (1984), and although he remains the writing-directing duo’s main music man, Burwell’s also handled a variety of genres in film and TV, but where he’s arguably at his best is crafting simple themes with minimal instrumentation for characters involved in delicate, absurd, or surreal circumstances.

Burwell’s Twilight scores didn’t break any new ground, which is perhaps one reason he may have leapt at the chance to revisit the small instrumental ensemble style of his early work, notably Barton Fink (1991). In choosing primarily chamber string instruments, woodwinds, piano, and harp for Mr. Holmes, the score address the unique story of an aged Sherlock Holmes reflecting on an epic career of mysteries and unresolved cases, with an especially bittersweet tone.

Burwell’s themes, especially his use of chords, tend to have a slightly Celtic tenor, and when performed by strings, there’s a warmness that permeates the performances, transforming even strange scenes into something more accessible. His use of a waltz tempo in the eponymous main theme sets up the score’s slow dance structure, weaving through pirouettes and brief periods of reflection, or as in “Ann’s Plans,” a wistful mysterious dance that moves from a gorgeous violin solo to a cascading harp motif that’s expanded from its original 6-note arching structure.

Mr. Holmes’ main theme does recur more often as the score winds down, but it’s the arrangements and meticulous performances by strong musicians that really make this small-scale score so special. Burwell’s always been adept in blending assorted percussion textures in action scores with orchestra or electronics, but this breathy work really captures the mindset of a somewhat weary super-sleuth who still has his wits to solve a case, but is now mentally conditioned for a more sedate life. The music is very much about Holmes’ psychological state than onscreen action, mystery or violence, and Lakeshore’s CD features a beautifully mastered recording that warrants multiple plays to savor its intimacy.



© 2015 Mark R. Hasan



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Category: Soundtrack Reviews

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