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Far From The Madding Crowd by Craig Armstrong (Review)

posted Apr 23, 2015, 10:54 AM by Koray Savas

Craig Armstrong is not the busiest composer working today, but that makes his compositional efforts all the more special. Longtime collaborator with directors Baz Luhrmann and Oliver Stone, Armstrong's work tends to be a lot more subtle and contextual than most other composers. Far From The Madding Crowd isn't exempt from that form, but its heart and lyricism makes it one of Armstrong's strongest efforts in years.

The film is yet another adaptation of Thomas Hardy's classic novel about a young woman torn between three suitors, but director Thomas Vinterberg does it with a great contemporary flair that really fleshes out the characters. Armstrong's music is a large part of that, as is the wealth of source music that he has to work around. However, all of it is woven into a single tapestry of romance and love that seamlessly flows from beginning to end. All the more impressive is that the original score, taken out of the linear context of the musical narrative, still stands on its own, making the album's duality quite a treat. In between the excellent "Opening" and "End Credits," cues like "The Great Misunderstanding," "Hollow In The Ferns," "Fanny And Troy," and "Bloodwood Variation" all contribute a sense of wonder and thought that is not often found in romantic dramas. The use of solo violin, strings, and piano all work together to create a heartfelt and somber tone that permeates through the musical journey. The traditional song "Let No Man Steal Your Thyme" gets a lovely arrangement with performance by lead Carey Mulligan that also fits right in with the film and its themes. The album closes out with Armstrong's love theme, which is the perfect closure for this tale of growth and maturation.

Far From The Madding Crowd is special in that Craig Armstrong pairs his more lyrical writing with his ability to work within a predefined context of source music to create a passionate sonic world that gives new meaning to an old story. From the instrumentation to the attentive structure, this score lulls you in and carefully takes you through the ups and downs of the characters and their relationships while making every step of the way feel genuine. A worthwhile experience that hopefully won't get overlooked by the upcoming Summer blockbusters.