I’ve been paying a lot of attention to the Emma Adaptations Pages recently, which means I’ve rediscovered quite a bit of content. After over twelve years, there’s a ton of stuff about which I’ve entirely forgotten. Worse, much of it is sorely in need of revision. My perspective has changed a TON since 1997; seriously, a lot of the crap I wrote back then screams “21 and dumb” – you know, kinda like Emma herself. Or maybe just clueless, which is also apropos.
Anyway, here’s my little review of the Emma 2 soundtrack, circa 1997 with additions circa 2007. You can read the full article, which includes soundclips, here.
The Emma2 score (runs Runs 42’53”) – composed, orchestrated, and produced by Rachel Portman – is a breathtaking example of musical storytelling.
The main theme is a romantic, bittersweet, and haunting motive, airy and distant, which takes us back to a time and place when life was quiet and cheerful, if not completely happy. It at once encompasses the universality of Austen’s work and themes in its broad, sweeping strings, while at the same time capturing the intimate essence of snug, country community in its gentle woodwinds, harp, and quartet components. “Three or four families in a country village is the very thing to work on,” Austen once wrote.
Other themes, most notably the forbodingly driving horns and strings of the “Elton’s Rejection” and “Emma Insults Miss Bates” themes, bring home the very pressing and real horror of Emma’s blind mistakes in contrast to the gentle propriety of the main theme. Paired with the melancholy variation of the Main motive which follows it in “Miss Bates” and “Mr. Knightley Returns,” this “Blunder” Theme comes to signify both her anxious revelations and their wretched aftermath.
“The Dance” also perfectly parallels the emotions played out on-screen. As Mr. Knightley rescues the partnerless Harriet, the small sound of the dancehall ensemble is magnified into a glorious, fully-symphonic triumph.
You can buy this soundtrack through Amazon.com. If you order through this link, we will get a portion of the proceeds. You can get the piano sheet music for the End Titles and Frank Churchill Arrives in a collection of Austen film music (Emma2,S&S, P&P2, and Persuasion). It’s available from Faber Music for about five bucks a set. ISBN 0 571 51793 5.
A fun note – The End Titles track is included in the queue area music loop for the Soarin’ attraction at Walt Disney World’s Epcot park. The piece is not, however, included in the Condor Flats or Soarin’ Over California queue area loops at Disney’s California Adventure at the Disneyland Resort.