Nigel Hess: Ladies in Lavender

Context

Composed for the 2004 Charles Dance film Ladies in Lavender, Nigel Hess’ soundtrack for the film became an instant hit with audiences. The film is set in 1930s Cornwall so the lyrical and romantic opening theme perfectly matches the scenery and general character of the film.

 

The Music

The Ladies in Lavender theme is scored for full orchestra and solo violin. The original soundtrack recording was performed by international violin star Joshua Bell.  The music harks back to romantic traditions, with luscious string accompaniment, wistful winds and a striking violin solo. 

The theme strikes lines of similarity with John Williams’ theme from Schindler’s List and Shostakovich’s Romance from The Gadfly. The indulgent violin solo soars above the rich accompaniment creating an illuminating melody that will stick in your head for the whole film! 

The use of the violin’s higher register creates the drama that Hess was looking for. The clever scoring also adds to the drama in piece as Hess brings the orchestra together for parts of the melody, but then divides them for others, creating ripples in the melody. 

The thinning of the texture towards the end of the work is the most emotional, with the violin soaring into its upper register. The intensity builds up until the final ping of the top note which is the peak of the work’s emotional intensity. 

 

Final Thoughts

Nigel Hess’ theme for Ladies in Lavender perfectly encapsulates the scenes of Cornwall. From ocean vistas to incredible landscapes, the highly evocative music represents all of this and more, making it an attractive theme for this popular noughties film.

 

Happy Reading!

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