Carl Davis: Pride and Prejudice


Carl Davis CBE (1936-) is an American-born conductor and composer. He has lived in the UK since the early 1960s. Perhaps best-known for his silent movie music, Davis is also celebrated for his television and film music. Notable television series that Davis worked on include The Kiss of Death (1977), The Hound of the Baskervilles (1982), Pride and Prejudice (1995), and Cranford (2007).

The 1995 BBC adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice stars Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth among others as the well-loved literary characters. The series consists of six episodes. Davis, at this point known for doing BBC adaptation music, was offered the job of writing the music for this series. Some of the music heard throughout the series is music from the time, for instance Beethoven or Haydn. Davis, however, composed the memorable opening titles for the show.


The Music

Based on the style of the time, the opening title is scored for a chamber ensemble. Led primarily by the piano, a number of other voices are heard in the introduction, including horns, strings and clarinets. As the piano leads into the main section, Davis’ style rings clear immediately, with the light melody flowing across the strings creating a rich and sonorous sound. The piano largely plays scalic runs before coming back to the opening theme. The stately dance theme is bright and joyful, with the strings uniting for exciting passages. 

The main whirling theme is played by all voices in the orchestra, with the woodwind taking the first repeat. A slightly darker central section still keeps the energy up and the music moving, however the switch in tonality creates a more ‘on-edge’ feeling. As the music rests back into the opening theme, the opening titles conclude with a warm tutti chord. 



Ⓒ Alex Burns

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