Sparks And Shadows, May 2013 and October 2013
From the catchy and evocative theme tune, onwards, this soundtrack to David Goyer’s historical fantasy show takes us through wonders and adventures. Two recurring leitmotifs are the melody of the theme tune, which is often used for sweeping and evocative moments, and the lullaby theme – hummed in a couple of tracks by series stars James Faulkner and Laura Haddock – for those quieter moments. Things also get interesting with the use of period compositions and instruments, representing both Florence and the Pope, but none of these disparate styles seem out of place, as McCreary blends them perfectly, taking us from the music of breathless genius, to action, to tenderness…
In an effort to get a mix of Renaissance and modern music, the score makes use of period instruments, and even some compositions, along with modern instruments and synth. There’s a hint of Hans Zimmer about the beat to the action scenes, but it’s largely swallowed by the Renaissance chants, wordless voice tracks, and orchestral sweep.
Unlike most of McCreary’s soundtracks, this is presented in chronological order rather than being rearranged into a concert or listening order. Thankfully this doesn’t really show, and certainly doesn’t impact on the pleasure of listening to it on its own. The overall arc of the story is somewhat operatic anyway, and so the soundtrack album takes the listener on a marvellous journey of wonders, thrills, emotion and action. It works well as a standalone listen, and as music to read or write by. Highly recommended.
Released through McCreary’s own label, Sparks And Shadows, this was originally released as a download-only album last May, while the first season was still airing. In October, a 2-CD edition was released with around an extra half hour of music not in the download version – quite unusual to see the extras that way round, rather than an iTunes set of bonus tracks.
Although the 90-minute download album is excellent in its own right, it’s well worth getting the CD set if you can find it. (Amazon doesn’t carry it, but La-La-Land Records does). There are some very good tracks only available in this version, including The House Of Medici, which beautifully blends both the theme and lullaby motifs with an actual Medici “theme tune” commissioned by the family in the 1500s. That’s devotion to accuracy. As well as the fine new tracks, there is also a booklet with cast interviews and suchlike.
Overall, then, 9/10 – but feel free to remove half a point from the 90-minute cut, or add half a point for the CD version!
David A McIntee