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Soundtrack Review

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Mr. Turner
Original Motion Picture Soundtrack


Composer: Gary Yershon
Label: Varèse Sarabande Records
RRP: £13.99
Release Date: 09 December 2014

Varèse Sarabande Records release Gary Yershon's score to Mr. Turner. The movie explores the last quarter century of the great if eccentric British painter J.M.W. Turner (1775-1851). Profoundly affected by the death of his father, loved by a housekeeper he takes for granted and occasionally exploits sexually, he forms a close relationship with a seaside landlady with whom he eventually lives incognito in Chelsea, where he dies. Throughout this, he travels, paints, stays with the country aristocracy, visits brothels, is a popular if anarchic member of the Royal Academy of Arts, has himself strapped to the mast of a ship so that he can paint a snowstorm, and is both celebrated and reviled by the public and by royalty...

When I first listened to this score I was torn. I really loved the first half of the score... but the second, for some unknown reason seemed totally different, and not something that seemed to fit with the subject matter. I couldn't understand why... The album cover (which is all most people will see when they buy this as a digital download) gave nothing away. It was only checking out the track listing that I noticed something was amiss. For some odd reason at track 21 of this album's 29 tracks we are treated to 'End Credits' before the rest of the tracks are listed as 'A Running Jump' - parts 1-8.

It was only reading the press release that I discovered that of this score's 29 tracks (56 min, 07 sec) only 21 (28 min, 20 sec) of them are from the score for Mr. Turner. The remaining 8 tracks (27 min, 47 sec) are from a short movie called A Running Jump. On the press release this is flagged up as a "special bonus"... What they actually mean is "padded out by". What links the two is that they both have the same composer and film director, but the scores are miles apart.

In all honesty, I suspect that the majority of people who are picking up this album are fans of the movie and not necessarily fans of Yershon's music. Because the two scores are so widely different, it would have probably been much more sensible to release Mr. Turner as a cheaper EP. It's worked for MovieScore Media releases in the past, like Stuart Hancock's beautiful scores for The Last Belle and One Night in Turin, so it's not as though Varèse Sarabande would be cheating those buying the album. If anything, they're more likely to feel a little miffed that only half of this album is music from Mr. Turner.

The score for Mr. Turner (especially on tracks like 'Low') reminded me of Howard Shore's approach to Dead Ringers. It's not a score that everyone will be comfortable with. It mixes elements of classical music with more atmospheric, background segments. Personally, I loved it... and I doubt many won't enjoy tracks like 'End Credits' which really does evoke romantic images of the time period.

While I also enjoyed the music for A Running Jump, its more modern feel will either act as a wonderful musical balance for listeners or totally turn them off.


Darren Rea

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