Shakespeare's plays have proven to be a perennial source for movie makers, and the bard himself has even been the subject of the Academy Award-winning Shakespeare in Love, so it makes sense for Silva Screen Records, in its ongoing series of re-recordings of film music by the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra and the Crouch End Festival Chorus, to hit upon the idea of an album consisting of excerpts from the scores of various Shakespeare films. Beginning and ending with Shaun Davey's music for the 1998 production of Twelfth Night, the double-CD presents what amounts to a mini-history of film scores, interspersed with famous Shakespearean monologues by noted Shakespearean actors, none of them (except for the album-closing singing of "The wind and the rain" by Ben Kingsley) actually taken from film soundtracks. Although Kenneth Branagh's versions of some of Shakespeare's great plays from the 1980s and after make an interesting contrast with Laurence Olivier's from the 1940s and after, the makers of this album probably were wise to put a lot of space between William Walton's music for Olivier's Henry V and Patrick Doyle's music for Branagh's version. In keeping with the two directors' very different interpretations, Walton echoes the heroic, World War II-era Henry V of Olivier, while Doyle supports the far more problematic post-Falklands War Henry V of Branagh. Elsewhere, it is interesting how Shakespeare provides a forum for such various composers as Dimitri Shostakovich (a 1964 Hamlet produced in the U.S.S.R.), Miklós Rózsa (a 1953 Julius Caesar from Hollywood), and Nino Rota (both a 1967 The Taming of the Shrew and the massively popular 1968 version of Romeo and Juliet). The differences in the music often demonstrate that, though the texts may be the same, the filmmakers often have taken wildly different approaches to Shakespeare's works.
If Music Be the Food of Love: Shakespeare at the Movies Review
by William Ruhlmann