Ladies in Lavender, actor Charles Dance's debut as a film director, has been out for some time overseas, but was slated for general release in the U.S. at the end of April 2005. Sony Classical cannily timed the release of the original soundtrack. The film was said to be a feel-good romance starring Dame Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, and newcomer Daniel Brühl, about a young Polish violinist who washes up from a shipwreck into the lives of two older women of Cornwall. It is a clean picture and highly sentimental, the kind of typically "British" film made mostly for export to other countries. Nigel Hess' soundtrack music to Ladies in Lavender incorporates the singular talents of classical violinist Joshua Bell to cover Brühl's playing in the picture. Hess has stated that Bell "takes the music I've written to a whole new level. (It's) like stepping into a really expensive Rolls Royce."
Bell is heard on most of Ladies in Lavender's 16 tracks, which range rather widely in content. Beginning with Hess' cleverly conceived theme to the picture, containing a sententious scrap of Massenet's "Meditation" from Thaïs to associate the violin music with Brühl's character, the score moves through a traditional Polish dance obviously meant to be played with some abandon, and concludes with a straight-up rendition of Paganini's Variations of "The Carnival of Venice." Bell is on the mark at every turn; he isn't just trading in on his celebrity value to participate in this film score -- Bell is creating through his playing a characterization that suits the work that the actor is doing onscreen. The music throughout is sweet, light, and sentimental. If one already likes the picture Ladies in Lavender, this practically recommends itself, but with the absence of any real adult contemporary music on today's market, Ladies in Lavender might well appeal to grownups who want to enjoy music that is easy to like, emotional, and of a highly professional caliber.