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Claire van Kampen/Musicians of Shakespeare's Globe: Wolf Hall: Tudor Music Soundtrack from the Original Miniseries

Track List

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Album Remarks & Appraisals:

The soundtrack to BBC/PBS television series "Wolf Hall" brings King Henry VIII's court to life with dances and songs - some of which were composed by the monarch himself. Filmed in England's great historic houses, the series features specialist early musicians playing live on set. All the Tudor Music for the production has been carefully sourced and arranged by Claire van Kampen, and recorded with the Musicians of Shakespeare's Globe at London's Abbey Road Studios. Ms. Van Kempen was formerly Director of Theatre Music at Shakespeare's Globe Theatre from its opening in 1997 until 2005. In 1986 she joined the Royal Shakespeare Company and the National Theatre, the first female musical director with either company. In 1990, she co-founded the theatre company Phoebus Cart, with her husband Mark Rylance.

Album Notes

Audio Mixer: Andrew Dudman.

Liner Note Author: Claire van Kampen.

Recording information: Abbey Road Studios, London, England.

The BBC television miniseries Wolf Hall, based on the stories of Henry VIII and Thomas Cromwell via the Booker Prize-winning novels of Hilary Mantel, has been successful on both sides of the Atlantic, and part of the reason is its musical score. The music has two components, a contemporary original score by Debbie Wiseman and a group of Tudor-era pieces, more or less closely keyed to the action, researched and arranged by Claire van Kampen. It is only the latter you get here, and the way the two scores work together is part of the appeal. However, van Kampen's accomplishment is considerable in itself: she has discarded the official coded language of Renaissance music going back through decades of British film music in favor of the real thing, and to see this done, and see it work, is a marvelous thing. Van Kampen is a music director at Shakespeare's Globe Theatre, and she has a knack for joining music and action. The graphics do not tell you what the music is. Renaissance music fans will recognize many as the familiar English, French, and Netherlandish dances that formed the center of the English court repertory, and there is one tune ("Alas What Should I Do," track seven) apparently composed by Henry himself. But the album is not aimed at people already familiar with Renaissance music, but at people who've never heard the real thing, and there's a case to be made for not cluttering things up with a lot of unfamiliar names. One could quibble with some of van Kampen's ensemble choices, but nothing is much distorted from state-of-the-art practice. A nice item for anyone who has enjoyed the series or is just looking for an enjoyable half hour of Renaissance dance music: the disc is short, and there was room for more music, either Wiseman's or not. ~ James Manheim



Reviews

In Sheep's Clothing
WOLF HALL Via Records

Even the best soundtrack recordings can be problematic; in the case of a show like “West Side Story” or ”Annie”, individual songs (whatever their original purpose in moving forward a plot or establishing character) can stand alone.
Background music, on the other hand, is less successful taken out of context precisely because, like costuming, lighting, etc. its function is to help establish context.
This particular soundtrack recording features music from the BBC/PBS series “Wolf Hall”. Performed by the Musicians of Shakespeare’s Globe, these Tudor period pieces were sourced and arranged by Claire van Kampen.
Unfortunately, the results are, in this case, decidedly mixed. While both the musical performances and recorded sound quality are first rate, the cumulative effect of the song selection and sequencing, with 5 of the 20 tracks timing out at under a minute, is more disjointed pastiche than completed score.
Nor is any of this helped by the liner notes, which are equal measures of series plot synopsis, Wikipedia-style Henry VIII bio, and self-congratulatory production company puff piece. Instead of bragging about “…the considerable extra expense…” involved in filming the musicians playing live (when, in fact, the actual recording on offer here was done at Abbey Road studios), it might have been preferable to credit the composers. We’re twice told, for example, that some of the songs “…were composed by the monarch himself…”, but never given a clue as to which ones.
This soundtrack recording of music from “Wolf Hall” may appeal as a souvenir to die-hard fans of the series, but anyone seriously interested in the music from this period will have to look elsewhere for enlightenment.

Conditionally recommended 61/2 out of 10 Oscar O. Veterano

Submitted on 07/13/15 by Oscar O. Veterano 
Love, Ceremony and Tragedy
As a souvenir of the popular PBS series, Wolf Hall, this disc should have a built in appeal. It’s enthusiastically performed by the 12 players comprising the Musicians of Shakespeare’s Globe. The realizations by keyboard player, Claire Van Kampen, are accomplished and for the most part stylistically compatible; the exceptions being the fanfares which sound somewhat anachronistic. No matter, their inclusion has theatrical value. The 35 minute program is sequenced so that flow and variety of textures, colors and rhythms readily sustain one’s interest. The recording, laid down at Abbey Road, is finely etched and intimate. Hopefully, this project may propel more adventurous listeners to further explore the multifaceted music of this era which is very abundantly represented on disc. The packaging is austere while information on the individual compositions is scant, probably not a significant issue for the target audience.
Submitted on 09/04/15 by Allen Cohen 
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