The Duchess

Rachel Portman

" It is the kind of music that you could easily have on in the background while you were writing, yet the melodies are of the memorable variety. "

Written by Thomas Kiefner - Review of the regular release

The buzz has already begun about the new Keira Knightley, Ralph Fiennes film about the Duchess of Devonshire, with comparisons to the Duchess, the original 'it girl' and Princess Diana (related). The Duchess, quite the controversial figure in the latter part of the 18th century, was an early on into the woman suffrage movement as well as gambling. Based on the biography written by Amanda Foreman, daughter of blacklisted writer and producer Carl Foreman of High Noon fame, the film also stars Charlotte Rampling, Dominic Cooper, and is directed by relative newcomer Saul Dibb. Distributed by Paramount Vantage it is set to open in theaters across the US on September 19, 2008. The film will open in the UK on September 5th.

This theme seems to be the ideal genre of film for Rachel Portman to write about having had a string of successes with Emma, an Oscar winner, Chocolat, Oscar nominee, The Cider House Rules, Oscar nominee, and more recently Infamous, and The Lake House, both of which I've reviewed and recommended. Subdued and delicate she delivers what this film needs with a minimum use of the ever so popular landscape music.

The main title or "The Duchess" theme is a bright upbeat very catchy motif that is not only used in the opening but also can be heard in "Grey Comes Back", "Gee is Taken To The Country", and the "End Titles". "Mistake Of Your Life" is the introduction of the heartfelt love theme performed in a very adagio romantic fashion. It can also be heard in "I Think Of You All The Time", and "Gee and Grey Make Love", in an extended version. "Rape" is a brief terror track with a reference to Jaws, making the point of violence without ever going over the top with disturbing dissonant passages. Also included are a German Dance from Beethoven and an Adagio from a Haydn String Quartet both of which are proper source music for the period.

If you take away the two source tracks you have a relatively short 32- minute 16- track soundtrack albeit a very good one. It is performed very professionally by the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra who are just getting better and better with each new recording. If your a fan of the work of Rachel her subtle style comes through loud and clear and this will be a definite must have for your collection.

Fans of the film I'm sure will fall in love with the score and not only want it but copies of the Haydn and Beethoven chamber music. It is the kind of music that you could easily have on in the background while you were writing, yet the melodies are of the memorable variety. Very soothing as is usually the case with material from Rachel Portman. It will be in stores as well as available through iTunes on September 16th. The last Knightley film I reviewed was Atonement and while this is certainly not to the level of that soundtrack it is way above the normal score and comes with my recommendation.


1. The Duchess (1.41)
2. Mistake of Your Life (3.27)
3. I Think of You All the Time (3.41)
4. No Mood for Conversation (0.59)
5. Gee and Grey Make Love (1.57)
6. Gee and Grey Together In Bath (2.57)
7. German Dance No. 10 in D Major * (3.16)
8. Awakening (1.25)
9. Rape (1.53)
10. Bess' Sons (2.03)
11. Gee Gives Up Baby (1.33)
12. Six Years Later (2.33)
13. Some Things Too Late, Others Too Early (1.06)
14. Quartet No 3 ** (5.49)
15. Never See Your Children Again (2.02)
16. Grey Comes Back (1.53)
17. Gee Is Taken to the Country (1.37)
18. End Titles (2.08)

* written by Ludwig van Beethoven and performed by The Isobel Griffiths Ensemble
** written by Joseph Haydn and performed by The Isobel Griffiths Ensemble

Total Length: 42.00
(click to rate this score)  
(total of 16 votes - average 3.38/5)

Released by

Lakeshore Records 34039 (regular release 2008)

Conducted by

David Snell

Orchestrations by

Jeff Atmajian & Rachel Portman

Performed by

The City of Prague Philharmonic