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Sunday, August 17, 2008


The Duellists/The Riddle of the Sands
Music by Howard Blake
Airstrip One AOD HB002 (US)
33 Tracks 73:52 mins

As promised, here is my review, as it appeared in the November 2000 edition of Film Music Bulletin, of this fine album featuring two great scores by Howard Blake:-

It's been a while since this enterprising label's last worthy release of Dominic Muldowney's 1984, but it's been worth the wait, as they've done us an even greater service in rescuing these two excellent Howard Blake scores, performed by the much-missed National Philharmonic, from Oblivion. Anyone not familiar with Blake's music for these films, from 1977 and 1978 respectively, are in for a real treat. The Napoleonic The Duellists was Ridley Scott's first film. Beautifully shot, it has become something of a cult classic.
Blake's main theme is truly memorable, an elegant, hanuting melody, performed either by oboe, flute or piano in its various incarnations. But whilst this melody dominates the score, there are other fine secondary motifs: the jaunty piano of "Mme. deLeon's Salon;" and the spirited flute over strings of "Armand and Adele." This latter piece is subjected to a couple of excellent variations in "The Chateau," where the flute part becomes a lovely pastorale; and the busy "The marriage." The "End Credits" presents the main theme in its most powerful arrangement for strings.
The Riddle of the Sands is no less an effort for this telling of Eerskine Childers' spy story. The main theme is another classic, boasting an appropriately nautical feel and replete with German lyrics, sung by The John McCarthy Singers. "A Walk in the Dunes" presentes a flute and oboe-lead pastoral variation; whilst "The Inn/Rowing Ashore" presents a travelling variation. The other main element of the score is the menacing martial music, heard in a number of cues. "Carruthers Reboards the Train" is a highlight, with its martial variations on the main theme, which is reprised in its full glory, with English lyrics, over the "End Titles."
The accompanying 12-page booklet features notes on both films and their music, with comments by Ridley Scott and Sands star Michael York, together with a brief biography of Blake. Produced for the promotional purposes of the composer, this excellent disc can still be ordered from


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