With the amount of soundtracks that come out on a weekly basis, it takes a stupid amount of organisation to make sure they’re all done correctly and as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, I am not organised in the slightest so while juggling different albums in lieu of release dates, impact and quality, things sometimes get left behind a bit. Such is the case of Carter Burwell’s Mr. Holmes.
A world away from the action bustle of the Guy Ritchie movies, or even the BBC’s Sherlock, Mr. Holmes has the detective in mid-retirement fighting against his mind and its deteroration, writing about former cases to combat this. Consequently, Burwell’s score is leisurely but precise, elegant, and ultimately a brilliant piece of work such as you might expect from a composer of Burwell’s pedigree. Scored fairly minimally for piano, string, and wind, it sounds gorgeous, with some exotic flavour injected from the inclusion of the shakuhachi, as some of the film is set in Japan.
Mr. Holmes‘ main theme is a snaky affair, played on woodwind. In its treatment on the first track of the score – unsurprisingly named ‘Mr. Holmes’ – it’s backed up with a beautiful string accompaniment that segues to a delicate solo piano section, with cello coming back in to herald the wind line. It’s a brilliant summation of the character, with a fierce sense of intelligence but with an underlying elegiac tone that suggests regret.
An atmosphere of reflection and remembrance engulfs the score, with the ghostly 4 and the strings and shakuhachi of 14 giving an introspective grounding. The shakuhachi is used to wonderful effect, with a searching version of the main theme in 3, and a moodier use in 6, where the combination with strings conveys a somewhat sinister air. But Mr. Holmes also seems to have a sense of nostalgia, for the character the score embodies as well as the audience being nostalgic for the legacy of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s creation.
And it’s beautiful. Impeccably performed, the score is so evocative that you want to jump inside it, to be enveloped by its wonderful tone. Burwell’s theme is magnificent, and from start to finish Mr. Holmes is a sumptous experience with a perfectly paced album. One of the best scores of the year.
Mr. Holmes is out now on CD and digital from Lakeshore Records