The BBC’s 1995 six-part dramatization of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice was both critically acclaimed and hugely successful. Its accompanying, brilliant score was written by Carl Davis (born 1936). Unlike the large-scale symphonic scores written for many ‘period’ Hollywood blockbusters Davis instead drew inspiration from the more intimate chamber music popular in Jane Austen’s day – in particular Beethoven’s Septet in E-flat, Op. 20 (1800).
Davis’s score employs a small ensemble of winds, strings and horns to which he adds the distinctive sounding fortepiano. The close interaction between just a handful of players beautifully mirrors the drama that is about to unfold on screen.
Understanding the need to set the scene right from the beginning, Davis has said that the opening credits music is, “the main chance the composer has to make a statement … and sharpen the audiences’ expectations of what’s about to come”. Accordingly, Davis’s score begins with a lively hunting motif – a kind of clarion call to the viewer (perhaps also echoing one of the main drivers of the book – the hunt for husbands?). Almost throughout run dextrous passages on the fortepiano which convey the novel’s vitality and spontaneity. This is then followed by a lyrical, rather romantic theme conveying ‘marriage and affairs of the heart’. There is no doubt that Davis succeeded admirably in his aim to capture ‘the essence of the book’.
The theme from Davis’s Pride and Prejudice is here arranged for wind quintet and piano. A lovely piece in its own right which works wonderfully for sextet – perhaps a great encore number too? The piano part is more demanding than the wind parts.
Why not team it with Mr Beveridge’s Maggot by Playford (for wind quintet) – one of the dances used in the series?