Few debut film scores come as impressive as that penned by Patrick Doyle for Kenneth Branagh's first big screen Shakespearean adaptation. Both gentlemen were following in the illustrious foot steps of Lawrence Olivier and Sir William Walton for their much praised film version of the play. Unlike Olivier's more optimistic interpretation, Branagh opted for a considerably more gritty and realistic adaptation and that is mirrored in the grim determination present in much of Patrick Doyle's score. The rousing fanfare of Walton is replaced by urgent string passages and brooding melancholy, with a sense of triumph only truly shining through during the final stages.
With the hindsight of his other scores, Henry V is a prototypical Patrick Doyle score. His strong melodic gift is in evidence throughout and many of his trademarks are present, most notably his love of running string motifs that play off one another. They are often used playfully in later scores, but here there is much urgency and the music plays onscreen in striking counterpoint to the dialogue. Once More Unto the Breach is perhaps the most bracing moment as Doyle builds his short string runs, adapts and twists them against barrages of percussion and brass. A similar idea is used in St Crispin's Day, although in this instance the effect is more tension building, but Doyle breaks through the tension and the minor changes to major and a thrilling high point is reached. This is then followed by the lengthy Battle of Agincourt which starts with a return to more tension building, but the percussion thunders forward, soon joined by the orchestra leading a musical charge. The final section is a little more subdued and blends into the brooding The Day is Yours.
There are more sensitive moments as well; The Death of Falstaff introduces a gorgeous theme and some aching string passages that are more than the dramatic equal of Walton's classic effort. The Wooing of Katherine features another beautiful melody and it is something of a disappointment to find it not used elsewhere. The most popular track to emerge is the spirited and much recorded Non Nobis Domine (for which Doyle won an award), a rousing choral composition that is opened with solo tenor, in this case Doyle himself. The theme repeats, increasing the compliment of choir and orchestra in the performance, there is a short orchestral development and the main melody brings it to a momentous close. It is a little unfortunate that it slightly distorts at the loudest point as the recording is otherwise excellent, but aside from that it rightfully deserves its position as a popular set piece, the truncated reprise forms the End Title and closes the album.
The unfortunate side effect of film music is that sometimes a wonderful melody might only be used once during the film and so its use similarly comes up short on the album. This is perhaps the only complaint that could be made here, that some of the gorgeous melodies aren't able to play out. This is not to say those that appear more often are less welcome, but the fleeting appearances are quite a tease, particularly the outstanding Wooing of Katherine melody. Even the illustrious Non Nobis Domine is only heard as more of a suggestion of the melody outside of the full choral arrangement. The CBSO conducted by Sir Simon Rattle perform Doyle's music magnificently. It would be a great honour for any film composer to have his or her music performed but such a great orchestra, but for a first time film composer, the thrill for Doyle must have been almost euphoric, as his liner notes suggest. Rattle and Branagh also add kind words about the music and genesis of the score in relation to that of the film. A triumphant film music debut and still one of Doyle's best scores, truly marvellous.