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Agatha Christie's Murder On the Orient Express (Original Sound Track)

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Album Review

Richard Rodney Bennett's score for the Sidney Lumet adaptation of Agatha Christie's whodunit Murder on the Orient Express is a complicated, various orchestral work reflecting the shifting tones and large cast of characters in the movie. Things are always changing in the music, just as they do onscreen, as viewers try to make sense out of the unusually broad panorama of suspects investigated by master detective Hercule Poirot on a snowbound train in Yugoslavia in the 1930s. Bennett uses what he, in his liner notes to the 2003 reissue, calls a "trashy main theme" that sounds like it was borrowed from one of those classically influenced pop songs of the '40s, and he concludes with a sweeping waltz, but in between the music cues respond to the contours of the convoluted plot, which makes this the sort of score that works well while one is watching the movie, but that sounds schizophrenic when listened to simply as an aural work. Nevertheless, it is full of entertaining juxtapositions and traditional elements twisted just enough to give them an unusual feel, a tone that is true to a movie both steeped in its genre and, ultimately, able to move beyond that.


Born: 29 March 1936 in Broadstairs, Kent, England

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

Bennett showed early promise as an exceptional musical talent and was encouraged by his mother, a student of Holst and a skilled pianist and composer. At the age of 16 he was writing 12-tone compositions, even though this technique was barely recognized in the British musical community. He accepted a scholarship at the RAM, where he studied with Berkeley and Ferguson. During this time several of his works were performed in London, including the cantata A Nocturnal Upon St. Lucy's Day and two string...
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