It’s a little bit stupid I think releasing a soundtrack to a popular TV mini series that finished on the BBC sometime ago, but I suppose we should be thankful that it was released at all, seeing as so many are forgotten. LES MISERABLES in my opinion was a great re-telling of the Victor Hugo novel and was not only well adapted but wonderfully photographed and superbly portrayed by a cast that was to be fair not that well known. When I saw it first advertised, I was rather sceptical, like many I have seen so many versions of this story both musical and non-musical as in songs, including the stage show and subsequent Hollywood movie (the latter leaving me rather cold to be honest). But the TV series from the BBC was something that I looked forward to each week and as the series progressed my admiration for the direction, the acting and the sets also grew. One of the most important components of the series in my opinion was the musical score by composer John Murphy, it is an elegant and suitably touching and subdued work in all the right places, and also underlined the passion and the drama of this popular story. Murphy I think had a hard task on his hands when scoring the series, after all who can say that they managed to sit through the entire mini series without thinking of the songs that we now so readily associate with LES MISERABLES, I admit it I could not, so at key points within the storyline I would hear in my head Master of the house or Bring him home, which is unfair upon Mr Murphy, because his score for the series is magnificent, it is a lyrical and at times melancholy collection of themes in keeping with the sombre and sometimes tense and highly emotional events that unfold during the story. For a storyline as involved and as grand as LES MISERABLES the composer fashioned what is in the main a simple and subdued work but because of this approach it was affecting and successful. The composers tender and slight musical touches are like gentle and light brush strokes that are colouring and adding texture to a canvas. But in musical terms he is adding dimension, giving more depth and at the same time enhancing the proceedings and making them even more melancholy, dramatic or fraught. The central theme for the score is simplistic and lilting, with an air of sophistication too it. The composer utilising piano which is underlined by a mournful but heartrending cello solo, this combination creates a sense of loneliness and solitude. The brief but very effective piece maybe low key and a little sparse but the impact it has as the series or each episode of the series opens is stunning, and it is also one of those rare moments in TV when you hear the music, maybe from another room and you know that the programme is starting. The CD release is not in running order of how the music appears in the movie, and the second cue is heard towards the end of the series, in fact in the final episode, JAVERT ON THE BRIDGE, has to it a dark and somewhat sinister introduction, but as the cue builds it becomes softer and more melodic.
The scene in the movie is a highly emotional one, and the composer scores it sympathetically and with much tenderness, creating an almost celestial sound, that accompanies Javert’s suicide, because no matter how bitter the man has been throughout the story, a person taking their own life is an intense and also an emotional and upsetting affair and I think the watching audience appreciate this as Murphy supports the event with his fragile and delicate approach. Murphy conjures up so many emotions in this piece, utilising the string section to purvey an air of desperation and isolation. The entire score is an emotional ride which has as many highs as it does lows or calms as I like to call them, but it is the lilting and poignant melodies that make this soundtrack so alluring, as I have already stated these themes are simple but effective and do get under the listeners skin, haunting and tantalising them with their understated but attractive personas. LES MISERABLES contains possibly one of the best TV scores for a BBC production that I have heard in many a year. Ok, this is not sweeping or a grand musical extravaganza, but still manages to be memorable and striking, because I think of its understated and subdued style and sound. Certainly, worth a listen.