Max Richter: Mary Queen of Scots soundtrack review – Drums to fore in ‘orchestral death metal’

Mary Queen of Scots OST
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Artist: Max Richter
Genre: Soundtrack
Label: Universal

Mary Queen of Scots director Josie Rourke's vision for the soundtrack was inspired by Richter's Recomposed Vivaldi: Four Seasons, which broke down that famous piece, reassembling it with a modern sensibility. Rourke does something similar with her film, with Richter taking a gender-based approach to his evocative score, which was recorded at London's AIR Studios with a 110-piece orchestra and the London Voices choir.

The male aspect of the story is rendered through driving percussion, and in fact, the underpinning of the whole score is drums; field drums, Renaissance drums, executioner's drums. It is "harmonically relentless", "orchestral death metal," as Richter says, such as on A Claim to the Throne, and The Wedding.

The common theme of Mary and Elizabeth trying to assert autonomy within this male world is reached through something more sophisticated, but warm, as on The Hilltop, and A New Generation, with Richter using female voices throughout, with If Ye Love Me particularly affecting.

Pray For Me is a particularly beautiful statement of anxiety, as dark brass swirls around a minimalist landscape of haunting voices, brilliantly evoking a creeping sense of foreboding, and Mary's inevitable fate.