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25 January 2021, 13:42
Swapping minuets for Shawn Mendes. Here’s how this winter’s lavish Netflix period drama did its music.
Between the family Zooms and endless rounds of homemade banana bread, it feels like much of the world has been devouring this steamy new series on Netflix, set in London and the English countryside in the year 1813.
Bridgerton is an adaptation of Julia Quinn’s novels about the lives and loves of two very well-placed families, the Bridgertons and Featheringtons. The love affair at the heart of it all is the will-they-won’t-they betwixt Daphne Bridgerton (played by Phoebe Dynevor) and smouldering rake Simon Basset, Duke Of Hastings (Regé-Jean Page).
It’s all joyous and outrageously opulent, with a heaving amount of artistic license. And the soundtrack follows suit in its own wonderful and genre-bending way.
The lavish Regency parties throughout Bridgerton feature entertainment from bewigged orchestras, lavishly decorated pianofortes and open-valve trumpets. But, if you were expecting these ostensible period ensembles to be pumping out historically-correct Haydn and Mozart minuets and trios, you might be surprised.
With a nod to its own wonderfully contorted aesthetic, the series in large part eschews classical works. Instead, it subs in orchestral arrangements of pop’s Ariana Grande, Shawn Mendes, Taylor Swift and more, all in the appropriate classical style.
The result is an irresistible blend of ancient and modern, just like the Duke’s perfectly-manicured stubble grazing his casually tied cravat.
If you were wondering, here are some of the pop songs you might have heard in the series, arranged for string quartet:
‘Girls Like You’ – Maroon 5
‘Thank U, Next’ – Ariana Grande
‘In My Blood’ – Shawn Mendes
‘Bad Guy’ – Billie Eilish
‘Wildest Dreams’ – Taylor Swift
‘Strange’ (feat. Hillary Smith) – Celeste
American pianist and composer Kris Bowers penned the score to the series and made these arrangements. Previously he’s provided soundtracks to films and video games including Green Book, Dear White People and Madden NFL.
Once you’ve danced a minuet to Taylor Swift in the year 1813, you’re probably not going to be too wedded to historical accuracy in the rest of your soundtrack.
Accordingly, Bridgerton serves up a delectable array of classical works to paint its Regency scenes, in which we all happily gloss over some compositional dates.
At her steamy soirée in episode four, Lady Trowbridge’s guests dance to the Waltz from Shostakovich’s Jazz Suite No. 2. Next, the ‘Barcarolle’ from Offenbach’s 1881 opera The Tales of Hoffmann finds its way to her party playlist.
There’s a lot of more historically-suited Beethoven. In episode five, his Symphony No. 5 accompanies the Queen’s rage-filled reading, and later one of his ‘Razumovsky’ string quartets at the wedding party. Episode seven also opens with Daphne playing the German composer’s fiery Piano Sonata in C, ‘Waldstein’.
Two of the most striking musical choices come late in the series’ intrigue. At the final rain-drenched ball you can hear a strikingly modern adaptation of the Gigue from Bach’s Cello Suite No. 6. It’s from the 2018 album Recomposed by Peter Gregson: Bach – The Cello Suites and the entire album is well worth a stream.
And the placement of the always-exquisite, classic-yet-modern Max Richter soundworld was noted.
oh, the max richter moment in the last episode of bridgerton is perfect and proof that a perfectly deployed max richter song is one of the best things to witness— Sam Brooks (@sbrookbrooks) December 29, 2020
This music is from Recomposed by Max Richter: Vivaldi – The Four Seasons, interpretations on Vivaldi’s famous concertos, which are utterly of today.