Review by: David Vernier

Artistic Quality: 9

Sound Quality: 8

At last! Producer John Yap has delivered this thoroughly satisfying compilation of Patrick Gowers’ splendid music from Granada Television’s acclaimed Sherlock Holmes series. To many–perhaps most–Holmes fans, Jeremy Brett was Sherlock Holmes; and anyone who enjoyed his uniquely insightful and always fascinating embodiment of this brilliant, enigmatic, self-possessed character would have to agree that Gowers’ music perfectly captured the many facets of Holmes and his intriguing, often exotic world. The fun begins with the famous theme, a sturdy and fertile melody that Gowers masterfully exploits in innumerable ways to enhance, enliven, and illustrate scenes or to suggest a person’s character or mood. In fact, most of material for the show’s music consists of variations on this theme–but what clever and inventive variations they are! The disc’s 19 tracks give a good idea of the range of musical styles and moods that Gowers used–clever, often subtle, but always affecting influences from Bach and Brahms to Tchaikovsky, Wagner, and Bernstein–but with such a preponderance of original touches that you realize the depth of this composer’s own distinguished artistry, which, by the way, extends to legitimate compositions beyond his work for television.

Although the music presented here is not a unified work, the individual selections go together like any well-conceived album of high-quality material by a single composer. Gowers employs everything from full orchestra (the exciting “River Chase” from The Sign of Four) to a cappella chorus (an ingenious thematic setting of the Libera me text that has the clear ring of Tallis or Gibbons) to solo violin with orchestra, in the beautiful Wagner/Richard Strauss-like “Irene Adler” from the episode A Scandal in Bohemia (which deceptively begins with a quote from Handel’s aria “Dove sei”).

In keeping with the fact that the violin was Holmes’ own instrument, solo violin music plays a significant role in the series, exemplified in what may be the musical highlight of all of the episodes, the plaintive and poignant reflection on “The Death of Sherlock Holmes”. It was this piece, heard as part of the show many years ago, that set me hoping that someday a recording of Gowers’ music would be issued.

There are many more examples of Gowers’ creative versatility–too many to list here; but hearing this music again makes you appreciate all the more what can result when first-rate artists are allowed to fully collaborate on a worthy project. The wonderful thing about the Holmes series was that the music never was merely a backdrop, and these excellent performances–especially from violinist Kenneth Sillito–which are the ones Gowers himself conducted for the show, demonstrate why it was such an integral part of our enjoyment and of the series’ success. Don’t miss this one.

Buy Now from Arkiv Music

Recording Details:



Share This Review: