There have been many filmings of Dumas' beloved tale, shot in various languages with diverse casts, and everyone has their favourite version, as well as their favourite score that best represents the spirit of the film, if not Dumas' exuberant characters.
Perhaps the best remains Richard Lester's 1975/1976 Musketeers diptych, with the first part scored by Michel Legrand, and the second by Lalo Schifrin. Both composers carefully evoked the Medieval period with lovely themes and arrangements, as well as sounds symbolic of an older, rambunctious, and more bawdy era.
Matt Dunkley's score for the 2005 version is overall quite successful in conveying a bit of heroism as well as intense romance and tragedy – probably the story's main cornerstones. “The Queen Sends Constance Away” is lengthy cue that blushes with passion before shifting moods, and easing into more dangerous terrain, with great swells from the orchestra emoting royal subterfuge, intrigue, and mortal danger. “Firelight” provides a more amiable mood, as well as a brief recap of passion, with Dunkley building orchestral density from woodwinds to full strings, ending in a harmonic change quite reminiscent of Michael Kamen's rhapsodic writing in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991).
“Leavetaking” is indicative of the score's most ideal blend of contemporary and classical elements, whereby one can feel the texture of the percussion skins that propel a charming theme variation, with cheerful flutes and a light coterie of strings. The theme becomes more adventurous via strings and shimmering brass in “D'Artagnan the Swordsman,” with its gliding strings (the mood quite evocative of Elmer Bernstein) and brass heralds prior to a clear shift towards action before a semi-comedic closing.
The album's action cues are more contemporary because Dunkley adds some synth sweetening, such as synth vocals in “Destroying the Pact.” The spiraling string motifs tie the cue to the old world aspects of other tracks, while bass-heavy percussion and long, sustained chords are more typical of current action scoring. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but fans wanting a more formal (if not regal) score that stays tightly within period boundaries may not enjoy the electronic elements peppering some cuts, even when they're minor (but recurring) ideas like reprocessing certain sounds that trail off in the distance after a blurred, backward/forward shimmering effects.
The album's mastering is very crisp, and the track selections provide a vivid mix of moods, whether it's thunderous action, passion, or rare period facsimiles (“To Buckingham's Castle,” with its richly layered brass fanfares). The orchestrations are very sharp, largely due to Dunkley's ongoing role as orchestrator and conductor, and The 4 Musketeers is a notable move towards solo composition.
© 2008 Mark R. Hasan