The Duchess

Composed By: Rachel Portman

Distributed by: Lakeshore Records

Reviewed by Melissa Minners


            The Duchess is a period piece based upon the best-selling biography by Amanda Foreman of the same name.  The movie follows the scandalous life of the 18th Century English aristocrat, Georgiana Cavendish, the Duchess of Devonshire.  Ravishing, glamorous and adored by her fans, Georgiana was determined to become a major player in the wider affairs of the world.  Refusing to bow to the role of subservient woman, the Duchess of Devonshire set out to prove that she could out-do any of the aristocratic men surrounding her in whatever endeavor she chose to dabble in.  Her only failure – her life with her husband, the Duke.  Trapped in a loveless marriage, Georgiana finds happiness in a forbidden relationship with Earl Grey.

            The Duchess Soundtrack is composed by British composer Rachel Portman.  A graduate of Oxford University, Rachel Portman began her foray into musical composition in the ‘80s, creating musical score for television projects.  But she is best known for her film work, creating musical scores for such notable films as Ethan Frome, Benny & Joon, The Joy Luck Club, Marvin’s Room, The Other Sister, Mona Lisa Smile and more.  Nominated for Academy Awards for her musical scores for The Cider House Rules and Chocolat, Rachel Portman became the first female composer to win an Academy Award for Best Original Score for Emma.

            The Duchess being a period piece, one might expect a classical touch to the music found on the soundtrack and Portman does not disappoint creating just enough of a mix of classical with original work.  Being a big fan of classical music, I was happy to discover works written by Ludwig Van Beethoven and Joseph Hayden intermingled with Portman’s original score.  Falling in love with a man you can never have and becoming trapped in a marriage in which your husband would rather be with your best friend can take its toll on a girl and the music created for this film reflects this.  Georgiana’s theme begins as a light and airy orchestral affair which becomes more and more morose as the events of her life play out.

            The Duchess Soundtrack was a tremendously enjoyable experience for me.  I often found myself playing conductor along with music that probably works perfectly when played along with the movie, but I found to be just as perfect as a stand alone album.  The Duchess Soundtrack will make a terrific addition to any classical music lovers’ collection.


For feedback, visit our message board or e-mail the author at