British violinist Jack Liebeck brings a whole new level of brooding romanticism to the moors.

 

Take two lonely romantic leads, one naive and the other tortured, add a bleak manor and a dash or two across punishing moors, put it on the big screen and what do you get?

A tumultuous tale so timeless and compelling that it has been adapted for film and television at least 18 times. Jane Eyre’s best cinematic outings come with a smouldering score to match the mood – just think of Bernard Herrmann’s stormy orchestral music for the 1943 version starring Orson Welles and Joan Fontaine.

Now Dario Marianelli, one of today’s leading film composers, has made his contribution to the Jane Eyre canon, in close collaboration with young violin virtuoso Jack Liebeck. American director Cary Fukunaga’s version, starring Australia’s Mia Wasikowska, opens in cinemas this week.

It’s the first major film Liebeck has worked on, but the latest in a long line of Marianelli masterpieces that includes Pride and Prejudice and his Oscar-winning score for Atonement. No stranger to capturing by turns the fraught and the pastoral in his music for film, Marianelli found his match in Liebeck, who has won critical acclaim plumbing the greatest emotional depths and expertly navigating the subtlest turns of phrase in his playing.

Liebeck explains the easy connection he found working with Marianelli on the soundtrack. “It was like a meeting of the minds in a way, and his music was just right for my kind of playing.

“Dario and I met up and we got on really well. He showed me some of the music that he’d written for the film and I sort of just grinned at him and said, ‘It’s right up my alley.’”

In particular Liebeck enjoyed the creative license Marianelli gave him as a performer, a freer approach than what is afforded him on the concert platform. “He gave me the music and said ‘Right. But don’t play it anything like this’. I had to almost improvise around the passages that were written down for me, because he wanted that spontaneous feel with the music. So it was quite a challenge.”

Another challenge new to the 31-year-old was the rapid turnaround required when preparing a film score; with final drafts and corrections coming into the studio just as he was about to play, “you don’t have much time to learn the music!” he laughs.

The restrained romanticism of the solo violin, sensitively underscored by chamber orchestra, forms the “beating heart” of the film – a musical representation of Jane’s vulnerability, Rochester’s demons and the burgeoning passions between the two protagonists. Liebeck felt the music as a direct link to the emotional extremes of Charlotte Brontë novel. 

“The violin goes between being very, very passionate and also being simple. It was wonderful to watch Dario work because he really feels the story in his music.”

Liebeck likens Marianelli’s sound world to Chausson or Vaughan Williams, but hastens to add that “he doesn’t look to other composers, he’s got a very particular style.

 “I think people find Dario’s music beautiful to listen to but at the same time it’s intelligently constructed and it’s got something to it. The way he writes – it’s proper music.”

In spite of his busy concert schedule, Liebeck jumped at the chance to record for film – being an avid amateur photographer, he found the process fascinating. “I do love the medium. I love combining music with imagery and a story.”

Liebeck likens the project to “a very relevant kind of classical music with crossover appeal” and relishes the opportunity to reach wider audiences through film: “We do our concerts and on a good day you’re playing for three or four thousand people but that’s it.”

Having completed a nine-day stint in Townsville at the Australian Festival of Chamber Music (his fifth appearance), Liebeck is headed for the Bangalow Festival next. “There’s something I like about performing in Australia, the feel here is that everything’s quite relaxed, and I’m a laid-back kind of guy. It’s a very chilled-out place to work, and in a way that’s how I think it should be.”

Seeing the Australian press surrounding Jane Eyre’s national release means the music has been on his mind throughout his visit. “In fact”, he hints, “I’m talking to Dario about writing some more music for me.”

Jennifer Mills is an AYO Music Presentation Fellow.

Jane Eyre opens August 11 in Australian cinemas. The soundtrack featuring Jack Liebeck is available on Sony Classical. Read Limelight‘s review of the film here.