Rachel Portman

Biography

Born: December 11, 1960; Haslemere, England  
Rachel Portman is a highly regarded film music composer, the first woman to win a U.S. Academy Award for Best Original Score.

She had strong musical inclinations as a very young child. She learned to play piano, violin, and organ. When she was thirteen, she began composing. She entered Oxford University to study music with no thought of going into films until she was invited to score a student film. The BBC bought the film, named
Read more Priviledged [sic], which also featured an acting appearance by her fellow Oxford student Hugh Grant.

She enjoyed the work, and, with Priviledged as an entrée was engaged by the BBC to do some scoring for BBC films, made for television movies which, she says, are the equivalent of small theatrical films in the United States, often with strong acting and dramatic values. Among her titles were Wives and Daughters, The Falkland War, 90 Degrees South, and Cariani and the Courtesans. In 1986, she wrote the score for the British-made Jim Henson TV pilot The Storyteller, then scored eight episodes in 1987 and 1988.

She won the British Film Institute's Young Composer of the Year award in 1988, then the Carlton Award for Creative Originality for Women in Film. She was nominated by the British Academy of Film and Television Arts for her scores to The Woman in Black, the three-part drama Oranges are not the Only Fruit, and Where Angels Fear to Tread.

In 1992, the British director Beeban Kidron, with whom she had frequently worked in England, asked her to come to Hollywood to score her film Used People, starring Shirley MacLaine and Marcello Mastroianni. She has continued to work with Kidron. In the same year, Portman wrote the music for Benny and Joon and for Ethan Frome.

In 1993, she wrote the music for a large-scale Hollywood film about the stories of four Chinese immigrant families in San Francisco, The Joy Luck Club, giving her an opportunity to use mildly ethnic influences in her music. She also scored the Australian film Sirens, which starred Hugh Grant.

In 1995, she married the film director Uberto Pasolini; they have had two daughters. In 1996, she wrote the score for Emma Thompson's adaptation of the Jane Austin novel Emma, and for that project she won the Academy Award. She has since been nominated again, for the 1999 film Cider House Rules.

In an age of synthesizers, Portman continues to compose, in the main, in an old-fashioned way, at a piano keyboard with pencil and music paper. Unlike most film score composers, she also fully orchestrates her own music. Her scoring approach generally passes by the typical Hollywood string sound, although her strings can have their own approach to lushness. Lithe rhythms, a generally non-aggressive use of harmonies and rhythms, a strong ability to delineate characters with distinct themes, and a wide emotional palette characterize her work.

However, she does not conduct her scores on the soundtracks. She insists that click tracks (which she thinks make the rhythms of the music sterile) not be used. This makes the job of synchronizing the music exceptionally difficult, so she gives the task to trusted experienced conductors.

Her favorite score, and the one that was the strongest professional challenge for her, was for the film Beloved. Director Jonathan Demme insisted that no traditional European instruments be used, so she brilliantly used African and other ethnic instruments, mostly percussion, from around the world. Since that film and Cider House Rules, she has written scores for The Closer to You and The Legend of Bagger Vance. Read less
Browse 1-13 of 13 Available Recordings
  • 1.
    Label: Milan   Catalog: 36659 Release Date: 09/24/2013   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Lander Coleman,  Rachel Portman
    Performer:  Julianne Hough,  Ignatz Gerard III Kiefer,  Taylor Noble,  Colby Davis Kiefer  ... 
    CD: $13.99
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  • 2.
    Film Music Gala / Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
    Label: Royal Philharmonic Orchestra   Catalog: 33 Release Date: 07/30/2013   Number of Discs: 3
    Composer:  Jeremy Sams,  John Barry,  Craig Armstrong,  John Williams  ... 
    Performer:  Rolf Wilson,  Brian Thomson,  Paul Bateman,  Tim Gill  ... 
    Conductor:  Christopher Austin,  Paul Bateman,  David Arnold,  Debbie Wiseman  ... 
    CD: $29.99
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  • 3.
    100 Greatest Film Themes, Take 3
    Label: Silva Screen   Catalog: 1398 Release Date: 05/07/2013   Number of Discs: 6
    Composer:  Marvin Hatley,  Charlie Chaplin,  Frank Churchill,  Paul Dukas  ... 
    Performer:  Keith Ferreira,  David Shannon,  Helen Hobson,  Emma Kershaw  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Music Works,  The Wire-Haired Terriers Athletic Social Club,  N.Y. Jazz Orchestra
    CD: $59.49
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  • 4.
    Snow Flower And The Secret Fan - Original Soundtrack
    Label: Sony   Catalog: 790485 Release Date: 07/12/2011   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Rachel Portman
    Performer:  Robert Smissen,  Jan Hendrickse,  Robert Max,  Wang Xiao  ... 
    Conductor:  David Snell
    CD: $11.99
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  • 5.
    Chocolat - Original Soundtrack
    Label: Sony   Catalog: 760858 Release Date: 03/02/2010   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Rachel Portman
    CD: $9.99
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  • 6.
    Portman: The Little Prince
    Label: Sony   Catalog: 93924 Release Date: 03/29/2005   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Rachel Portman
    Performer:  Teddy Tahu Rhodes,  Tom Randle,  Joseph McManners,  Mairead Carlin  ... 
    Conductor:  David Charles Abell
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  BBC Concert Orchestra,  Children's Chorus
    CD: $18.99
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  • 7.
    Portman: The Little Prince
    Label: Sony   Catalog: 94250 Release Date: 03/29/2005   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Rachel Portman
    Performer:  Teddy Tahu Rhodes,  Tom Randle,  Joseph McManners,  Mairead Carlin  ... 
    Conductor:  David Charles Abell
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  BBC Concert Orchestra,  Children's Chorus
    CD: $9.99
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  • 8.
    Portman: The Little Prince / McManners, Carlin, White, et al
    Label: Sony   Catalog: 58846 Release Date: 03/29/2005   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Rachel Portman
    Performer:  Richard Suart,  Lesley Garrett,  Tom Randle,  Timothy Robinson  ... 
    Conductor:  David Charles Abell
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  BBC Concert Orchestra
    DVD: $11.99
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  • 9.
    Chocolat (Score) / O.s.t.
    Label: Sony   Catalog: 89472 Release Date: 01/09/2001   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Rachel Portman
    CD not available
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    MP3:  $9.99 Add MP3 to Cart

  • 10.
    Chocolat Ost
    Label: Sony   Catalog: 089472 Release Date: 01/02/2001  
    Composer:  Django Reinhardt,  Rachel Portman,  Edward "Duke" Ellington
    Performer:  Johnny Depp
    Conductor:  David Snell
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Orchestra
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    $13.99
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  • 11.
    The Cider House Rules
    Label: Sony   Catalog: 89031 Release Date: 12/07/1999   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Rachel Portman
    CD: $11.99
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    MP3:  $9.99 Add MP3 to Cart

  • 12.
    Emma - Original Soundtrack
    Label: Hollywood Records   Catalog: 162069 Release Date: 07/30/1996   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Rachel Portman
    CD: $12.99
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  • 13.
    Benny & Joon
    Label: Milan   Catalog: 35644 Release Date: 05/11/1993   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Rachel Portman
    CD: $17.99
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