David Hirschfelder has done some truly sterling soundtrack work. He also seems to have a strong leaning towards the classical, many of his own cues have a classical feel to them, but specific classical tracks have also been used in his films. The reason for this is obvious in the case of "Shine" since this film is about the pianist David Helgott who despite suffering a nervous breakdown, made a strong comeback as a performer. The film is nicely put together, there are many classical examples from the repertoire including Chopin (such as the Raindrop Prelude), Rachmaninoff and Liszt, and a few of these are actually recordings by Helfgott himself. These classical works require a certain amount of adaptation by Hirschfelder (with help from Ricky Edwards). Hirschfelder's own tracks reflect the lead character's changing moods and fit neatly alongside and sometimes blends into the classical tracks.
The soundtrack to "Elizabeth", unlike Stephen Warbeck's "Shakespeare in Love" set in the same period, is deep, powerful and dramatic. There is certainly some period music, e.g. for the coronation banquet, though even here the snare drum banging out the rhythm retains the hint of a hard military edge. Much of the score is modern in idiom, allowing a closer identification and empathy with the participants. This suits the screenplay admirably, which is less about historical or theatrical story telling and more about pulling no punches in its objective to portray the gritty reality as it really was. The soundtrack also features period music by Tallis as well as later works by Mozart and a slightly modified "Nimrod" (from the Enigma Variations) by Edward Elgar. This latter work seem to find a connection with a Royal lineage spanning centuries of pomp and ceremony with a stoic warmth and barely concealed emotions.
For both "Shine" and "Elizabeth" Hirschfelder was rightly nominated for an oscar and it can only be a matter of time before he wins the award. A portion of Hirschfelder's music from "Shine" was also used in "The Truman Show". The CD for "Shine" can be found at these links Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com, and "Elizabeth" can be obtained at these: Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com. One of Hirschfelder's recent big scores was for Baz Luhrmann's "Australia" with Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman. One of the main themes is based heavily on Bach's "Sheep May Safely Graze" but is well done and integrates with Waltzing Matilda and "Over the Rainbow" from The Wizard of Oz. Looking closely at the credits you will see Baz Luhrmann's name against a number of traditional-style melodies and the big climax at the end plays out to the Nimrod variation from Elgar's Enigma Variations (which coincidentally is also used in "Elizabeth").
The composer's own website with music samples is at DavidHirschfelder.com.