This is the second major movie soundtrack from composer Dario Marianelli in as many months. But the contrast to his previous "Pride and Prejudice" could not be greater. The classical gentility of solo piano, strings and woodwind has here given way to a more modern style with harsher sounds, full orchestral tuttis and frequent bombast of brass and loud percussion. "The Brothers Grimm" is a dark fantasy tale of the sort you might expect from director Terry Gilliam, and the music is suitably dark and fantastical too. However Marianelli hasn't completely lost the classical sensitivities displayed in "Pride and Prejudice". He quotes several times from Bizet's Carmen and the Brahms' Lullaby, and there is also a quote from Rossini's "The Thieving Magpie". Though beyond the direct quotations you can also hear distinct resonances with the music of Sergei Prokofiev, Igor Stravinsky, Bernard Herrmann and Danny Elfman.
The main theme easily evokes the unfolding world of story telling, since its "Once Upon a Time" waltz is a straight call to the listener's imagination. Though by no means a copycat theme the modulating melody and its later development bring to mind Prokofiev's "Peter and the Wolf". "Dickersian Beginnings" introduces the main theme on strings & woodwind and then descends into a thumping dirge for full orchestra. "Shrewd Thespians" starts with pizzicato strings and contrabassoon with oboe and flute. The central tracks really take us into the heart of fantasy story-telling. As with most fairy tales, "Red Riding Hood" starts off innocently enough, but then it turns into a dark chase before leading into a strange mysterious world with wordless vocal happenings. "The Queen's Story" opens up with a martial side drum and wanders through a mysterious soundscape before leading to a certain Lullaby as she falls asleep. "The Forest Comes to Life" features a dark music box version of the Lullaby music, leading to suggestions of Stravinsky's "Firebird". "Muddy" has Herrmannesque screeching strings before the music of "Inside the Tower" briefly lights up a brighter fantasy and then "The Queen Awakens" to Bizet's Carmen on cor anglais. Then "The French Arrive" with further vocalisations and ending on the martial theme. "The Eclipse Begins" to Rossini's "Thieving Magpie" before dark rhythms and Herrmann's augmented arpeggios from Vertico. In "It's You: You Know the Story" the vocals seem to form foreign phrases and the "End Credits" bring a reprise of the earlier thumping dirge culminating in a frenetic "Peter and the Wolf" finale.