Dealmaking and double-crossing ran deep in the third season of HBO’s “Succession.” Power dynamics shifted as did loyalties to patriarch Logan Roy, played by Brian Cox. For composer Nicholas Britell, that meant finding a score with a lot of movement.
“In season three, there’s a lot of this feeling of things being a little off-kilter,” says Britell of his approach to the score. “Where’s the power center? Maybe it’s not where we think it is.”
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Britell spoke with Variety over Zoom ahead of the season 3 soundtrack’s release on Friday. With the twists and turns leaned into the gravitas, and the darkness as the Roy siblings (Roman played by Kieran Culkin, Shiv played by Sarah Snook and Kendall played by Jeremy Strong) continued to battle it out for control of Waystar Royco.
The season saw the Roys descend upon Chiantishire, Italy for the matter of a wedding. In this case, the wedding of Caroline (Harriet Walter), the mother of Kendall, Roman and Shiv. “I knew we were going to Tuscany early on, and with the Italian musical tradition, there’s a classical lyrical quality to that sound,” explains Britell.
With the “Milan – Promenade” cue, Britell incorporated that sense of lyrical Italian grandeur and yearning. “There’s a feeling of the timelessness of that part of the world, the history and how that parallels with the sort of current mythmaking that the Roy family has of themselves at the same moment in time.” That journey allowed the composer to explore a theme of grandeur and scope throughout, not just in the Tuscany scenes and cues.
“With the FBI raid in episode three, the size of the moment, musically, is probably one of the largest [cues] certainly up to that moment,” says Britell.
It was the first track, “Furioso in F Minor,” that Britell says captures a lot of the feelings and elements of the musicality of season three. Britell says, “It felt like a fitting start to the album. It’s like the initial thesis statement of the album.” The track features very large-scale strings that are furious and aggressive. He explains, “The bass is mixed quite large and it’s got that triplet characteristic, and a combination of triplets and eighth. I feel it’s a nice summation of where we may be going in the season.”
Britell says he and Jesse Armstrong, the show’s creator and showrunner, had been in conversation throughout and “we had talked about the idea of going further. I explored strings, brass and woodwinds, and what would it mean to take on a potentially choral scope.”
He says it was something he thought deeply about throughout the season, and finding that right moment structurally to use it. “It was that literal last moment of the season,” says Britell of “Andante Moderato – End Credits – “Amen,” which features the choral workings. Listen closely to the cue, Britell says, “There’s a momentary pause right before, almost a hesitation for a second, and then you go into the choir.”
The choir moment was a fitting conclusion to the season that saw Logan Roy (Brian Cox) at the top of his game, while the Roy siblings have stumbled. All this as a new number one son rises. The music, Britell says, harkens to the amen movement that closes out the season. “There was a solemnity of that moment. A huge shocking question mark perhaps at that moment, so that felt right to take the orchestration that I’ve worked with for the past three years to another degree at that literal last moment.”
Fans of the show are also in for a treat, as the soundtrack features a full rendition of Kendall performing Billy Joel’s “Honesty.” Britell says it was a crucial track to have on the soundtrack. “Kendall is certainly very musically inclined. For season three, it felt it felt like a key musical moment for him.”
While the show doesn’t show the full performance, the soundtrack gives Kendall’s audience a chance to hear his full take. “Jeremy is incredible, and really such a phenomenal artist.” He adds, “I find Kendall’s performance of ‘Honesty’ to be very intimate. It’s very moving.”
The “Succession” soundtrack track list:
1. Furioso in F Minor by Nicholas Britell
2. Milan – Promenade by Nicholas Britell
3. Rigaudon by Nicholas Britell
4. Andante Agitato – End Credits – “The Raid” by Nicholas Britell
5. “Sorry, Pinky” by Nicholas Britell
6. Satyricon – Instrumental by Nicholas Britell
7. “Tuscany” Suite for Piano and Orchestra by Nicholas Britell
8. Sinfonietta in A Minor – Strings Variation – “The Photo” by Nicholas Britell
9. Impromptu No. 1 in C Minor for Piano by Nicholas Britell
10. Scherzo in F Minor – Strings by Nicholas Britell by Nicholas Britell
11. Largo Doloroso – Strings by Nicholas Britell
12. Serenata – “Il Viaggio” by Nicholas Britell
13. “Tuscany” Suite for Piano and Bass by Nicholas Britell
14. Impromptu No. 2 for Piano and Orchestra by Nicholas Britell
15. Scherzo in F Minor – Piano and Bass by Nicholas Britell by Nicholas Britell
16. Ricercare – Strings and Voices – Bonus Track by Nicholas Britell
17. Nocturne – Piano and Strings by Nicholas Britell
18. Impromptu No. 1 for Strings – End Credits – “Chiantishire” by Nicholas Britell
19. Dolce Pianos and Strings – “Il Viaggio” by Nicholas Britell
20. Andante Moderato – End Credits – “Amen” by Nicholas Britell
21. Honesty (feat. Kendall Roy) by Nicholas Britell, Kendall Roy
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