Analysing the Poirot Music

What’s not to love about David Suchet’s Poirot series? He’s been acting the role since before I was born and it still feels unique!


And then there’s Captain Hastings, your average cliché Englishman who says “I say!” at all the right times! The whole team of acting do a super job bringing those stories to life.

But that’s not what I want to talk about today. I want to talk about one of my favourite theme-tunes, ever!

I’ll admit: I easily fall in love with catchy tunes. But I find there’s something really special about the original Poirot one. This leitmotif captures the imagination just as much as the acting does.

(I’ve never liked the triangles in the visual of the introduction, though…)

If one listens carefully – with a musician’s ear or a writer’s ear – one might say the piece has three acts. (I’m going here from the full version, which is, of course, more extensive than the music leading the introductory credits, which I was originally going to look at alone.)

The first (0.00 – 0.20) introduces us to the character of Hercule Poirot: sprightly, sophisticated – there’s even a hint of his superficial lack of modesty within the piano accompaniment, large, round chords and notes as they are.

Too, in that, we hear the hints of mystery already, as suggested by the clarinet’s hollow tones. There’s something stark and cold coming, but Poirot is about to fix it.

The second ‘act’ (0.22) sees a B-pattern melody come into play as Poirot investigates. A new revelation appears, where Poirot must change his hypothesis, and hunt after a different clue.

At about 0.32, we get some percussion – the heart-racing movement as the little grey cells rush ideas through. The piano plays down a high [major, I believe] scale to add to the ordered rushing the characters must be doing now.

Of course, Poirot gets back on track (at about 00.40) – and the music returns to its familiar A section, with the running up and down scales of the chord patterns and the flourish at the end to add something conclusory. However – the full version (starting 1.13) has another trick up its sleeve to extend the Three Act Tragedy. The second the piano linking-motif changes and dissonance of the reverse phrasing rings out, one knows there’s going to be trouble. As Poirot races to stop the killer murdering again, the key changes and the chords draw out a shriller sequence of the A section. It’s almost a mockery.

Even so, if you listen, this extension has two or three ‘acts’ so it falls to resolution. This is quite a cold section, harsh, where only brass provides some warmth. The clarinet is silent as Poirot rethinks his plan.

As the creativity of music goes, the relationship between the three main instruments makes the piece. From the antiphony around 1.34 to the clarinet’s following of the brass’ phrasing at 1.23 – 1.28, and the double-bass’ constant ‘heartbeat’, as such, the arrangement always mimics Poirot’s chase of the answer! Good will always prevail.

What about you? Got any favourite theme-songs or leitmotifs that match their programme?


9 thoughts on “Analysing the Poirot Music

  1. I stumbled across your post about the Hercule Poirot theme song because I am listening to the symphonic works of Austrian composure Anton Bruckner.

    What do the two have in common?

    Maybe nothing.

    But maybe the composer of the Poirot theme was inspired by Bruckner.

    Here’s what I mean.

    As I listen to Bruckner’s Symphony No. 1 in C Minor (WAB 101) – as I will every day for 16 days – I am reminded of the Poirot theme in Bruckner’s every time I get to Movement Three: Scherzo.

    Here. Listen for yourself:

    Barenboim’s Symphony No. 1, Movement Three (Scherzo):

    Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot theme song:

    Don’t those sound similar to you?

    Anyway, I like your blog.

    Keep up the great work!

    – Bill

    1. I personally think this was stolen from Phillippe Sarde’s theme to La Locataire from 1976 (movie by Roman Polanski).

      1. I personally think this was stolen from Phillippe Sarde’s theme to La Locataire from 1976 (movie by Roman Polanski).

  2. Very nice new angle to the song, it being a literal representation of the plot. Not sure if it is. I’ve listened to the intro theme many more times than seen the actual show.

    Some say Frank Zappa is in the same way literal in his song King Kong.

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