KILAR: Bram Stoker's Dracula / Death and the Maiden / King of the Last Days (Antoni Wit/ Cracow Philharmonic Chorus/ Jacek Mentel/ Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra) (Naxos: 8.557703)
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Wojciech Kilar (b.1932)
Bram Stoker's Dracula 1992
Konig der letzen Tage 1993
Death and the Maiden 1994
The Beads of One Rosary 1980
Pearl in the Crown 1972
Born in Lvov, formally Poland, now Ukraine, on 17thJuly, 1932, Wojciech Kilar studied at the State HigherSchool of Music in Katowice, moving to Paris in 1959to study under Nadia Boulanger at the Conservatoire.
The recipient of numerous international awards,including the Lili Boulanger Memorial Fund Award in1960, and two awards from the Polish Minister ofCulture in 1967 and 1976, Kilar scored his first film in1960, and went on to write music for Poland's mostacclaimed directors, including Krzysztof Kieslowski,Krzysztof Zanussi, Kazimierz Kutz and AndrzejWajda.
Kilar had worked on over a hundred Polish filmsbefore scoring his first American film, Francis FordCoppola's Bram Stoker's Dracula, followed byacclaimed scores for Roman Polanski's Death and theMaiden and The Ninth Gate, and Jane Campion'sPortrait of a Lady, typified by expressive themes andminimalist harmonies. As well as his film work, Kilarcontinues to write concert music, including a HornSonata, a Wind Quintet, the epic cantata Exodus[Naxos 8.554788] used as the trailer for Schindler'sList, and a Piano Concerto. Kilar's first film score inthe 1960s, The Debutant, coincided with the radicalheyday of the Warsaw Autumn Festival. In 1974, themusical simplification of the orchestral work Krzesany[Naxos 8.554788] was anticipated by a series of scoresfor Krzysztof Zanussi's films. In this way, the twomain strands of Kilar's creative output can be seen tohave penetrated and influenced each other.
Kilar's film music is, by necessity, one oflimitation. Given the medium, the composer cannothave a creative free hand. Film music must be discreet,occurring only where it deepens the psychic states ofcharacters or intensifies the dramaturgy of a givenmoment, conveying the essence of the work in theprocess. Put another way, good film music should nottry to dominate the viewer's perception. It cannotcreate a parallel narration and, because of this, thecomposer has consciously to limit his creativepotential. From this perspective, one can admire thestrength of expression of Kilar's film scores: clarifyingand deepening those scenes which cannot be expressedeither in pictures or words, and where music canfunction with all its power.
Thanks in part to its powerful music, BramStoker's Dracula (1992) was acclaimed as one of themost authentic versions of the Dracula story, and wonKilar the ASCAP Award. Beside the horror element, ithas some evocative music surrounding the more'gothic' aspects. One instance is the Prokofiev-like'The Brides', passionately thrusting strings overmoody piano and percussion, which opens the suite.
By contrast, 'The Party' is awash in delicate traceryfor violins and glockenspiel, almost make-believe inits air of fantasy. A depiction of the two heroines in thefilm, 'Mina/Elizabeth' is a fine example of Kilar'smelodic gift, recalling composers as different asKhachaturian and Arnold in its scoring for strings andharp. Over a relentless, Mars-like rhythmic ostinato,'Vampire Hunters' conjures up an air of foreboding.
'Mina/Dracula' underscores the denouement of thefilm, strings rising from the depths, to be joined bywistful cor anglais and flute in an atmosphere of calminevitability. Then 'The Storm' bursts in withHerrmann-like jabbing violins and a steady marchrhythm, over which the chorus intones a menacingchant which vividly evokes the forces of darkness.
Konig der letzten Tage (The King of the LastDays) tells of the rise and fall of the false prophet Johnof Leyden, who, as leader of the Anabaptists, set up ashort-lived New Jerusalem in M??nster during 1534.
The opening 'Intrada', opulently scored for strings,graphically invokes biblical imagery and religiousintrigue. 'Sanctus' depicts the intense emotions of theAnabaptist zealots, with another of Kilar'scharacteristic choral chants. 'Canzona' is an elegiacinterlude in the drama, cor anglais and harpsichordcombining poignantly with strings. Over poundingtimpani and slashing percussion, 'Miserere'underlines the emerging conflict between the religiousestablishment and the rebels. Music of a moreprayerful nature is to be heard in 'Agnus Dei', sungunaccompanied in the tradition of medieval choralwriting. The final defeat of the rebels is depicted in the'Gloria', which effectively draws together aspects ofmood and music from across the film score.
Death and the Maiden (1994), directed by RomanPolanski, is a psychological thriller based on theacclaimed play by Ariel Dorfman, in which PaulinaEscobar, a political torture victim, identifies the manwho gives her husband a lift home as the person whoraped her fifteen years earlier. She then sets aboutexacting revenge on her torturer in her home. Thethree-person, single-set drama makes for anemotionally-wrenching experience. Of the threenumbers presented here, 'The Confession', in whichsections of the string orchestra are laid simply butemotively over each other, underscores the scene ofemotional recognition between Paulina and Roberto.
With its sad cor anglais melody, contrasting with moredissonant elements, 'Paulina's Theme' evokes thepersona of a woman who has been forced to enduremuch sorrow. 'Roberto's Last Chance' strikes a moodof Shostakovich-like aggression as the film'semotional climax is reached.
The Beads of One Rosary (1980), directed byKazimierz Kutz and adapted from his own novel, is setin a provincial Polish town. Habryka is an old minerwho has won many worker's medals and has nowretired. In order to build new apartments, old housesare being cleared away, and the residents given flats inthe new high-rise complex. Habryka, however, thinkshis house has too much history, and refuses to leave,only giving in when the irate head of the mine bribeshim with a new house. Unfortunately, this is in aremote location and the old couple are lonely. Habrykadies in his sleep, and - a touching irony - receives ahero's funeral as a homage to one of the oldest minersin the district. Much of the film's poignancy ofatmosphere and emotion is distilled into the shortmood-piece featured on this disc, where the pianoevokes a sense of time passing, with trumpet and highwoodwind joining in a wistful waltz for times past.
Pearl in the Crown (1972), also directed byKazimierz Kutz, is among the lesser known of Kilar'sfilm scores. Made in the aftermath of industrial unrestacross Poland in 1970, it looks back to similar troublesduring the 1930s. The owners of an unprofitableSilesian coal-mine decide to close it down by flooding,and the miners' union responds by occupying the pit.
What begins on a note of hope and high spirits,however, is eventually broken by governmentindifference, starvation and despair. The film reflectspast and present through its tribute to the power ofcollective action and individual commitment. As takenfrom the original score, cue numbers 26-27 depict anencroaching revelation with particularly effective useof untuned percussion, while cue number 28 is afurther example of the emotionally-charged stringwriting with which Kilar has become synonymous inthe domain of film music.Richard Whitehouse
with thanks to Stanislaw Kosz and Eddie Stewart