GRAND PIANO – Víctor Reyes
Original Review by Jonathan Broxton
Grand Piano is an ingenious thriller directed by Eugenio Mira, starring Elijah Wood as Tom Selznick, a brilliant but reclusive concert pianist whose career was shattered by terrible stage fright. After finally agreeing to return to the concert hall for the first time in years, Selznick begins to play a brand new piano concerto, but discovers a terrifying note on the sheet music: there is a sniper with his gun trained on him, and if he stops playing, or if he plays a wrong note, he will be killed. The film, which also stars John Cusack, has an astonishing original score by composer Víctor Reyes, who wrote a brand new piano concerto for the film, which pulls double duty both as the piece performed on-screen, AND acts as the film’s score – the ultimate diegetic cinematic experience.
The technical achievement that Reyes accomplishes here is nothing short of astonishing. Firstly, the piece is a fully functioning piano concerto which would not be out of place if heard in one of the premier concert halls of the world. Bold, passionate, lyrical, dramatic, and magnificently orchestrated, it is split into three movements of 12, 11 and 4 minutes respectively. Reyes structures his work like a classical concerto should be structured, and is performed with all the gusto and vitality one would expect from one of the world’s great ensembles. Although the piano is clearly the cornerstone of the score, Reyes allows his orchestra to swoop and dance around the central instrument, with several sparkling solos for violins and cellos taking center stage.
The “First Movement” begins passionately, building from its initial piano solo into a vigorous, vibrant suite for the full orchestra, before dialing down a notch towards its finale. The “Second Movement” contains a little more solo piano performance than the first, and a touch more classical elegance too, with more elaborate scales and runs. The pace really picks up around the three minute mark, with frantic fingering and hefty brass countermelodies, and becomes downright dissonant around 6:30, before reaching quite astonishing heights of action, drama and chaos towards its finale. The ”Third Movement” begins pensively, with con legno hits and hesitant flourishes shimmering around the piano performance, but concludes with a sense of relief and catharsis.
However, not only is the score a fully functioning classical work in its own right, but as it progresses the music actually matches the dynamic and dramatic arc of the film; it becomes more tense, more introspective, more angry, more dangerous, as the film dictates, meaning that Reyes and lead actor Elijah Wood had to match the mood of the film exactly as the concerto is played-on screen – no mean feat.
The concerto is bookended by two further cues: the “Main Title” is clearly an homage to Ennio Morricone, with staccato low-end prepared piano chords and grinding basses straight out of The Untouchables, although the orchestration is much more contemporary, with a subtle synth effect and even ghostly voices lending a moody air to the mix, while “La Cinquette” is an staggeringly difficult encore for solo piano touted in the film’s screenplay as being ‘unplayable’ – but, it clearly is, as this performance attests! However, as good as these two pieces are, the real meat of the score is in the concerto itself. It’s a masterful work, too good to be overlooked.
- Grand Piano Main Titles (2:41)
- Grand Piano Concerto – 1st Movement (11:44)
- Grand Piano Concerto – 2nd Movement (10:51)
- Grand Piano Concerto – 3rd Movement (3:38)
- La Cinquette (3:28)
Running Time: 32 minutes 26 seconds
MovieScore Media/Kronos Records MMS14010/KRONCD045 (2013/2014)
Music composed by Víctor Reyes. Conducted by Adam Klemens. Performed by The City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra. Featured musical soloists John Leneham and Víctor Reyes. Recorded and mixed by Jan Holzner. Album produced by Víctor Reyes.