Home > Reviews > PAN TADEUSZ – Wojciech Kilar

PAN TADEUSZ – Wojciech Kilar

October 22, 1999 Leave a comment Go to comments

pantadeuszOriginal Review by Jonathan Broxton

The vast majority of Wojciech Kilar’s work remains undiscovered by the film music public at large. Despite having written music for well over 100 films during a career which started in 1959, only four of these have been in the English language: Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Death and the Maiden, The Portrait of a Lady and The Ninth Gate. As a result, a huge amount of music written by Kilar for European (and especially Polish) cinema has passed by without the slightest hint of recognition. A couple of domestic albums and compilations of his work exist, albeit on rather obscure labels which make obtaining them somewhat difficult, but those whose opinion of Kilar and his work are based solely on his American projects would do well do seek them out. There are many, many gems to be found.

Pan Tadeusz is one such score, completely dispelling any and all preconceptions about Kilar’s work. The film is a period drama directed by the great Andrzej Wajda, based on the famous poem written in 1834 by Adam Mickiewicz, who is widely regarded as the Shakespeare of Polish culture. Starring Boguslaw Linda, Daniel Olbrychski, Andrzej Seweryn and Michal Zebrowski as Master Tadeusz himself, the film is a dramatic, affectionate, and sometimes humorous illustration of the life of the Polish gentry during the early 19th century, concentrating specifically on a feud between two noble families – one Polish, one Lithuanian – and the way in which their escalating dispute affects the community of Soplicowo. It played in eastern Europe during the latter half of 1999, featured at the Berlin Film Festival, and endured a limited, albeit financially unsuccessful, run in the US early in 2000 before vanishing from screens forever. Thankfully, the Polish EMI subsidiary label Pomaton saw fit to release Kilar’s amazing, beautiful score and distribute it world-wide.

The centerpieces of the score are the two long romantic themes, ‘Swiatynia Dumania’ and ‘Kochajmy Sie’, both of which are heartbreakingly beautiful. Kilar is essentially a minimalist, taking short melodic phrases (in this case just five notes) and repeating them in an endless, hypnotic loop – but this is not to say the music is anything like Philip Glass. Kilar’s orchestrations are lusher and more velvety, with the familiar cello passacaglia grinding underneath a series of sumptuous violin patterns that sound more like something John Barry might have written than anything from Kilar’s past. Kilar is also surprisingly good at invoking dreamlike textures and inducing soft moods, as cues such as ‘Tadeusz i Zosia’ and ‘Tadeusz i Telimena’, which reprises the thematic material from the romantic suite, attest. Having now heard this side of his musical nature, I would give anything to hear what he wrote for A Midsummer Night’s Dream before being removed from the project.

The thing that makes Pan Tadeusz so unlike any of Kilar’s more famous scores are the vibrant and (at times) quite humorous cues that pop up from time to time. ‘Polowanie’ and ‘Rok 1812’ are both bright, heraldic calls-and-responses for brass and percussion, the latter eventually turning into a buoyant march, while ‘Mrówki’ is a superb, dainty scherzo for the woodwind section that sounds like an outcast from his score for the French farce Fantôme Avec Chauffeur, passing a jolly little melody from oboe to clarinet to bassoon and back again. Conversely, both ‘Tomasz, Karabele!’ and ‘Bitwa’ are stormy action cues, with loud and heavy ostinatos occasionally reminiscent of some of his work on Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

In addition to all this, there is a lively folk dance in ‘Koncert Jankiela’ and wonderful, neo-classicism in ‘Polonez’, a large-scale, hugely attractive pastiche of the polonaise Frédéric Chopin himself wrote in recognition of Mickiewicz’s work, and which effectively illustrates yet another side to Kilar’s talent. If I didn’t know any better, I would swear that I was listening to a concert hall piece from 18th century Vienna; this one cue could well be the best single track I have yet heard Kilar write. Capping it all off is a Polish-language pop song, ‘Soplicowo’ by Grzegorz Turnau and Stanislaw Soyka, which has the lyrics printed in the booklet so you can sing along! All together now… “O te jezoira co wokól rozlane, Borów i lasów i ciszy potega…”

In many ways, and although I admit I am unfamiliar with the vast majority of his output, I would proffer that this is the most accomplished score the Pole has composed to date. In broad terms, if you imagine all the best bits from his four American scores and increase the beauty and impact of each element, then you’ll be much closer to understanding just how good Pan Tadeusz is.

Rating: *****

Track Listing:

  • Inwokacja (Invocation) (2:13)
  • Polowanie (The Hunt) (1:31)
  • Echo (Echo) (0:59)
  • Swiatynia Dumania (4:34)
  • Mrówki (The Ants) (1:51)
  • Tadeusz i Zosia (Tadeusz and Zosia) (2:06)
  • Rok 1812 (Year 1812) (2:29)
  • Tomasz, Karabele! (Tomasz, Rifle!) (1:38)
  • Zascianek (Country House) (0:39)
  • Bitwa (The Battle) (2:43)
  • Smierc Jacka Soplicy (The Death of Jacek Soplica) (1:08)
  • Tadeusz i Telimena (Tadeusz and Telimena) (1:11)
  • Koncert Jankiela (Jankiel’s Concert) (performed by Zespól Muzyki Dawnej) (1:15)
  • Kochajmy Sie (Let’s Love Each Other) (6:27)
  • Polonez (Polonaise) (4:41)
  • Inwokacja (Invocation) (words by Adam Mickiewicz, performed by Krzysztof Kolberger) (3:00)
  • Soplicowo (written by Grzegorz Turnau and Aleksander Leszek Moczulski, performed by Grzegorz Turnau and Stanislaw Soyka) (4:47)
  • Soplicowo – Instrumental (written by Grzegorz Turnau) (4:48)

Running Time: 43 minutes 44 seconds

Pomaton 7243-4-99949-2-8 (1999/2000)

Music composed by Wojciech Kilar. Conducted by Antoni Wit. Performed by The Polish Radio Symphony Orchestra. Orchestrated by Wojciech Kilar and Tadeusz Czechak. Featured musical soloists Joanna Dziewior, Jerzy Kotyczka, Zbigniew Kaleta, Marek Baranski, Antoni Adamus, Wieslaw Grochowski, Damien Walentek, Adrian Ticman, Rudolf Brudny, Eugeniusz Manczyk . Recorded and Mixed by Beata Jankowska-Burzynska and Jacek Kuzmierczyk. Mastered by Tadeusz Mieczkowski. Album produced by Wojciech Kilar.

With many thanks to Lukasz Wudarski for the Polish-English language translations.

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