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GAGARIN: FIRST IN SPACE – George Kallis

gagarinfirstinspaceOriginal Review by Jonathan Broxton

Gagarin: First in Space is a Russian film directed by Pavel Parkhomenko, about the life of Yuri Gagarin who, in 1961 became first human to journey into outer space, when his Vostok spacecraft completed an orbit of the Earth. The film – which, to Russians, has a similar sense of national pride and honor as films like The Right Stuff and Apollo 13 does to Americans – stars Yaroslav Zhalnin as Gagarin, and features a rousing, heroic score by Cypriot composer George Kallis.

Kallis’s music is big, heroic and patriotic, written for a full orchestra with numerous stirring passages of great emotional weight. After a low-key opening in “The Night Before”, “Vostok” is bold and dramatic, with a lovely, lyrical piano line and several expectant crescendos. When the softly chanting choir, singing in Russian, enters the mix half way through the cue, the effect is outstanding. Similarly, the love theme for Gagarin and his wife in “Yuri and Valentina” is lush and romantic, with a tinkling balalaika underpinning the sweeping strings. One of the best cues in the score is “The Launch of Vostok”, with several minutes of tense, dramatic build-up that eventually emerges into an enormous, full-throated choral-and-orchestral celebration of Soviet technological triumph. The subsequent “Earth from Above” continues the trend, as does the noble-sounding finale, “Glory”.

Much of the rest of the score continues in a similar fashion, although some of the later cues do offer subtle variations on the themes, as well as new and interesting textures. “Levity” and “Cosmos” are gorgeous, balletic pieces with an angelic chorus, serene, wonder-filled depictions of the awe Gagarin must have felt at beholding the Earth for the first time. “Command Headquarters” has a more serious, martial feel, and “The Hanging” is much more brutal, with dissonant piano and string textures enhanced by screeching, harsh electronic effects. Probably the most exhilarating action sequence is “The Tumble”, a flurry of string cascades, thunderous percussion and choral outbursts that are quite superb.

George Kallis is definitely a composer worth watching. He has an old-school, unashamedly emotional writing style that is to appealing old-school, unashamedly emotional listeners like me; he knows how to use his orchestra, understands the differences between bombast and subtlety, light and shade, and can write a pretty memorable tune too.

Buy the Gagarin: First in Space soundtrack from the Movie Music UK Store

Track Listing:

  • The Night Before (1:04)
  • Vostok (2:10)
  • Yuri and Valentina (2:30)
  • Goodbye Brothers (1:56)
  • The Launch of Vostok (4:06)
  • Earth from Above (1:56)
  • Good News (2:05)
  • Levity (2:04)
  • Command Headquarters (1:10)
  • Discussions (1:30)
  • The Hanging (1:49)
  • Cosmos (3:48)
  • Goodbyes (2:12)
  • Vostok in Space (2:40)
  • The Tumble (0:56)
  • Remember Me in Prayer (2:48)
  • People in the Streets (2:54)
  • Father (1:54)
  • Falling and Remembering (1:49)
  • Orange Parachute (4:08)
  • Glory (3:10)

Running Time 48 minutes 39 seconds

Moviescore Media MMS13007 (2013)

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