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ISABEL – Federico Jusid

September 9, 2013 Leave a comment Go to comments

isabelOriginal Review by Jonathan Broxton

Isabel is an epic Spanish-language TV series broadcast on the Televisión Española network about the life of Queen Isabella I of Castille. One of the most beloved and revered figures of Spanish history, in the 1450s she was instrumental in unifying various warring kingdoms under one crown – essentially creating the modern country of Spain – and funded the voyages of Christopher Columbus, leading to the discovery of the New World and the foundation of America. The show, which has just completed its second season, stars Michelle Jenner as Isabel, co-stars Ramon Madaula, Rodolfo Sancho and Ainhoa Santamaria, and boasts an astonishing score by the young Argentine composer Federico Jusid.

Performed impeccably by the Sinfonia Orchestra of Budapest-Eastconnection and the Orquesta Sinfónica y Coro de Radiotelevisión Española, Jusid’s music is, quite simply, some of the best music I have ever heard for a TV show. After the rousing action-inflected opening, “A Todo Galope”, which contains rhythmic string writing and chanting Latin chorus, the first performance of the score’s main theme – “Isabel” – is heard, and it’s a beauty. A soft, romantic, noble melody is passed around the orchestra, from strings, to brass, and back again, before it explodes into an enormous, spine-tingling rendition for the full orchestra, ushered in by rolling timpanis and cymbal crashes. This is the kind of film music I live for – unashamed, unadulterated romance and passion. A softer performance, with a mixed voice choir singing ‘regina’ in Latin, ends the cue, one of the best individual pieces of score I have heard anywhere in several years. Restatements of the theme reoccur in cues such as the epic “Nobles Promesas” (complete with tolling bells!) the more restrained “Lex Talionis”, in which the theme is transferred to sonorous cellos accompanied by a chanting choir, and in the reverential and stately “La Coronación”, but Isabel is far from a monothematic score.

As the score progresses, Jusid’s music firmly stays its course. There are clear and frequent ecclesiastical overtones to his writing, to represent Isabel’s piousness and devotion to her faith, and these ideals are clearly defined by the near-omnipresent Latin choir. Cues of note include “El Adiós”, which contains a gorgeous mezzo-soprano solo; “Requiem” and “Kyrie”, both of which showcase the cut-glass tones of a boy soprano; as well as the appropriately operatic “Aria”. There are also several acknowledgements of the musical conventions of the time period in which Isabel lived, most notably the medieval-sounding dance music of “Baile de Máscaras”.

The various lovers Isabel takes over the course of her life are scored by moments of sweeping romance. Cues such as the heavenly “Amor Real”, and the invitingly seductive “Romance en la Alhambra”, are simply gorgeous, with sweetly searching string themes and elegant orchestrations. The solo string writing in both “El Destino de Isabel” and “La Soledad de un Rey” is heartbreakingly beautiful. “Los Planes de Colón” opens with a soft duet for expressive woodwinds and harp glissandi to represent the relationship between Isabel and the dashing explorer Christopher Columbus, gradually becoming more idealistic and wondrous as it develops.

However, the multitudinous political machinations that occur around her, as friends and allies alike position themselves and attempt to steal her throne, are scored with a palpable sense of drama and power. “La Reconquista”, for example, is a thunderous action sequence of great portent, with powerful brass calls, tumultuous percussion rolls, and a dark restatement of the main theme. Later, “Te Deum” is tragedy-laden and funereal, with a low-voiced male voice choir intoning gloomily over a sustained cello pedal, while the ominous “El Santo Oficio” gives the introduction of the Spanish Inquisition an appropriately overwhelming and apocalyptic choral accompaniment fully suited to one of the most heinous aspects of Isabel’s reign. No one expects the Spanish Inquisition. The subsequent “Rito Pagano” is one of the most flamboyant pieces of the score, as Jusid channels his inner Stravinsky for a cue which reverberates to more Latin chanting, animalistic rhythms, and wild, ostentatious orchestrations.

I could go on and on about this score, waxing lyrical about how good every cue is, but I think you get my point. This commercial release of 77 minutes of score contains a mix of music from both the first and second seasons – roughly 16 minutes from Season 1, the rest from Season 2 – and comes with the highest possible recommendation from me. On the strength of this score alone, it is clear that Federico Jusid is one of the most exciting young film composers working anywhere in the world today.

Buy the Isabel soundtrack from the Movie Music UK Store

Track Listing:

  • A Todo Galope (2:56)
  • Isabel (3:47)
  • Sangre (2:19)
  • Amor Real (2:34)
  • La Reconquista (2:03)
  • Desencuentros (1:47)
  • Romance en la Alhambra (3:13)
  • El Adiós (5:39)
  • Princesa de Portugal (2:24)
  • Nobles Promesas (2:56)
  • El Destino de Isabel (1:59)
  • Baile de Máscaras (1:50)
  • Lex Talionis (3:10)
  • Requiem (2:29)
  • Los Planes de Colón (4:15)
  • Éxodo (2:25)
  • Aria (2:58)
  • La Coronación (2:30)
  • Te Deum (3:52)
  • Salve Regina (2:45)
  • El Santo Oficio (1:55)
  • Rito Pagano (3:07)
  • Don Beltrán (2:51)
  • Yo, La Reina (1:30)
  • La Soledad de un Rey (2:26)
  • Kyrie (1:21)
  • Lamento (3:11)
  • Vientos Castellanos (3:14)

Running Time: 77 minutes 33 seconds

Música Global Discogràfica (2013)

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  1. BBG
    March 18, 2016 at 7:33 pm

    Great review, except for one line:”The various lovers Isabel takes over the course of her life”. The queen was known to be a deeply religious person, and to be very much in love with her husband. it is never suggested in the series that she took a lover, let alone various.
    Other than that, I completely agree that the score is absolutely brilliant, movie-worthy in my opinion. Jusid has proved to be extremely talented and has greatly contributed to raise the quality of an otherwise excellent production.

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