Home > Reviews > Best Scores of 2017 – Rest of Europe, Part I

Best Scores of 2017 – Rest of Europe, Part I

January 18, 2018 Leave a comment Go to comments

The sixth installment in my annual series of articles looking at the best “under the radar” scores from around the world sees us jumping around the European mainland. Whereas Spain, Britain, and France all had enough scores to warrant articles of their own, other countries had maybe one or two outstanding highlights, and this article is an attempt to cover several of them. As such, here are seven of those outstanding pan-European efforts, including a huge fantasy adventure score from Russia, a rousing sports score from Finland, a rich romantic drama score from Italy, a comedy adventure score from the Netherlands, a superb seasonal animation score from Poland, among others. There will be more to come from this cross-continental adventure later!

95 – Panu Aaltio

95 is an inspirational sports movie from Finland directed by Aleksi Mäkelä, starring Jens Hultén, Laura Birn and Samuli Edelmann, which looks at the Finnish team’s victory in the 1995 Ice Hockey World Championship, the first in the country’s history. It’s a fairly standard story of sporting triumph – overcoming obstacles, problems within the team, dramatic victory over a bitter rival to claim the glory – but it’s interesting to see how other countries tackle a story that American audiences have seen so often, in sports ranging from football (Rudy) to basketball (Hoosiers), to the US version of basically the same story (Miracle). The truth is, it’s pretty much the same. Sporting glory for Finland feels the same to Finns as sporting glory for the United States feels to Americans, and that translates directly into the movie’s music.

The score for 95 is by the brilliant Panu Aaltio, whose work scoring nature documentaries like Tale of a Forest [Metsän Tarina] and Tale of a Lake [Järven Tarina] have brought him international acclaim. However, he’s just as good at scoring narrative dramatic movies too, and 95 is, for my money, among his best non-documentary scores to date. As one would expect given the subject matter, the score is for the most part big, fully orchestral, rousing and heroic, filled with all the musical things that inspirational sports films often contain.

The whole score is superb, but several cues stand out as being of significant excellence. The opening cue, “The End of a National Nightmare,” is a surprisingly dark piece for brooding, chugging strings and ominous brass that emerges into the first performance of the score’s stirring main theme, and by the end has become a more solemn, serious, but hesitantly hopeful piece for piano and strings. This hopeful string and piano writing, full of movement and purpose, continues on through most of the rest of the score, which also performs additional renditions of the main theme with pleasing frequency..

Cues like the uplifting “A New Start,” the noble-sounding “Great Expectations” and “Training,” the pageantry-filled “Ready for Battle,” the exhilarating and beautiful “Motivation,” and the conclusive pair “Heroes” and “You Can Be Anything You Want” are especially notable for their lyricism and power. Amusingly, Aaltio scores the hockey game itself with epic battle music; “The Final Match” sometimes sound almost Lord of the Rings-ish, with added percussion and choir and huge brass performances of the main theme. Interestingly, some of the action ideas that weave in and out of the score remind me very much of the video game score Apache Air Assault that Aaltio wrote back in 2010, which is a good thing indeed because that score was great.

To give it a different feel, cues like “The Three Goons,” the gentle “A Final Wish,” and the unexpectedly groovy “The Royal Castle” feature more contemporary synth ideas, pulses and textures under the orchestra, but they never sound out of place of incongruous, and actually make for a nice change of pace which allows the score breathe. Elsewhere, “The Goalie is Choking” and “Panic Attack” use a great combination of staccato piano pulses, string sustains, dissonant brass clusters, clattering percussion, a stabbing version of the main theme, and pulsating electronic heartbeats to underscore darker moments. “Birgitte” is the score’s central romantic piece, a cascade of elegant piano lines.

95 is a truly great sports action-drama score, and yet another example of Panu Aaltio’s outstanding talent. Unfortunately the score for 95 is not available for commercial purchase at this time; this promo was put together by Aaltio for awards consideration purposes only. However, excerpts from his scores usually appear on his official website http://www.panuaaltio.com (although it has not yet been uploaded at the time of writing).

Track Listing: 1. The End of a National Nightmare (2:46), 2. A New Start (2:32), 3. Daily Struggles (1:01), 4. Great Expectations (1:02), 5. Ready for Battle (0:53), 6. The Final Match (1:11), 7. The Three Goons (1:03), 8. Training (1:12), 9. A Final Wish (1:44), 10. The Goalie is Choking (1:34), 11. Motivation (3:59), 12. Birgitta (0:57), 13. Panic Attack (2:41), 14. A Common Destiny (2:18), 15. The Royal Castle (2:11), 16. Heroes (1:45), 17. You Can Be Anything You Want (3:44). Promo, 32 minutes 34 seconds.

 

DOVE NON HO MAI ABITATO – Pino Donaggio

Dove Non Ho Mai Abitato is an Italian romantic drama film directed by Paolo Franchi, starring Emmanuelle Devos and Fabrizio Gifuni. Devos plays Francesca, a woman who moved from Italy to Paris to study architecture after the death of her mother, but against the wishes of her father who is himself an esteemed architect. Francesca returns home to Turin to visit her father 20 years later, after hearing of his ill health, only to find him renovating their family villa. It is there that Francesca meets Massimo (Gifuni), a craftsman working with her father, and the two begin a passionate relationship which threatens to change her world forever.

The score for Dove Non Ho Mai Abitato is by the esteemed Italian composer Pino Donaggio, whose scores for Don’t Look Now in 1973, Carrie in 1976, Dressed to Kill in 1980, and Body Double in 1984 remain classics. For this film, Donaggio wrote what several have described as “a delicate, emotional, sad, but romantic score,” which perfectly captures the tumultuous relationships between Francesca and the men in her life. The score was performed by The Bulgarian National Radio Symphony Orchestra with special emphasis on strings and piano, and is built around multiple performances of a recurring main theme, which follows Francesca throughout the film.

The main theme is introduced in the opening cue, “Verso Casa,” a luscious piece where the lead instruments are surrounded by delicate harp waves and longing beds of strings, and have a palpable sense of bittersweet romance and regret. In terms of tone and timbre, the rest of the score is very much rooted in this same style, which may cause some to find it a little staid, but I found it to be engaging and hypnotic, casting a delicate spell over the course of its 40 minute run time.

Several subsequent cues stand out. The way Donaggio introduces delicate flutes into the orchestration in “La Piazza Vuota” is lovely; the arpeggiated, florid piano lines and light, elegant glockenspiels in “La Cose Cambiano” are very pretty; the sonorous cello writing in “L’Abraccio Nel Dolore” is softly romantic; and the high strings in “Il Giorno Dopo” add a sense of desperation and heightened emotion; while conclusive titular cue “Dove Non Ho Mai Abitato” offers the most fulsome and moving statement of the main theme. The score is available as an import from the Spanish boutique label Quartet Records, and comes highly recommended to fans of Pino Donaggio’s uniquely downbeat romantic style.

Track Listing: 1. Verso Casa (2:22), 2. La Piazza Vuota (1:54), 3. Le Cose Cambiano (1:56), 4. Follia Per Amore (2:09), 5. Storie di Infanzia (1:31), 6. L’Abbraccio Nel Dolore (2:40), 7. Ritorno dal Padre (1:10), 8. Commemorazione (2:58), 9. Come Mi Vedi (2:20), 10. La Fontana (1:48), 11. Il Fratello (2:14), 12. Le Stanze Vuote (1:40), 13. Il Giorno Dopo (2:11), 14. Francesca (2:48), 15. Una Scelta Egoista (4:28), 16. Dove Non Ho Mai Abitato (5:24). Quartet Records QR-295, 40 minutes 48 seconds.

 

DUMMIE DE MUMMIE EN DE TOMBE VAN ACHNETOET – Matthijs Kieboom

Dummie de Mummie en de Tombe van Achnetoet is a Dutch comedy adventure film for children, directed by Pim van Hoeve. It is the third installment in the domestically popular Dummie the Mummy film series, which is itself based on a series of well-loved novels by Tosca Menten, in which a young Dutch boy named Goos becomes friends with the magically re-animated mummy of an Egyptian boy. In this film, Dummie convinces Goos and his parents to take him back to Egypt, because he is homesick and wants to visit the tomb where his own parents were buried, thousands of years previously; once in Egypt, Goos and Dummie embark on a series of wild adventures.

The score for Dummie de Mummie en de Tombe van Achnetoet is by the 32-year-old Dutch composer Matthijs Kieboom, who over the past decade or so has established himself as one of the brightest young film music talents in the Netherlands. What’s so special about Dummie de Mummie en de Tombe van Achnetoet is its sophistication; for a film like this it would have been very easy to write a series of comedy mickey mouse pieces, possibly with a few Middle Eastern textures to give it a bit of color, but Kieboom actually goes much deeper than this. Instead, much of the score is quite sad and wistful, concentrating mainly on the emotional part of the film regarding Dummie’s longing for home and how he misses his own parents.

To this end, Kieboom blended his orchestra with gorgeous, soulful performances on an ethnic flute. Cues like “Egypte,” “Alles is Veranderd/De Excursie,” and “Mijn Egypte,” and all feature the ethnic flute prominently, often in combination with soft strings, pianos, and other Arabic specialty instruments including various percussion items, occasional vocals, and what sounds like an oud. Counterbalancing these gorgeous exotic textures, Kieboom scores the comedy of contemporary Holland with mischievous pizzicato textures, guitars, harmonicas, and even a whistler, some of which occasionally emerge into something that sounds like comedy western hoe-down music – “Dinky,” “Een Cadeautje Voor Friek,” and “De Vluchtende Kameel” are especially amusing in that regard. Brief moments of action and suspense emerge in “Map Sequentie,” “De Cartouche,” the quite thrilling “De Val,” and the exciting “Puzzels & Boobytraps,” and are very impressive.

However, it is during the finale that score really comes into its own, and many of these concluding cues are simply outstanding. In “Papa en Mama, Daar Zijn Jullie” Kieboom adds a rich, soulful Middle Eastern vocalist into the mix, while in the subsequent “We Zitten Vast”, “De Redding,” and “Dag Papa en Mama” Kieboom brings his orchestra up to its most grandiose heights, as the Arabic flute textures create a haunting atmosphere of emotional longing and regret that is surprisingly powerful for a children’s film like this. This is deeply impressive stuff, and earmarks Kieboom as a composer to watch in the future. The score is not available on CD, but is available for digital download via most of the usual online retailers.

Track Listing: 1. Egypte (1:06), 2. Polderdam (0:41), 3. Dinky (1:47), 4. Map Sequentie (0:36), 5. Alles is Veranderd/De Excursie (1:58), 6. Mijn Egypte (1:11), 7. De Cartouche/Scarabee (1:27), 8. Een Cadeautje Voor Friek (0:41), 9. De Val (1:39), 10. Deze Kant (1:06), 11. Inbreken (1:16), 12. De Slangenkop (0:54), 13. De Vluchtende Kameel (0:45), 14. Het Gangenstelsel (1:13), 15. Puzzels & Boobytraps (2:13), 16. Papa en Mama, Daar Zijn Jullie (1:55), 17. De Hologram (1:30), 18. We Zitten Vast (2:30), 19. De Redding (3:44), 20. Dag Papa en Mama (2:29), 21. Friek! (1:13). PV Pictures Music Records, 32 minutes 05 seconds.

 

LA RAGAZZA NELLA NEBBIA – Vito Lo Re

La Ragazza Nella Nebbia [The Girl in the Fog] is an Italian action-thriller written and directed by Donato Carrisi, based on his own best-selling novel. It stars Toni Servillo as Vogel, a special agent with the Italian equivalent of the FBI, who is sent to an isolated town in a remote mountain valley to investigate the disappearance of a sixteen year old girl. Thanks to one of his previous cases, in which he caught a vicious serial killer, Vogel is a famous and high profile investigator, but often finds that the significant media interest his work is more help than hindrance; such is the case here, when reporters start to pin the blame on a local schoolteacher before Vogel has finished his enquiries, and a witch-hunt crusade ensues, which may cause the real killer to slip through his fingers. The film co-stars Jean Reno and Alessio Boni, and has an original score by an up-and-coming star in Italian film music circles, composer Vito Lo Re.

Italian cinema has always been a fertile breeding ground for excellent thrillers, stretching all the way back to the 1970s and the giallo movies which were scored by people like Ennio Morricone, Fabio Frizzi, and Gianni Ferrio. Vito Lo Re’s score here can stand alongside some of those genre classics; it’s a fully orchestral work which combines lyrical passages for woodwinds and strings with more strident moments of tension, suspense, and action, some of which is very thrilling.

The main theme is introduced in the first cue, “Flores,” which features a pretty flute melody bolstered by darkly-hued piano and string textures which are evocative of sadness and regret. The main theme appears several times in the body of the score, which allows it to develop a distinct and memorable identity. Elsewhere, there are moody sequences for synths and drones (“Casa di Anna Lou,” “Il Grand Hotel”), romantic cues for bittersweet strings and pianos (“Maria e Bruno,” “Clea e Loris,” “Maria Kastner”), haunting and emotional solo vocals (“L’Appello” “La Veglia,” “Lo Zaino”), sequences of creative suspense filled with fascinating string figures and piano lines (“Nessum Urlo,” “Beatrice Leman”), and even a harpsichord piece (“Il Diario”), the melody of which is almost identical to the main theme from John Barry’s Ruby Cairo.

However, where the score really shines for me is in its action music. Cues like “Delirio di Onnipotenza” and “E’ Lui,” feature outstanding, exciting string ostinatos full of driving power, overlaid with expressive violin and trumpet textures that raise the stakes to the next level. The best, however, is the wonderful “Venticinque Minuti di Vantaggio,” which takes the Barryesque theme and runs it through the wringer, with tension-filled metallic ticks, and brooding string pulses which become almost operatic by the end. The “Finale” and “Titoli di Coda” are tremendously dark, brooding pieces that combine both the main ‘Flores’ theme and the Barryesque secondary theme to excellent effect – it is led by dark strings and pianos in the former, and light and nimble strings and a cimbalom in the latter.

Considering how much influence Italians have had on film music – heck, music in general! – it’s been a little disappointing to see how few Italian composers have emerged into the mainstream of late, especially those who are still working in Italian films. Hopefully, the excellent quality of the music in la Ragazza Nella Nebbia will allow Vito Lo Re to develop a little more of an international profile going forward, and I for one will be seeking out his future scores with interest. The score is not available on CD, but is available for digital download via most of the usual online retailers.

Track Listing: 1. Flores (1:37), 2. Casa di Anna Lou (1:51), 3. Maria e Bruno (1:13), 4. L’Appello (1:54), 5. Delirio d Onnipotenza (1:15), 6. Bruno Kastner (105), 7. La Veglia (1:12), 8. Il Ragazzo Con Lo Skate (0:56), 9. Nessun Urlo (2:59), 10. Clea e Loris (1:05), 11. L’Escursione (0:39), 12. Ricerche (1:01), 13. E’ Lui (0:56), 14. La Polizia in Casa (1:43), 15. Maria Kastner (1:41), 16. Ostinato (1:48), 17. Martini e Kastner (0:42), 18. Lo Zaino (1:50), 19. Beatrice Leman (2:44), 20. Il Diario (1:30), 21. Al Grand Hotel (1:23), 22. A Casa (1:13), 23. Venticinque Minuti di Vantaggio (2:08), 24. Piano Diabolico (1:13), 25. Finale (2:37), 26. Titoli di Coda (2:39), 27. La Ragazza Nella Nebbia (1:49). Universal Music Italia, 42 minutes 57 seconds.

 

THE LAST WARRIOR – George Kallis

The Last Warrior – aka Posledni Bogatyr or Последний Богатырь – is a fantasy-action film produced by Disney specifically for the Russian market, directed by Dmitry Dyachenko and starring Victor Chorinyak, Mila Sivatskaya, Ekaterina Vilkova and Elena Yakovleva. It tells the story of a young man named Ivan, a street hustler in contemporary Moscow, who finds himself magically transported to a fantasy realm inhabited by figures from Russian folklore; there he meets Dobrynya Nikitich, the most famous of all the bogatyr warriors, and soon finds himself on a quest to find a mythical sword which will help him return home.

The score for The Last Warrior is by the Cyprus-born composer George Kallis, who in 2017 has announced himself onto the international film music scene with three outstanding scores: The Black Prince, Albion the Enchanted Stallion, and this one, which is arguably the best of the lot. In the greatest Disney fantasy epic tradition, The Last Warrior is a huge orchestral score full of lush and powerful themes, and bold, daring action that explodes right from the first bar of the first cue. This opening sets the scene for the rest of the score: the orchestra is enormous and all-encompassing, the strings and brass sound significantly powerful, and there’s a chanting Lord of the Rings-style choir and war-like drums, but occasionally it dips its toes into local color by using regional instrument in interesting ways. Best of all is its emotional content, which is rich and varied: it’s light and adventurous, magical and whimsical, dark and brooding, sweeping and romantic, often within the same cue, which keeps it fresh and interesting throughout.

The main theme introduced in the opening cue is malleable enough to be performed in several variations, such as the sweeping string and piano version in “The Boy and the Orphanage,” and the enormous finale “The Warriors Rise”. Theme writing is clearly one of Kallis’s strongest talents, and it’s wonderful to see him being allowed to show it so clearly and strongly in a score such as this. There are other secondary character themes too – there’s a menacing brass and choral idea for “Koschei, the Undead,” a curious little waltz for “Baba Yaga, the Witch” that is somehow comedic and sinister at the same time, a militaristic and imposing march for “Merman, Lord of the Water,” and many more.

The action and adventure music is especially robust. There are echoes of the best here, with Kallis seeming to reference both the compositional styles and instrumental combinations of composers James Horner, John Williams, and James Newton Howard, among others. Cues like “The Legend of the Magic Sword,” “Battle With the Guards,” “The Hut on Chicken Legs,” “Chased in the Woods,” “Ivan Burns the Hut,” the superbly-named “Evil Furry Rabbit,” and the epic “The Battle for the Crystal” are just wonderful – the list goes on and on. They are each rousing, tuneful pieces which raise the tempo and convey the inherent heroism with unbridled melody, rich and bold orchestrations, and moments of choral majesty. It’s clear that many of these cues were also inspired by the great Russian patriotic music of Prokofiev and his comrades, raucous celebrations of the sound of the motherland, and the spice provided by the balalaikas, the cimbaloms, and the deep male voice choirs just adds to the overall positive effect.

To counterbalance this, Kallis offers numerous moments of reflection and romance too, starting with the beautiful “Ivan and Vasilissa,” which blends piano and strings with cooing vocals and ethic woodwind instruments to excellent effect. Elsewhere, “Prisoners and the Old Sword,” features the unmistakable sound of a duduk, while cues like “Ivan’s Story” adopt a deeply emotional style of writing, and make me want Kallis to be given an epic love story to score.

I could go on and on about this score – the interplay between themes, the outstanding use of all the different part of the orchestra, the different types of voices and choirs – but I think you get my point. This is one of the most enjoyable and entertaining fantasy scores of the year, and in my opinion the pinnacle of George Kallis’s career to date – a career which, based on the strength of his output in 2017, will surely go from strength to strength. The score is not available on CD but is available as a digital download (there are versions that with both Roman and Cyrillic letters, but the musical content is identical).

Track Listing: 1. The Last Warrior (3:43), 2. The Boy and the Orphanage (2:20), 3. The Land of Belogoria (1:50), 4. Koschei, the Undead (2:07), 5. Baba Yaga, the Witch (1:49), 6. The Legend of the Magic Sword (2:52), 7. Vasilisa, the Frog Princess (3:38), 8. Battle With the Guards (2:07), 9. Ivan and Vasilissa (3:15), 10. The Hut on Chicken Legs (2:10), 11. Chased in the Woods (1:49), 12. Ivan Burns the Hut (2:16), 13. Merman, Lord of the Water (3:00), 14. The Journey Begins (1:24), 15. Varvara’s Arrow (1:33), 16. Chudo-Yudo, the Ogre Cannibal (1:34), 17. Ivan’s Story (2:03), 18. Evil Furry Rabbit (1:11), 19. Running Away (1:18), 20. Prisoners and the Old Sword (1:30), 21. The Magic Sword and the Crystal (3:54), 22. Back to Belagoria (0:52), 23. Little Dragon Zmey Gorynych (2:11), 24. Ivan Shoots Dobrynya (1:14), 25. Ride of the Gorynych (1:17), 26. The Battle for the Crystal (5:40), 27. Ilya Muromets and Celebrations (1:16), 28. The Boy Opens His Eyes (1:30), 29. The Warriors Rise (1:51). Walt Disney Russia, 63 minutes 27 seconds.

 

LISTY DO M. 3 – Łukasz Targosz

Listy do M. 3 [Letters to Santa 3] is a charming Polish romantic comedy directed by Tomasz Konecki, starring Tomasz Karolak, Agnieszka Dygant, and Piotr Adamczyk. It’s a charming story about a group of contemporary Poles and their various romantic escapades over the Christmas period. It’s the third in a series of films which started back in 2011, all of which contain the same characters. The films are massively popular in Poland – Listy do M. 3 was the highest grossing film of the year there, taking almost $6 million more than The Last Jedi – which is a real feather in the cap for the film’s composer, Łukasz Targosz.

Targosz’s music for the film is delightful; fully orchestral, with light seasonal arrangements including sleigh bells and chimes, but with a romantic heart conveyed through several beautiful themes for strings and piano. The “Opening Titles” are lively, sprightly, playful, and redolent of Christmas through the use of the aforementioned wintry orchestrations.

The recurring love theme, which appears in the “Letters to Santa Main Theme” is lovely, a tender and sentimental piano solo accompanied by soft strings. There are several reprises and variations of the theme in the score, including a gorgeous arrangement featuring oboe and accordion in “Almost Warsaw Love Theme,” with a more bittersweet and slightly jazzy tone in “Warsaw Love,” and with genuine warmth in the lovely “Wojciech and Mel.” Stylistically, it reminds me very much of Craig Armstrong’s score for Love Actually, which was probably intentional given the film series’s overall similarity to the tone of that film.

The main secondary idea is a bouncy little scherzo for clarinet, glockenspiel, and tapped hi-hat cymbals which offers a few moments of comedy hi-jinks, and which features prominently in “Mel is Back For Real,” “In the Office,” and “Comedy Tragedy”. Targosz also co-wrote two original songs in English, “Gibon” and “Something Missing,” which feature prominently in the film. “Gibon” is performed by the gravel-voiced Krzysztof Kubiś and features an unexpected combination of contemporary rock and Spanish flamenco vibes, while “Something Missing” is performed by Beata Bednarz and is a sentimental romantic ballad with lush 1950s-style string arrangements.

There is a commercial soundtrack for Listy do M. 3, a massive 2-CD extravaganza that features five tracks from Targosz’s score (“Opening Titles,” “Almost Warsaw Love Theme,” “Letters to Santa Main Theme,” “Wojciech and Mel” and “Comedy Tragedy), and the two original songs, plus pretty much every Christmas pop song you can possibly think of, ranging from classics by Brenda Lee, Andy Williams, Perry Como, and Tony Bennett, to contemporary covers by people like Kylie Minogue, and several Polish pop stars. This promo, which was put together by Targosz for awards consideration, contains the same original music from the commercial soundtrack, plus five additional cues which flesh out the score’s main recurring themes and ideas.

Track Listing: 1. Opening Titles (0:58), 2. Letters to Santa Main Theme (1:30), 3. Gibon (performed by Krzysztof Kubiś) (1:43), 4. Almost Warsaw Love Theme (2:06), 5. Mel is Back For Real (2:16), 6. Warsaw Love (0:54), 7. In the Office (1:19), 8. Wojciech and Mel (1:28), 9. Comedy Tragedy (1:27), 10. Something Missing (performed by Beata Bednarz) (1:55), 11. All Themes and Other Important Notes (2:11), 12. Letters to Santa – Spiccato Reprise (1:46). Promo, 19 minutes 33 seconds.

 

MOOMINS AND THE WINTER WONDERLAND – Łukasz Targosz

Moomins and the Winter Wonderland [Muumien Taikatalvi in its native language] is a Finnish-Polish animated film directed by Jakub Wronski and Ira Carpelan. For those who don’t know, the Moomins are an immensely popular group of children’s characters created by Swedish author Tove Jansson; basically, they are family of small, white, slightly depressed but philosophical hippopotamus-like creatures who live in a fairytale version of Lappland, where they have various magical adventures. It’s all very Scandinavian, but the Moomins were also very popular in the UK when I was growing up, meaning I have an odd affinity for the characters. Moomins and the Winter Wonderland is the 10th Moomin story to be made into either a movie or a TV show since they debuted in print in 1947, and tells of what happens when Moomintroll – the youngest Moomin – decides to stay awake for the winter instead of hibernating as usual, and experiences the season first time. It features the voices of Alicia Vikander, Stellan Skarsgård, and Bill Skarsgård.

The score Moomins and the Winter Wonderland is by the Polish composer Łukasz Targosz, who makes wonderful use of the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra to bring his magical music to life. Targosz’s score is a perfect match for the Moomins. The music is elegant, pastoral, magical, and filled with gorgeous passages which highlight soft strings, feather-light woodwinds, expressive pianos, and wintry orchestrations including chimes, bells, glockenspiel, and very soft synths. The Moomins themselves often tend to have a slightly melancholy attitude, and this is often apparent in Targosz’s score too: the music is never happy per se, but instead has a slightly wistful, thoughtful quality which I find very appealing.

Several cues stand out. The opening “Welcome to the Valley” features some beautiful writing for solo oboe. “Mysterious Forest Creatures” has curious, playful quality to it, with especially evocative sequences for harp and piano that perfectly capture a wintry feel. The “Little My Theme” is mischievous, and features a playful little bassoon melody that darts around the orchestra accompanied by all types of ticking, clacking, and tinkling from the percussion section.

“Ira’s Winter Waltz” sounds exactly as you would expect it to sound – a perfectly judged classical pastiche accompanied by snowy seasonal accents. “The Great Cold Lady” features an icy operatic soprano solo that sounds like cut glass, whereas “Banjo Health Anthem” and “Royal Dinner for an Imperial Dog” feel like something Alexandre Desplat might write for a Wes Anderson film, awash as they are with banjos, Jews harps, and snare drums. “Pappa in the Kitchen” has a definite Danny Elfman vibe, filled with delicate prancing ideas and a sense of charming comedy tomfoolery. “Surfing to Autumn” has a delightful flute solo of great stylishness, and the conclusive “Final Reprise” allows the orchestra to rise to its fullest and lushest heights with one last statement of the score’s main thematic ideas.

The score is bookended by two beautiful songs – “Longing for Summer” co-written and performed by Swedish vocalist Andrea Eklund, and “Bring the Snow!” performed by Japanese-Australian pop star Sarah Àlainn – which are tender, intimate, and gorgeously rendered, with some stunning orchestral crescendos. There’s also a lovely intentional hat-tip to Edvard Grieg’s “In the Hall of the Mountain King” from Peer Gynt in the wondrous “Curious Dog Meets Grieg for a Moment in the Hall of a Mountain,” as well as an incorporation of melodies from the end credits song, ‘Jingle Bells’, and ‘Silent Night’ in the lovely “Bring the Snow and the Other Important Christmas Themes“. In fact, much of the score gives me a Tchaikovsky-esque vibe, perhaps similar to Peter and Wolf, and this absolutely intended to be a compliment.

Unlike contemporaries such as Jan Kaczmarek, Abel Korzeniowski, or even Bartosz Chajdecki, Łukasz Targosz does not have large international profile outside of Poland, and this needs to change; when he’s writing music as good as this for something as seemingly throwaway as a Christmas-themed Moomins movie, there’s clearly serious talent in play, and it needs to be heard by a bigger audience. The score is not available on CD, but is available for digital download via most of the usual online retailers.

Track Listing: 1. Longing for Summer (performed by Andrea Eklund) (2:25), 2. Welcome to the Valley (2:31), 3. Mysterious Forest Creatures (4:28), 4. Little My Theme (2:14), 5. Tick Me to the Scare (1:32), 6. Ira’s Winter Waltz (1:57), 7. Counting Sheep (2:36), 8. The Great Cold Lady (0:56), 9. Curious Dog Meets Grieg for a Moment in the Hall of a Mountain (5:17), 10. Banjo Health Anthem (1:56), 11. Mamma’s Christmas Investigation (1:50), 12. Pappa in the Kitchen (3:14), 13. Royal Dinner for an Imperial Dog (3:14), 14. To Snow or Not to Snow (5:00), 15. Surfing to Autumn (1:38), 16. Winter Legends (2:28), 17. Bring the Snow and the Other Important Christmas Themes (3:44), 18. Final Reprise (5:13), 19. Bring the Snow! (performed by Sarah Àlainn) (3:27). Playground Music, 55 minutes 43 seconds.

 

Advertisements
  1. No comments yet.
  1. February 1, 2018 at 10:00 am

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s