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PAN TADEUSZ – Wojciech Kilar


Original Review by Craig Lysy

Poland had a decade earlier thrown off the foreign shackles of Russian domination, yet the country was struggling to regain its identity, and find its place in the world. Against this backdrop, the great Polish director Andrrzej Wajda conceived for his next project a grand tale based on Adam Mickiewicz’s epic 1834 poem Pan Tadeusz. The poem is considered by Poles to be the greatest achievement in Polish literature and by most professors of literature to be the last epic poem in European literature. Wajda describes it as “a great story that focuses on our national characteristics. The Poles in Pan Tadeusz are the same as we are now: sometimes wise, sometimes stupid. It’s basically a picture of how we are now and allows us to look at ourselves and see who we are and where we’re going.” Wajda pitched his idea to several studios and secured funding from a conglomerate of twelve companies. He would direct and write the screenplay, and Lew Rywin would produce. A fine cast was assembled, which included; Boguslaw Linda as Jacek Soplica/Father Robak, Michal Zebrowski as Tadeusz Soplica, Alicia Bachleda-Curus as Zosia Horeszko, Grazyna Szapolowska as Telimena, Andrzej Seweryn as Judge Soplica, and Marek Kondrat as Count Horeszko.

The story unfolds with flashbacks by Mickiewicz telling his tale to aged, fellow émigrés in Paris. It is set in the year 1811 in occupied Poland-Lithuania, which has been partitioned by the Prussian, Austro-Hungarian and Russian Empires. Poles yearn to regain their freedom and independence, and a promise by Napoleon to grant this if Poles support his campaign against Russia has offered hope. Woven into this larger narrative is a bitter blood feud between two Houses, the Soplicas and the Horeszkos. When the Russians attacked the Horeszko castle, Jacek Soplica betrayed his countrymen, sided with the Russians, and killed the patriarch of the family Count Horeszko. The Russians rewarded his treachery with the Horeszko castle, which earned the enmity of House Horeszko. Against this backdrop we have a love story filled with hunts, aristocratic balls, and battles. The film was submitted to the Academy Awards for consideration but did not secure a nomination. Yet it achieved tremendous success at the Polish Film Awards, earning eleven nominations, winning eight for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Cinematography, Best Editing, Best Actress, Best Production Design, Best Sound and Best Film Score. Commercially the film was a major success in Poland, yet unlike earlier Wajda films did not perform well internationally. In the end it was profitable making $12.5 million or two and a half times its production costs of $5 million.

Wajda had enjoyed his two previous collaborations with Wojciech Kilar, with Kronika Wypadkow Milosnych in 1986 and Korczak in 1990 and so offered him the assignment. He relates that one day an envelope was brought to him with a CD and a note, which read: “Andrzej, I wrote you a polonaise. This is how I imagine your film. Go ahead.” So overtaken was Wajda with the music that he stated, “His music basically imposed its vision of the film on me.” His decision to give Kilar free reign was well founded as the polonaise gained such widespread recognition and love among Poles that it replaced the Chopin piece, which traditionally was played to open high school proms. Kilar understood that the film was an epic period piece, where he would have to speak to issues of love, war, treachery and revenge. To that end he created several themes and set pieces, military marches and two beautiful love themes to support the grand narrative. The Nostalgia Theme offers one of Kilar’s finest compositions filled with a breath-taking pastoral beauty. It is associated with the expansive and verdant imagery of the rolling hills and meadows of the Lithuanian homeland. There is a wistfulness in the notes carried by soothing violins and later celli tranquillo, warm French horns with adornment by bubbling woodwind passages. The melody flows like a gentle stream, carrying us with its tender currents. The Polish Theme emotes with a classic ABA construct. It serves as a solemn anthem of the Polish people’s suffering and quest to regain their independence. It offers lyrical nine-note phrasing carried by strings solenne. The tempo and articulation of both phrases are very similar, with the B Phrase being more aspirational and offering greater lyricism. There is a strength, determination and nobility in the notes, which speak to the cherished dream of a free and independent Poland.

The Polonaise Theme is perhaps one of the finest compositions in Kilar’s canon. It offers the classic slow Polish dance in triple time, which consists of an intricate march or procession. It has a free-flowing exuberance carried by a solo oboe, which transfers to flute, to trumpet and finally full orchestra. There are two gorgeous love themes, some of the finest Kilar have ever written. The string laden Love Theme #1 speaks to the love between Tadeusz and Telimena, but also when she is rejected by Tadeusz, her love for Count Horeszko. It offers a classic ABA construct. Its repeating phrases impart a Barryesque sensibility, achieving an aching beauty so full of yearning. The repeating five-note A Phrase is carried by lush violins romantico supported by a cello passacaglia underneath. The B Phrase sustains the five-note phrasing, but is more forthright and ardent in its longing. Love Theme #2 speaks to the love between Tadeusz and Zosia, but also serves as Zosia’s personal identity. It too offers a classic ABA construct with repeating five-note phrases, which again impart a Barryesque sensibility. Unlike the first love theme, this one’s articulation is more innocent, more dreamlike with the primary violin line alternating with a solo flute gentile as the celli passacaglia churns below. The Country House Theme supports the Count’s recruits eating from the Soplica spoils and is carried by swaying strings gentile and a steady percussive cadence.

There are three March Motifs associated with war; the first is a classic Marcia Militare propelled with kinetic tympani and snare drum rhythms, trumpets sforzato with xylophone adornment. The second is the Marzo di Napoleon, which serves as the identity of Napoleon Bonaparte, and by extension the French troops. It offers what I believe to be the finest of the three marches, and emotes with a classic ABA construct. Its A Phrase is empowered by a martial drum cadence, with regal declarations by French horns and trumpets. I discern allusions in the fanfare to the French revolutionary anthem Le Marseille. The B Phrase sustains the drum cadence, but provides greater lyricism born by woodwinds. The concluding A Phrase transfers the melodic line to strings for a sumptuous performance. The third march, the Marcia Polonaise is unique in that it incorporates the triple rhythms of the Polonaise. Lastly, we have the Hunting Theme, which supports the call and thrill of the hunt. It is empowered by resounding horn declarations and kinetic percussive force.

In “Main Title” the flow of the opening credits is carried with a wistful rendering of the Nostalgia Theme. At 0:24 we enter the film proper carried by the dance cadence of the Polonaise Theme, which offers the classic slow Polish dance in triple time. Oboe gentile, which later transfers to flute, support images of the ex-patriot Polish community living in Paris, and the melody carries us through its streets. This music is not provided on the album. We come to Adam Mickiewicz’s apartment where he relates the sadness and estrangement of living as outcasts in a foreign land. He dreams of life back in the motherland and we flashback to the verdant rolling hills of Lithuania crowned with a billowy sea of clouds in “Inwokacja” a wondrous score highlight. As the film title displays and the credits roll, Kilar graces us with a full rendering of the Nostalgia Theme. Its wistful notes are carried by soothing violins and later celli tranquillo, joined by warm French horns with harp glissandi adornment, which float atop flowing streams of bubbling woodwinds. We see Tadeusz riding home to his estate in a cart carried by pastoral auras. The confluence of cinematography and music is sublime.

Tadeusz enters his house, goes to his bedroom, and is perplexed to find it cluttered. He looks out the window and becomes transfixed when he sees the beautiful Zosia frolicking in the flower garden adorned by butterflies. Kilar supports the magical moment with their Love Theme, which is emoted from his perspective. Yet he startles her and she flees. The album does not provide music for this scene. The solemn nobility of Polish Theme carries his arrival to the estate where he is warmly greeted by his uncle, the Judge. He displays his happiness that Tadeusz has returned from his studies. The music for this scene is not provided on the album. In a scene change, the Count Horeszko meets with Gerwazy, the castle’s caretaker who relates his outrage at the treachery of House Soplica. A flashback reveals the Russian attack on the castle and the Count’s brother’s heroic defense. The battle and the Count’s death are supported by the triple rhythms of the Marcia Polonaise. Music for this scene is not provided on the album. Uncle Soplica decides to hold a feast in the castle and it is here that Tadeusz meets and becomes enraptured by the charming and loquacious Telimena, who is considerably older than him. The Polish Theme supports the gathering before yielding to film dialogue. This scene is also not supported on the album.

“Swiatynia Dumania” offers a supreme score highlight where Kilar graces us with a rapturous extended exposition of Tadeusz and Telimena’s Love Theme. Mickiewicz’s continues his tale in Paris supported by the theme’s romanticism as we flashback to scenes of veiled women picking flowers among the birch trees filled with birdsong. As Tadeusz and Telimena are enjoying a respite together, the Count intrudes and flirts with her, revealing his intent to gain her affections. In a scene change it is nightfall and we see cows being brought in from the fields, and the ladies returning from the forests carried by languorous melody of the Nostalgia Theme. This scene is not supported by the album. An estate hand declares that a bear has been sighted and the alarm raised as Uncle Soplica orders a hunting party be assembled in the morning. In “Polowanie” the hunting team assembles, which Kilar supports with the Hunter’s Theme’s rousing, classic hunting fanfare declarations, soon joined and embellished by woodwinds. At 0:45 a cello ostinato joins to raise tension as they confront the bear and repeatedly shoot, buttressed by pounding timpani until it at last it collapses and dies at 1:20 to a gong strike.

“Echo” reveals the men sounding the horn of victory as they prepare to drink and celebrate the kill. Horns resound with repeating declarations of the first three notes of the Nostalgia Theme answered by string echoes. In a scene change Zosia is tending to her garden and the Count scales the wall and flirts with her. Her theme carries the moment, but we see in her eyes that she is not attracted to the Count. This scene is not supported on the album. “Tadeusz i Zosia” reveals Telimena deciding that at 14 years of age it is time to introduce Zosia, her ward, to society. She gifts her a beautiful green dress and Zosia is ecstatic. At the party, Zosia’s Theme unfolds with an exquisite exposition, which supports the scene as we see Tadeusz’s attraction to her. In “Mrówki” we have a delightful score highlight and a woodwinds lover’s dream come true. Tadeusz departs the party to take in some fresh air and as he strolls through the woods, he finds Telimena acting strangely, falling to the ground repeatedly and shaking her raised legs. He discovers the cause, as he too scratches to discover swarming ants. To support this comic moment Kilar provides a playful scherzo animato where the melodic line transfers from oboe, to clarinet to bassoon. It reprises the melody over and over again as she rises and falls over and over again in a futile effort to escape the ants in her petticoats. Eventually Tadeusz comes to her aid and as he plucks them from her chest, a decelerando carries their eyes meeting, and a kiss. This scene was perfectly scored.

In “Tomasz, Karabele!” Count Horeszko is dining in the castle with the Soplica family. Gerwazy enters and rages against the Count for dining with the Soplica’s who he declares have no rights to this castle, which they stole. This forces the Count’s hand who also declares his outrage, which precipitates a fight. Kilar supports the animosity and fight with the ever-shifting celli driven martial ostinato buttressed by timpani of the Marcia Polonaise. In the aftermath Father Robak implores the Judge that it was Jacek’s intent to atone for his sins by giving back the castle and lands to House Horeszko and then uniting the two Houses through the marriage of his son Tadeusz and Count Horeszko’s granddaughter Zosia. He then exhorts the judge to make amends with the Count so they may unite a rebellion to assist Napoleon liberate Poland. This tense scene was not scored. “Tadeusz i Telimena” reveals Tadeusz and Telimena quarreling as he rebuffs her solicitation to marry, advising her that he loves Zosia. Telimena is enraged at his betrayal and orders him to leave. Kilar supports the tense scene with a plaintive rendering of their Love Theme by strings doloroso.

The Count has recruited the local gentry and peasants and raids the Soplica’s estate, imprisoning them in their home and appropriating all their livestock and supplies. In “Zascianek” the Count’s recruits eat and drink at an inn from the Soplica spoils. The swaying strings gentile and a steady percussive cadence of the Country House Theme supports ambiance. “Bitwa” reveals Russian troops moving in to ambush the drunk and sleeping Polish rebel troops of Count Horeszko. Kilar empowers them with the brutal Marcia Militare, propelled with kinetic tympani and snare drum rhythms, trumpets sforzato with menacing xylophone. At 0:49 a crescendo builds on xylophone strikes as they surprise the Poles. We crest with the xylophone strikes mirroring the men being hammered into stocks. As the men sit exposed in the pouring rain the sad strains of the Country House Theme return to mark their misery. This scene is not supported on the album. The Judge provides drink and food to the Russian officers, but when they begin to manhandle the women Tadeusz strikes the Major and a fight erupts, joined by the Polish rebels who have managed to escape. Yet swords are no match for the rifles of the Russians who systematically mow down the Poles with one volley after another. Kilar drives the carnage with the brutality of the Marcia Militare. This battle scene is not provided on the album.

Tadeusz in an audacious act of defiance fights with a single rifle against great odds. He then in a call to honor challenges the Major to single combat to resolve the fight. When the Major selects his Captain in his stead, the Count who is an excellent swordsman agrees to fight in Tadeusz’s stead. As the fight begins, Kilar introduces his Marcia Polonaise, which emotes with martial sensibilities carried by the triple rhythms of the polonaise – a brilliant conception. When the loathsome Major orders a private to murder the Count, the shot misses and causes an outrage among the Poles who storm the Russians with loaded rifles and swords. The dance rhythms of the Marcia Polonaise, sustains the battle as the Major and the bulk of the men flee, standing the Captain and a two dozen men. When the Judge calls on the Captain to surrender for the sake of his men, he does so with honor. The surrender scene is supported by “Kochajmy Sie”, which offers a magnificent score highlight, and one of its most heartfelt moments. As the Judge commemorates the victory, he portends hard times ahead, for the Russians will return in force. Yet he offers hope that they may see the day when they can return to liberate Lithuania. The scene abounds with patriotic aspiration and Kilar supports with a stirring six-and-a-half-minute full rendering of the Polish Theme.

The Judge insists that Tadeusz marry Zosia, yet Tadeusz hesitates, admitting that while he loves her, he feels unworthy and in any event is leaving for a long trip abroad. The Judge and Father Rabok convince him to become betrothed and he is blessed as he departs. As Tadeusz prepares to depart Zosia presents him with a picture of herself and hopes for his safe return. A soft rendering of the Polish Theme supports the parting. The music for this scene begins at 4:07 of the “Kochajmy Sie” cue. As the Count departs Telimena bids him farewell with her scarf, a token of her love. Her Love Theme supports her heartfelt expression. During the battle, Father Roback (Jacek Soplica) shielded his brother and was mortally wounded. In “Smierc Jacka Soplicy” he is on his death bed, bleeding out from his wounds. He stuns Gerwazy with the confession that he is Jacek Soplica, and that he did not support the Russian assault, further he did not intend to kill the Count, as he did not even aim the rifle. The dance rhythms of the Marcia Polonaise support the flashback, but are not provided on the album. As Gerwazy realizes that Jacek saved both the Count and his life in the recent battle, he considers the debt paid and relents in killing Jacek. As we see Jacek’s slow expiation, Kilar supports his passing with a grieving solo oboe elegy, reprised by violins doloroso. He dies content as news arrives that Napoleon has declared war on Russia.

“Rok 1812” offers an inspired score highlight. We see French troops marching in formation across the Lithuanian countryside, past gorgeous vistas of verdant, flower adorned rolling hills, pristine sparkling lakes and skies filled with billowy clouds. Kilar supports the scene with a full rendering of his Marzo di Napoleone. The martial drum cadence, with regal declarations by French horns and trumpets empowers the marching troops and a perfect confluence of cinematography and music is achieved. In a scene change we see the Judge and Gerwazy discuss and toast to the future joining of Houses Horeszko and Soplica with the marriage of Tadeusz and Zosia, as well as the rejoining of Poland and Lithuania. Kilar supports the scene with a solemn rendering of the Polish Theme. The music for this scene is not provided on the album. In “Koncert Jankiela” Zosia pleads with the Jew Jankiel to play his divine dulcimer with the small ensemble in honor of her betrothal. He does so and dazzles us with auras of the Levant. This cue serves as a prelude, which ushers in another magnificent score highlight with “Polonez” where Kilar graces us with his Polonaise Theme. A reception has been provided for the French military officers by the Polish aristocracy and military officers. As the guests rise to dance, Kilar supports the formal elegance with this classic slow Polish dance in triple time, which has a free-flowing exuberance. The melody opens on solo oboe, which transfers to flute, trumpet and finally full orchestra. As the dancers lock hands and flow in graceful elegance, a perfect confluence of music and film is achieved. At 2:45 we change scenes to Paris where the softer dance rhythms carry the camera’s journey across the many faces of ex-patriots dreaming of the motherland.

We close the film with “Inwokacja” a cue which combines dialogue and music. We have returned to Paris atop the music of the Polonaise. At 0:49 the pastoral beauty of the Nostalgia Theme returns as Mickeiewicz speaks of his love of his beloved homeland. He pines of his desire to visit the shrine of the Holy Virgin of Czestochowa to thank God for his life, and that his grieving soul may someday return the Lithuania’s rolling hills, green meadows, the fields of golden wheat and silvery rye, and the blue waters of the river Niemen. As he speaks his words are reflected by vistas of his homeland, replete with storks soaring against billowy white cloudscapes. The film concludes with a stunningly beautiful confluence of film cinematography, spoken narrative and music. The Nostalgia Theme is sustained to support the roll of the End Credits, and then gives way to a sumptuous performance of the Polonaise. The music for the End Titles was not provided on the album. Lastly, there are two remaining cues titled “Soplicowo”, which are provided, one offers a Polish language pop song by Grzegorz Turnau, lyrics by Aleksander Leszek Moczulski, and the second an instrumental version of the song. A Youtube video search reveals that the music is inspired by the film and unfolds as scenes of the film are displayed.

I am most thankful for this release of his masterpiece Pan Taduesz. The recording and mastering are of excellent quality and provide an enjoyable listening experience. It suffices to say that Pan Tadeusz merits a release of the complete score. The epic poem is cherished by Poles and Kilar understood that he would have to rise to the occasion to due justice to Mickeiewicz’s masterpiece and Wajda’s vision. I believe he succeeded on all counts. He wrote a multiplicity of fine themes, including the Polish Theme, which captured the film’s emotional core, the long suffering of the Polish people, and their aspiration to regain their independence. Additionally, he provided two rapturous love themes, three military marches, and a wondrous Polonaise, which won the hearts of the Polish people. What is so remarkable about Kilar’s creation is how in scene after scene his music and Wajda’s cinematography attain a breath-taking confluence. I consider this score to be Kilar’s Magnum Opus, a gem from the closing year of the Bronze Age, and an essential purchase for film score lovers. I submit to film score label executives that on this 20th anniversary of the film, that this masterwork be afforded a complete release.

For those of you unfamiliar with the score I have embedded a YouTube link for the rapturous Love Theme for Tadeusz and Telimena: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ay2qxQTQZ_M

Buy the Pan Tadeusz soundtrack from the Movie Music UK Store

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)

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. Album produced by Wojciech Kilar.

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