Home > Reviews > LEV YASHIN: THE DREAM GOALKEEPER – George Kallis

LEV YASHIN: THE DREAM GOALKEEPER – George Kallis

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Lev Yashin is widely considered to be one of the greatest football goalkeepers of all time. Nicknamed the ‘Black Spider’ for his habit of wearing an all-black uniform, he was a revolutionary figure in the game, and essentially invented the modern concept of a ‘keeper who is in control of his entire defense. He played for his club team, Dynamo Moscow, for 20 years, and played 74 times for the Soviet Union national team, including at the 1956 Olympics, and in four consecutive World Cups between 1958 and 1970. This new film, Lev Yashin: The Dream Goalkeeper, is a Russian-made biopic of Yashin’s life, charting all his major accomplishments prior to his death in 1990 at the age of 60. It stars Aleksandr Fokin as Yashin, and was directed by Vasiliy Chiginskiy.

The score for Lev Yashin is by the Cyprus-born Los Angeles-based composer George Kallis. Despite having no geographic or personal ties to the region Kallis has scored several Russian films in his career – Gagarin: First in Space in 2013 was one of the first films that brought him to the attention of international audiences, while the lavish fantasy The Last Warrior in 2017 remains one of the best scores of his career to date. Kallis is one of those terrific old-school composers who still thinks in terms of melodic, emotional, and orchestral power, and Lev Yashin is yet another one of those types of scores. It’s necessarily a little less bombastic than something like The Last Warrior, or Albion: The Enchanted Stallion which was released the same year, and it doesn’t have the specific ethnic sound of something like The Black Prince or Cliffs of Freedom, but what Yashin has in spades is heart. It also helps that Kallis himself is a huge football fan – he wrote an original piece of rousing orchestral music commissioned by his hometown team, APOEL Nicosia, many years ago, and he remains a passionate follower of Thrylos in his spare time – so he understands who Yashin was, and how important he was to the game.

The opening cue, “Driving Through Moscow,” is an unexpectedly pastoral piece, which begins a little wistfully, a little contemplative, but eventually engages in some gorgeous flowing writing for strings, piano, soft brass, and even some contemporary drumbeats and subtle guitar chords. The orchestral phrasing in cues like this, and several others, is intended to intentionally evoke the musical sound of Russian cinema in the 1960s, especially that of composers like Vyacheslav Ovchinnikov, and Kallis’s work here does indeed suggest that specific time and place with great authenticity.

There are several recurring themes that weave throughout the score for Lev Yashin. Lev himself has two themes: the first is a warm, inviting, inspirational piece that first appears during the conclusion of “Yakushin’s Advice,” and receives what is probably its most emotional statement in the heartfelt “Fishing and Remembering”. There is a gorgeous love theme that represents the warm relationship between Lev and his wife Valya which is most prominent in “Lev and Valya” (natch), a duet for violin and piano with a romantic orchestral backing, built around an effortlessly beautiful central melody.

The concept of football itself has a couple of recurring ideas, which blends together some more energetic and dynamic rhythmic writing flavored with acknowledgements of Lev’s theme. Cues like “Mirroring Khomich” and especially “Training” are intended to reflect Yashin’s constant need to improve himself by pushing himself to the very edge of physical and mental capabilities, especially as he compares himself to Alexei Khomich, his predecessor between the posts for Dynamo Moscow. Much of this music puts heavy emphasis on pianos, which are strong and purposeful, and are surrounded by thrillingly bold orchestral colors. This style of music also bleeds through into the music that accompanies actual games; “Dynamo vs Torpedo” features driving rhythmic cello pulses and tapped cymbals overlaid with a noble, strong melody that moves between strings and brass. “European Champions” is quite emotional, becoming more and more vibrant as it develops, moving through a sequence of wonderfully energetic action music and culminating in a glorious finale complete with choir as the Soviet Union team celebrates their victory in the 1960 European Championships.

The flip side of this comes in “Flashback: The Loss in Chile,” which begins and ends with some flamboyant bossa nova rhythms and an array of carnival-esque vocal source music, but is most important for its in-game music, which is dark and more intense. This represents Yashin’s anguish at being responsible for the loss that knocked his team out of the 1962 World Cup – a devastating blow for the European champions – and continues on through cues such as “Arriving Back Home” and especially “The Loss Was Down to Yashin,” which are solemn, emotional, and obviously more than a little downcast, featuring prominent pianos and a distorted version of Lev’s theme. The subsequent “Rock Through the Window” is a reflection of the Soviet public’s reaction to Yashin’s error, and is underpinned with a genuine sadness.

However, during the score’s finale, Kallis returns to a much more uplifting musical style, as in the twilight of his career Yashin is formally recognized for his contributions to the beautiful game. In 1963 Yashin received the “Ballon d’Or,” one of the most prestigious personal awards in all of football, and to this day he remains the only goalkeeper to have received it. The cue that underscores that scene begins with a more modern sound, featuring synth pulses underneath striking, driving orchestral lines, but ends with a new anthemic theme – Lev’s second theme – which has an almost magical sound. “Farewell” is perhaps the most overtly Russian sounding cue in the score, a power anthem complete with choir that reaches almost Zimmer-esque heights of positivity.

Both of Lev’s themes feature prominently in “Alone by the Goalpost,” which underscores Yashin’s emotional return to the old Central Dynamo Stadium in Moscow, the scene of all his greatest sporting triumphs, as he reflects on his life and career. Kallis’s intimate piano writing here is just beautiful, and as the music grows in power and emotion, and incorporates a choir, he switches effortlessly between both themes. This style of writing continues on into the conclusive “Best in History,” which again features both of Lev’s themes, and is inspirational and sweeping.

It would also be remiss of me not to mention the score’s original song, “Mon Premier Amour,” a wonderful piece of 1960s French pastiche written by Kallis’s orchestrator Apostalos Papapostolou and performed by singer/actress Eliza Gerontakis who – despite being Greek – performs it with a sultry Gallic lilt in her voice.

I know I’ve written versions of this paragraph before, about George Kallis and about other composers, but it’s still a wonderful surprise whenever I come across a contemporary film score that is not afraid to engage in emotion, features beautiful and lyrical melodies, and which uses a symphony orchestra to the fullest extent. My only complaint – yet again – is that so many of these scores are being written for films far removed from the Hollywood core; Kallis himself seems to specialize in Russian films like this one and The Last Warrior, pan-European productions like Cliffs of Freedom or The Black Prince, and never gets a sniff at anything like a major American studio film. It’s so frustrating because Kallis is so talented, and his music is so good, a winning combination of warmth and heart and compositional musical excellence. Lev Yashin: The Dream Goalkeeper, despite being written for a film that will likely never see the light of day in American cinemas, is absolutely worth investigating for those exact reasons, and acknowledgement must be given yet again to Mikael Carlsson and his record label Movie Score Media for continuing to champion scores like this, and composers like Kallis.

Buy the Lev Yashin: The Dream Goalkeeper soundtrack from the Movie Music UK Store

Track Listing:

  • Driving Through Moscow (2:00)
  • Dynamo vs Torpedo (2:06)
  • Valya’s Handshake (1:27)
  • Yakushin’s Advice (2:52)
  • Mirroring Khomich (1:14)
  • Writing on a Ball (1:43)
  • European Champions (4:46)
  • Lev and Valya (1:26)
  • Flashback: The Loss in Chile (3:01)
  • Arriving Back Home (1:35)
  • The Loss Was Down to Yashin (4:28)
  • Mon Premier Amour (written by Apostalos Papapostolou, performed by Eliza Gerontakis) (1:21)
  • Rock Through the Window (2:23)
  • Training (1:38)
  • Fishing and Remembering (1:55)
  • Ballon d’Or (3:36)
  • Farewell (1:46)
  • Alone by the Goalpost (2:49)
  • Best in History (1:44)

Running Time: 43 minutes 51 seconds

Keepmoving Records KMRCD-042/Moviescore Media MMS-20007 (2020)

Music composed by George Kallis. Conducted by Vladislav Lavrik. Performed by The Moscow Chamber Orchestra. Orchestrations by Kostas Christides, Michael Eastwood, Kevin Smithers, Apostalos Papapostolou, Guillermo Ruano, Nikiforos Chrysoloras and George Karpasitis. Recorded and mixed by Gennady Papin. Album produced by George Kallis and Dmitry Shlykov.

  1. Eddie
    April 7, 2020 at 1:55 pm

    Are you going to review “The invisible Man” by Ben Wallfisch? It was a rescue score and they did an amazing job in a short time!! The score totally transformed the movie into an incredible thriller!!

    • April 22, 2020 at 2:00 am

      Probably not. I didnt care for it all that much, and I prefer to write about scores I’m enthusiastic about,

  1. No trackbacks yet.

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 )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google 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 )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.