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TARAS BULBA – Franz Waxman

November 9, 2020 Leave a comment Go to comments


Original Review by Craig Lysy

Robert Aldrich, a producer, director and screenwriter had for many years been crafting a script for his dream project, adapting the 1895 novella Taras Bulba by Nikolai Gogol for the big screen. After five scripts he believe he had at last created a “sensational” screenplay. The project moved forward in 1959, but foundered when financing failed. Aldrich fell into debt, and was forced to sell the script to Joseph Kaufman, an agent for producer Harold Hecht for $100,000. Harold Hecht Productions would finance the film with United Artists distributing. A budget of $6 million was provided and J. Lee Thompson was brought in to direct. A fine cast was assembled, which included Tony Curtis as Andrei Bulba, Yul Brynner as Taras Bulba, Christine Kaufman as Natalie Dubrov, and Perry Lopez as Ostap Bulba.

The film is set in Poland during the 16th century. Polish and Ottoman Turk troops are battling and the Ukrainian Cossacks arrive intending to assist the Poles defeat their common enemy. Well, after the Turks are dispatched the Poles treacherously turn on the Cossacks, defeat them and subjugate the Ukraine. Many years later Taras Bulba, a Cossack clan leader sends his two sons Andrei and Ostap to the Kiev Academy to obtain formal education. Andrei falls in love with a Polish Princess, which causes a scandal and the expulsion of the brothers. It comes to pass that the Poles again call upon the Cossacks to aid them in a new Baltic war. They come under Taras’ leadership and repay their earlier treachery by attacking them and driving them into the city. The subsequent siege causes plague and Andrei sneaks into the city to save his beloved Natalia. He is caught, but averts death by agreeing to raid the Cossacks and bring back their cattle to feed the starving inhabitants. Fate brings father and son together on the battlefield where Taras slays Andrei. Taras then conquers the city of Dubno and allows his son to be buried there as it is now a Cossack city. The film was a commercial failure, earning $3.4 million, with production costs of 6.0 million. It received universal scathing criticism from critics, although it did secure one Academy Award nomination for Best Film Score.

Hecht’s first choice to score his film was Bronislau Kaper, a Polish émigré, however he was already attached to Mutiny on the Bounty and unavailable. He did however recommend Franz Waxman for the assignment. When Hecht made the offer, Waxman readily accepted. Waxman had recently completed a conducting tour of Russian classic works across the U.S.S.R., and his immersion in the Russian cultural idiom provided fertile ground and inspiration for creating his score. What is remarkable is that his five primary themes are all kindred in that they all commence “with the first two or three notes of a major or minor triad, arranged in different configurations; The Cossack Anthem 1-3-1-5-5, the Cossack Brotherhood 1-3-5-5, Natalia (The Wishing Star) 5-1-3-5, Zaparozhtzi 1-1-1-5-5, and Lullaby (The Birth of Andrei 1-5-5.

In assessing these five-primary themes, we start with the Brotherhood Theme, which speaks to warrior bond that exists the Cossack horsemen. It is richly ethnic with festive rhythms, howling horns, trilling woodwinds replete with tambourine accents. It emotes with a classic ABA construct with the A Phrase energetic, bold and unabashed in its brute masculine power. The driving horn rich declarations of the B Phrase speak of unbridled Cossack pride and confidence. In a masterstroke of conception Waxman brings Cossack horsemen identity to life. The Zaparozhtzi Theme speaks to the cultural identity, and pride of the freedom loving Zaparozhtzian Cossack people who inhabited the “Wild Fields” or Pontic Steppe of the Ukraine north of the Black Sea. It is very versatile in how it is rendered yet always true to its cultural core. When a war anthem it resounds as five-note declarations by horns bellicoso, yet it can also be festive when rendered as a drinking song such as in CD2 cue 12. The Cossack Anthem offers an aggressive war-like five-note battle anthem by unison horns of doom, which support Cossack attacks. Natalia’s Theme offers the score’s only feminine identity, which also functions as a love theme for her and Andrei. Warm strings romantico emote with a waltz like lyrical flow. Its refined sensibilities offer elegance, which contrast with the more rustic and untamed themes of the Cossacks. Andrei’s Lullaby offers a classic lullaby rendered in song form, which is for me the most beautiful theme of the score. It bears an elegant AABA construct with the A Phrase emoted by solo oboe delicato with celeste and harp adornment. The phrase reprises and with a solo flute replacing the oboe. The B Phrase is caried by strings tenero, and speak of heartfelt parental love. The concluding A Phrase is carried warmly by solo viola, again with celeste and harp adornment. My concluding observation is I discern a subtle tinge of sadness, an allusion that Taras’ pride will bring anguish to the family. The Warrior Motif offers a repeating three-note construct by woodwinds energico, which speak to the indomitable fighting spirit of the Cossack warrior. It usual emotes contrapuntally to the Brotherhood Theme, creating an aggressive synergy. The Clergy Motif supports members of the clergy, but not in a flattering way. Waxman utilizes sardonic bassoons and trombone to mock them. Lastly we have the Polish Anthem, which resounds with classic western martial fanfare, which contrasts with the more ethnic and eastern Cossack themes.

“Overture” offers a magnificent score highlight. We open boldly with refulgent fanfare declaring with pride the B Phrase of the Brotherhood Theme as we commence the roll of the opening credits, which display against a tapestry depicting the mounted duel between Taras Bulba and his son Andrei, Cossack culture and Polish culture. A bridge by strings furioso usher in the Brotherhood Theme at 0:14 challenged by a contrapuntal Warrior Motif. We sustain the kinetic drive at 0:47 with a segue into the confident horn declarations of the B Phrase. At 1:08 Natalia’s Theme ascends from silence on violins and celli romantico for a warm and sumptuous statement. We conclude powerfully at 1:40 with strings furioso, which launch the bold ethnic richness of the Brotherhood Theme A Phrase, ending with a flourish!

In “Turkish Invasion” narration reveals on a map the seemingly unstoppable expansion of the Ottoman Turk Empire. A grim marcia del destino supports their conquest of one kingdom after another, swelling monstrously as they reach the western frontier of Ukraine, which borders Poland. At 1:02 we segue into “Opening Battle furiously empowered by screeching upper register woodwinds, drums of war and trilling trumpets that kinetically support the battling Turkish and Polish armies. We see the Poles are being pummeled yet their General is calm, confident that the Cossacks will soon arrive. At 1:31 horns trionfali resound with the Brotherhood Theme as Taras leads the Cossack cavalry over the ridge in an aggressive charge against the Turks. At 2:06 unison horns declare the Zaparozhtzi Theme as we see the Cossacks routing the Turks and the Polish general disparaging their savagery. In the battle’s aftermath the Cossacks drink and celebrate in their camp as Taras meets with the Polish general. He advises that the Poles are here to stay in the Ukraine and that he is formally disbanding the Cossacks. At 2:22 we segue into “Horn Call” as a solitary horn announces an attack. At 2:27 we segue into “Polish Betrayal” an outstanding action cue where we see Polish artillery begin pummeling the Cossack camp supported by martial fanfare. An accelerando on strings energico launches an aggressive rendering of the Brotherhood Theme as an attack motif as Taras cuts off the arm of the Polish general and then leads his men in a charge against the Polish artillery batteries. Interspersed are numerous descent motifs, which support Cossack horsemen being mowed down by artillery strikes. At 3:20 the Cossack Anthem resounds on unison horns as the Cossacks overrun the Polish artillery batteries. Yet, they are forced to retreat and slowly, the energy drains from the anthem as we see the dispirited and beaten Cossacks crossing the Dnieper river in shame supported by strings dolente.

“Taras’ Pledge” supports a passage with some of Waxman’s finest writing for his score There are powerful emotions in play as Taras gives an impassioned speech where he orders the men to abandon their land, burn their homestead, and to move into the forests to bide time. His music masterfully supports Taras’ dialogue without being intrusive with a grim rendering of the Cossack Anthem by strings gravi. At 0:33 a stirring string ascent arises from bass, and then passes upwards in register through the celli, violas and then violins as Taras severs his scalp lock, a Cossack man’s cultural identifier, and defiantly pledges to one day avenge Polish treachery. This journey from despair to hope offers one of the score’s finest moments. At 1:56 tremolo violins and cello affanato support a change of scenes where we see Taras burning his homestead. He pulls up a young sapling to take with him as a memento of what he is leaving behind. As he and his pregnant wife depart, a powerful statement of the Cossack Anthem resounds from full orchestra and we bear witness to a stirring, heartfelt transformation as despair is transmuted to hope for the future. As Taras replants the sapling at their new home, we close with solo flute and piccolo solos, which support narration stating that the Cossacks dispersed to the forests and hills, and would bide their time until enough sons were born for them to avenge themselves against the Poles. In “The Birth of Andrei” Taras’ son is born. Waxman supports the joyous moment with Andrei’s Lullaby, the score’s most elegantly written and moving theme. A child crying brings Taras to the wagon where he is presented a son. The oboe delicato borne A Phrase supports his joy. He takes his son to the stream and baptizes him its waters at 0:44 supported by the Flute borne A Phrase. The String born B Phrase speaks to his paternal pride and carries a time change where we see Andrei as a boy being taught how to use a musket and saber.

“Young Andrei” offers another time change where we see Andrei and his brother Ostap developing their horse-riding skills, which are essential to a Cossack warrior. Waxman supports with an energetic rendering of the Zaparozhtzi Theme, which abounds with youthful exuberance. In the film we advance in time and see Andrei as a man drinking himself into a stupor as he and his brother are welcomed into the Cossack brotherhood as men. The Zaparozhtzi Theme is rendered as a song as Taras sings in the “Drinking Song” (CD 2, cue 12), which celebrates the joy of drinking. We return to the album at 0:19 with a segue into “The Priest”, where we see the arrival of their tutor. His arrival is supported by sardonic bassoons and trombone of the Clergy Motif. Taras restores his Cossack hair lock and then informs his sons that he is sending them to Kiev to obtain a Polish education, stating that to defeat the Pole, you must learn how he thinks. As the brothers depart at 0:45, Waxman supports the parting with a heartfelt rendering of the Zaparozhtzi Theme by solo English horn and the celli countered a retinue of woodwinds doloroso, which abound with warmth and familial love. At 1:45 the screen displays “Kiev” and we segue into “Arrival at Kiev” carried by refulgent trumpet declared fanfare joined with bubbling woodwinds gioioso. The woodwinds sour at 2:11 and are joined by a sardonic violin as Polish student disparage the brothers and order them to use the back entrance. At 2:26 Natalia boards her carriage supported by a formal rendering of her theme replete with chirping woodwinds. Andrei and her eyes lock and he is quite taken by her. A happy go lucky rendering of the Zaparozhtzi Theme carries the brothers into the academy courtyard where they are surrounded by, and repeated mocked by the Poles. At 3:18 we segue into “Students Fight” where Andrei has had enough and starts a fight marked by a drum thump, which initiates a torrent of frenzied albeit comic action by strings bellicoso and howling horns. The brothers are better fighters and are holding their own until 3:32 when a monk arrives supported by an extended rendering of the Clergy Motif by sardonic bassoons and trombone. They are taken to the Abbot who orders them flogged for their barbarity.

During a mass in “Kontakion for the Departed” (CD 2 cue 15) Andrei and Natalia again lock eyes, only this time we see a faint smile from her. Waxman supports the moment with a choral rendering of the solemn, yet beautiful traditional Russian Orthodox hymn “Vo Tzarstvie Tvoem”. “Amo, Amas, Amat” offers a beautiful score highlight where we are graced by an extended rendering of Natalia’s Theme. Andrei and Ostap are studying their Latin at an idyllic setting by a riverbank when Natalia arrives to read a book. He stares and is enraptured by her beauty despite Ostap’s admonition. Andrei recites Amo – I Love, Amas – Thou Lovest, and Amat – He loves. She is taken by him, but chooses to hide behind her book. Waxman supports the flirtation with a romantically tender rendering of her theme by a small ensemble of strings, woodwinds and zither with harp adornment. The confluence of his words, their mutual gazes and music are sublime. It is Christmas and Andrei, Ostap and the student chorus are singing the Christmas carol “Rise Ye Shepherds” as the Governor and Natalia view from the palace balcony. “Hunting Scene” was edited out of the film, but I am very pleased James Fitzpatrick chose to record Waxman’s conception using a traditional hunting motif. It offers a horn lover’s dream come true with 44 seconds of one of the finest examples of antiphonal fanfare in cinematic history. We segue back into the film at 0:45 in “Sleigh Ride” where Andrei and Ostap are up to mischief. A prancing sleighbell adorned melody carries Natalia’s carriage sled along the road. At 0:55 a descent motif by trilling woodwinds carry the brother’s madcap sled descent down the mountain, with interplay from Natalia’s Theme as we see her carriage approaching. Comic woodwinds support their crash at 1:26, with her warm theme replete with bubbling woodwinds carrying her to Andrei as she plants a pine branch on his snow encased head. Natalia and Andrei laugh and enjoy the moment supported by bubbling woodwinds. As she rejoins her brother, her sumptuous theme adorned with sleigh bells support her departure.

“Kiev Street” reveals Natalia’s carriage spraying Andrei with mud and almost running him over. When she offers him a handkerchief to wipe his face, he becomes transfixed by her beauty. A solo oboe tenero emotes her theme as we see love born in his eyes. A gorgeous romance for strings and woodwinds unfolds and captures the moment as we now see a nascent attraction in her eyes as he promises to return the handkerchief. She says for him to meet her at the Thief’s Market tomorrow. At 1:02 a sumptuous rendering of her theme carries her departure as a longing Andrei looks on. Her theme transforms into a waltz as she arrives home, runs up the stairs, and goes to the balcony to catch sight of him. Their eyes lock with the realization of love as a solo violin and then solo flute carry her theme. At 2:04 the brothers make a mad dash to beat curfew carried by frenetic strings and the Zaparozhtzi Theme on trumpet. Natalia watches them successfully climb the Academy walls supported by her theme, and their success is crowned with a triumphant major chord at 2:05. But it is short-lived as we close with a monk discovering their violation, supported by the sardonic Clergy Motif. In “The Thieves Market” Andrei meets Natalia at the market where he buys her some flowers as a token of love. Waxman supports the scene with a small ensemble of cimbalom, guitar, harp, piccolo, soprano saxophone and horns, which establish a pleasant and casual ambiance. The film version opens at 0:23 with the opening 0:22 for saxophone flipped to the scene’s end to support the flower gesture.

“Pastorale – The Wishing Star” reveals Andrei carrying Natalie on a stone path over a stream to an idyllic setting by the river bank. Mixed vocals accompanied by harpsichord sing a song version of her theme, “The Wishing Star” to celebrate their love. The confluence of melody and lyrics is gorgeous;

The wishing star, shines just by day, at no other time, just by day;
The wishing star, can only be seen, when true lovers kiss, so they say
You make a wish, on a summer night, then dream til dawn, when the sun is bright;
Then kiss your love, and look up above, if you see a star in the blue.

The wishing star, is shining for you, and you know your wish, will come true;
The wishing star, is shining for you, and, oh, your wish, will come true;
Your wish, oh, it will come true;
Kiss your love, look above, it will come true

At 0:34 Natalia begins to dance, which Andrei joins. Waxman supports the special moment with a delightful danza giocosa. At 1:06 we return to the song as our lovers kiss.

“The Duel” offers a dynamic action cue. Our lovers return to the city supported by Natalia’s Theme born by cello doloroso, tremolo violin, and gentle woodwind arabesques. They kiss and part, but the music becomes dissonant and portends doom. Andrei sneaks into bed and is chastised by Ostap as Natalia’s brothers enters with his guards. A tense, dark rendering of the Zaparozhtzi Theme supports their walk to Andrei’s bed, with the film inserting a dark fugal passage from CD 2, cue 2 to sow menace. At 1:37 strings irato surge as Andrei is yanked from his bed and prepared for flogging for violating a Polish woman. At 1:56 Waxman supports the flogging with howling horns and harsh drums, joined by slashing strings and woodwinds, which sync with the flog strikes. A timpani roll at 2:19 accompanies Alex’s threat to castrate Andrei, which elicits Ostap to seize the swords of two guards, fling one to Andrei and initiate a sword fight. Waxman whips his orchestra into frenzy with slashing strings mirroring the swordplay over a dire bass sustain. Andrei receives a shoulder wound, and Ostap intervenes with a lethal thrust that kills Alex at 3:03 as menacing tremolo strings and dire trombones portend doom. Repeating low register woodwind trills support the brother’s realization that they are now in mortal peril as they flee for their lives.

“Chase at Night” reveals the brothers fleeing the Academy and in search for horses carried by a tense Zaparozhtzi Theme. Waxman supports the pursuit with a kinetic powerhouse using strings and woodwinds furioso to propel their desperate effort to escape. At 0:40 menacing woodwinds, dire strings and martial snare drums support the assembly of mounted troops and angry student bearing torches. At 1:00 a grim liturgical rendering of the Clergy Theme supports Natalia’s father castigating her for the death of her brother, and then banishing her to Dubno. At 1:31 lush aggrieved strings inform us of her heart’s content as she flees from her father. At 1:43 muted horns initiate dire pursuit music by strings irato and martial snare drums as Natalia seeks escape. As they close in the motif swells monstrously, joined at 2:28 by the trumpet declared Zaparozhtzi Theme as Andrei is also searching for her. The Zaparozhtzi Theme on desperate strings joins with a beleaguered Natalia’s Theme as he sees her, yet it is for naught as she is captured. Andrei is surrounded at 2:53, pulls a horseman down, and flees at 3:03 propelled by frantic horns, martial snare drums and a galloping rhythm as he swings himself over a wall, joins Ostap and escapes. We close on a diminuendo of uncertainty. At 3:38 we flow into “Return to the Steppes” with a reprise of the brother’s departure music, which portends their return. At 3:51 we see the brothers arriving home supported by a welcoming and playful rendering of the Zaparozhtzi Theme, as they are reunited with their kin.

In “Gypsy Camp” offers and astounding score highlight where we bear witness to Waxman’s compositional brilliance. The brothers celebrate their return, and are formally initiated into the Cossack brotherhood. Waxman just pours boundless energy into the scene with a richly ethnic and festive danza energico. A pause at 2:41 supports two unscored scenes. Word arrives that the Hetman has ordered the Cossacks to assemble to fight in the Baltic War as allies of the Poles. When Andrei disparages the Poles and refuses, Korzh calls him a coward. The affront is the gravest insult for a Cossack man, and Andrei is forced as a matter of honor to meet him in a challenge of death; horse leaping over the great gorge. The challenge is unscored, but Andrei prevails as he is much lighter than Korzh and is able to better leap over the wide chasm. The cue restarts later that day as the celebrations resume at 2:42, concluding the scene with the same festive music. A passage by wordless woman’s chorus joins as Andrei resists a seductive woman’s advances. A quote of Natalia’s Theme supports her image on the woman’s face as he declines.

In “Leaving Home” offers a wondrous score highlight, where we are graced by the score’s most beautiful statement of the Lullaby Theme. They have returned home and Taras commands that they will sleep under the stars. Waxman supports the intimate moment with a wistful rendering of the Lullaby Theme by solo English horn and strings tenero. A romantic bridge ushers in a Natalia’s Theme on violas doloroso, so full of longing with a contrapuntal cello at 1:21 as Andrei speaks of her. The next day a pastorale at 1:48 by solo oboe and violin ushers in an achingly beautiful rendering of the Lullaby Theme by solo violin and kindred strings, and then later on solo oboe and warm lush strings doloroso as Sofia blesses and bids her sons farewell. As Sofia watches their departure the Brotherhood Theme emoted by a solo wistful French horn attended by strings tenero carries the sad moment. “The Ride to Dubno” offers an astounding score highlight, a tour de force set piece, which empowers an outstanding cinematic moment. We bear witness to the ride of the Zaparozhtzi whose numbers slowly swell as more and more clans join. The camera provides three shifting perspectives; the close-up of Taras and his sons, medium shots of the Cossacks galloping and panoramic shots showing the ever growing Zaparozhtzi army as new groups join. Waxman supports the epic ride with a richly embellished rendering of the Cossack Brotherhood Theme, which begins a slow, but inexorable intensification as their numbers grow. We begin with a solo bassoon and snare drum, which swells to a powerful orchestral statement fully capturing the bravado, raw indomitable power, and ferocious pride of the Zaparozhtzi.

We segue into “Mykola’s Warning” atop drums of war and intensifying strings furioso as the Zaparozhtzi converge to assemble. At 0:08 repeating cycles of tenor tuba declarations over thunderous martial timpani support a parley between Taras and the Hetman Mykola. The cycle intensifies as discord arises when Taras defies him, declaring that he has come to fight the Poles not to support them. He then calls on the Cossacks to support him. Mykola refuses to yield, but after an impassioned speech, Taras prevails and the clan leaders rally to his cause supported by the power of tuba and timpani. At 1:22 we segue into “Mykola’s Death” where Mykola transfers the Hetman’s banner to Taras and declares he is bound by his oath to hold his ground. The tuba and timpani are fortified, and assume a brutal expression as the Zaparozhtzi ride forth. At 1:43 as a trombone of doom and kindred horns resound with a molto tragico iteration of the Cossack Anthem the Zaparozhtzi trample Mykola into the ground on their ride to destiny. In “Fanfare and Drums” the Poles have assembled for a welcoming ceremony outside the city gates. We open with trumpets brilliante declarations, which usher in a welcoming fanfare for the arrival of the Cossacks. At 0:18 a religious procession walks forward to greet the Cossacks supported by celebratory bells and a glorious choral carried hymn adorned with refulgent strings and woodwinds. At 1:01 the tenor tuba and timpani duet support the arrival of the Zaparozhtzi. Alternating high and mid register fanfare reale resound over thundering timpani as Taras and Andrei ride forth to greet the Polish commander. At 1:32 Natalia’s Theme enters on strings as she sees Andrei riding proudly with his father, yet we discern dissonance and trepidation in the notes.

“The Siege of Dubno” offers another action piece tour de force. It reveals a parley by the Polish commander and Taras. Only three Cossack regiments present, however when hordes ride over the adjacent ridges he realizes an ambush an flees. Trilling woodwinds foment terror and usher in a proud avenging Brotherhood Theme joined with the Warrior Motif as the Cossacks descend upon the stunned Poles. At 0:29 Polish fanfare resounds as they try to mount a defense. The Cossack Anthem counters on muted trumpets of doom as the Cossack begin to slaughter the fleeing Poles. The Cossack Anthem and Brotherhood Theme join and become ascendent as they relentless pursue and cut down Polish forces fleeing to the main gate. The Polish fanfare returns at 2:28 as they fortify their walls. Most of the cue until 3:42 was edited out of the film, including a statement of Natalia’s Theme as she witnesses the carnage and sees Andrei wounded. Trilling woodwinds at 3:42 usher orchestral mayhem as the Cossacks reach the gates, which are barred just in the nick of time. At 4:18 a ferocious string ostinato supports Polish resistance with gunfire and molten sulfur, forcing the Cossacks to flee the walls where they come into range of their canons. At 4:35 Polish fanfare resound as the tide of battle has turned as canons pummel the fleeing Cossacks until the reach safety from their range. We end grimly on a tuba as Taras shouts out to the Poles if you will not fight, you will starve.

Taras visits the wounded Andrei who is tended to by Ostap. “Delirium/Vision of Natalia” features a ghostly rendering of Natalia’s Theme intersperse at 0:52 with fleeting phrases of the Brotherhood, Zaparozhtzi and Drinking song theme. Slowly at 2:06 her theme builds to a passionate climax, which then dissipates into despair. We close at 2:58 with one last iteration of her theme so full of longing, which dissipates into nothingness as Andrei wakes. All but this last statement was dialed out of the film. “The Black Plague” offers an incredible score highlight with just masterful writing by Waxman. It opens with city bell tolls that inform us of the plague. Grim horns, rumbling timpani, strings dolorosi and a writhing bassoon sow a tapestry of doom. Andrei fears for Natalia and uses two cattle to make a stealth approach to the city walls carried by a lumbering motif for bassoon and bass. The poles kill them and then claim their prize supported by their fanfare at 1:38. At 2:08 Andrei is discovered and a fugato propels his increasingly desperate escape as he is relentlessly pursued. At 3:40 the music becomes grotesques with a hideous cacophony as he encounters starving plague infested people trapping rats to eat. At 4:13 Natalia’s welcoming theme carries him to her arms where thy embrace and kiss. But the fugato returns at 5:10 as the guards close in. They flee to the condemned part of the city at 5:48, which Waxman supports with a grim and discordant marcia funebre. The march swells horrifically as carts haul out the countless dead bodies and their homes are torched. A painful string descent at 7:10 supports their capture and we end with despair on Natalia’s Theme born by weeping violins as Andrei is taken away.

“Cossack Anthem/Free Men” reveals the Cossacks impatient and restless from the siege, wary of the plague, and desiring to return home. An impassioned appeal by Taras fails to restore their resolve. Waxman supports the scene with the Cossack Anthem transformed into a refulgent religioso iteration, which achieves a powerful synergy with Taras’ exhortation. We conclude with Taras informing his men that they can decide their own fate. In “No Retreat” the cue is butchered, divided among tow non-sequential scenes. We open sadly with clarinet and strings solenne emoting the Cossack Anthem as Taras watches three of his regimens depart. He defiantly declares that they will still win. A forlorn Natalia’s Theme enters at 0:47 when Taras is informed by Ostap that Andrei has deserted for love of a Polish woman. Cue-scene linkage ends at 1:17, with the remaining music transplanted later in the film. “The Burial” offers music for a deleted scene. Violas doloroso, joined by woodwinds play over a pizzicato bass line to create a dark soundscape. At 1:17 we segue into “Natalia at the Stake” atop grim trumpets and drums of doom, which empower an intensifying marcia della morte as we see Natalia bound and being driven in a cart to be burned at the stake. She is accused of being a witch and then tied to the stake. They light the kindling and all seems lost.

“Andrei and the Duke” As they light the fire we shift above to the Commander’s chamber where a desperate Andrei offers to betray his father and the Cossacks by bringing in oxen if he would only spare Natalia. Waxman sows tension amorphously using a motif of woodwinds, which bubble over a bass gravi sustain. At 0:19 the commander, who is also desperate, gambles that Andrei’s love is genuine and spares Natalia. Natalia’s theme joins the motif emoting with cello and warm horns as she is removed from the stake. In “Andrei and Natalia” we a graced with the score’s finest rendering of Natalia’s Theme. Andrei visits Natalia in her prison cell where she weeps and begs him not to betray his people for her. He professes his love and determination to save her, and they kiss through the bars. Guards then intrude and inform Andrei that the King has summoned him. They kiss one last time after which she begs him to not betray his people. The music for this scene begins at 1:18 in the “No Retreat” cue. A lush Natalia’s Theme tinged with sadness unfolds for a sumptuous performance full of heartache, with violins romantico carrying the A Phrase and a viola tenero the B Phrase. Chime like glockenspiel adorn the final A Phrase as Andrei walks to his fate and Natalia realizes she will never see him again.

In “The Battle of Dubno” a crescendo commences at 0:25 that is crowned with a gong strike and Polish fanfare as the main city gates open to reveal Andrei in a Polish uniform preparing to lead the raiding party, but Taras was alerted downwind by the smell of gunpower being loaded and the Cossacks are ready to ambush. At 0:41 strings energico propel the hard gallop of the Poles who ride to the oxen corral. Trilling woodwinds supports Taras’s realization of their plan and orders an intercept empowered by resounding horn declarations of the Brotherhood Theme. Waxman whips his orchestra into a maelstrom to provide some of the finest action writing of the film. The Zaparozhtzi Theme and Polish Anthem contest, but it is clear the Cossack’s themes are slowly gaining ascendency. Cossack forward momentum pauses at 2:28 as an enraged Taras recognizes Andrei in a Polish uniform. At 2:39 the Zaparozhtzi Theme reengages as the tide turns against the Poles. At 3:05 the last dying gasp of the Polish Anthem sounds as the Poles are wiped out. The Cossacks then depart, leaving Andrei’s fate in Taras’ hands. Sadly, very eloquent music for the father son confrontation beginning at 3:19 was dialed out of the film, except for the closing statement of the lullaby. Taras is crushed that his pride and joy would betray him and his people. Andrei is deferential and states that he did what he had to do. A bass clarinet descent ushers in sterling interplay with an anguished Zaparozhtzi Theme and an aching Andrei’s Lullaby, which culminates molto tragico after Taras shoots Andrei dead. I believe Waxman’s conception would have achieved a powerful confluence with this scene had it been used.

“Finale” reveals the Poles believing the Cossacks undermanned and vulnerable and their commander ordering a full attack. The Polish Anthem propels them out the gate and Taras orders a retreat, supported diegetically with onscreen drums. What unfolds onscreen are panoramic shots of Polish calvary relentlessly chasing the Cossacks, not realizing that their pursuit leads them deeper and deeper into the steppes. Waxman again unleashes a torrent of ferocious action music with the Polish Anthem contesting with the Brotherhood Theme. At 3:06 fierce trills support a turnabout of Taras’ forces as the rest of the Zaparozhtzi descend from opposing flank positions empowered by ominous declarations of the Cossack Anthem. The Poles realize the trap but lack an escape and so engage. Supported by trilling woodwinds, drums of war and the horn declared anthem, the Zaparozhtzi force the Poles over the edge of a large gorge where they fall to their doom. At 4:41 wordless male voices support a dirge as Natalia’s Theme on solo violin affanato carries her to Andrei’s body. At 4:52 a somber Brotherhood Theme supports Taras’ arrival and walk to join Natalia. At 5:07 a solo cello dolorosi joined by kindred strings offer a final aching reprise of Natalia’s Theme as Taras looks down at her and Andrei. At 5:54 we flow into a reprise of the Lullaby, so full of heartache, on flute tenero and horn with tubular bells adornment as Taras countermands Ostap, saying Andrei will not be buried in the steppes, but here in Dubno, a Cossack city. We close with Taras declaring Dubno a Cossack city and riding forthrightly into the city empowered by a refulgent rendering of the Cossack Anthem with trumpets brilliante which culminates with a grand flourish.

I wish to commend James Fitzpatrick and Tadlow Music for this outstanding re-recording of the complete score to Franz Waxman’s masterpiece, “Taras Bulba”. The score reconstruction by Nic Raine was incredible, and the performance of the City of Prague Orchestra and Chorus under his baton, flawless. The mixing and digital mastering was superb, producing an exceptional audio quality, and very rewarding listening experience. Waxman created five primary themes, all kindred in their construct. His rich, ethnic and masculine Zaparozhtzian Cossack themes fully captured the pride, boldness and indomitability of their cultural identity. Masterful is how Waxman empowered and dynamically drove the action for the various battle and chase scenes. Yet I believe that it was with Natalia’s Theme and Andrei’s Lullaby that the score achieved its emotional apogee, providing some of Waxman’s most lyrical writing in his canon. Folks, this film was flawed, yet Waxman in scene after scene achieved a remarkable cinematic confluence, which demonstrated yet again the power of music to elevate a film. I believe this late career effort to be Waxman’s Magnum Opus, and a powerful and enduring testament to his mastery of his craft. I also believe that this excellent album, which includes songs and alternative versions offers yet another example of the superb quality provided by Tadlow Music. I highly recommend you purchase this historic film score for your collection.

For those of you unfamiliar with the score, I have embedded a YouTube link to the rousing and now iconic “Ride to Dubno from the actual recording session: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LrPZvpzmOVg

Buy the Taras Bulba soundtrack from the Movie Music UK Store

Track Listing:

  • Overture (2:09)
  • Turkish Invasion/Opening Battle/Horn Call/Polish Betrayal (4:15)
  • Taras’ Pledge (3:01)
  • The Birth of Andrei (2:47)
  • Young Andrei/The Priest/Arrival at Kiev/Students Fight (4:12)
  • Amo, Amas, Amat (1:22)
  • Hunting Scene/Sleigh Ride (2:08)
  • Kiev Street (2:51)
  • The Thieves Market (1:31)
  • Pastorale – The Wishing Star (written by Franz Waxman and Mack David) (2:03)
  • The Duel (3:37)
  • Chase at Night/Return to the Steppes (4:59)
  • Gypsy Camp (4:15)
  • Leaving Home (4:24)
  • The Ride to Dubno (5:05)
  • Mykola’s Warning/Mykola’s Death (2:40)
  • Fanfare and Drums (Welcome at Dubno) (2:07)
  • The Siege of Dubno (5:13)
  • Delirium/Vision of Natalia (3:20)
  • The Black Plague (7:44)
  • Cossack Anthem /Free Men (1:56)
  • No Retreat (3:31)
  • The Burial/Natalia at the Stake (2:54)
  • Andrei and the Duke/The Battle of Dubno (5:47)
  • Finale (7:57)
  • I Lulee, Lulee (song, written by Franz Waxman and Mack David) (1:39) BONUS
  • Zaporozhtzi – Original Version (song, written by Franz Waxman and Mack David) (1:08) BONUS
  • The Fox and the Hen (song, written by Franz Waxman and Mack David) (2:26) BONUS
  • There Comes a Time (song, written by Franz Waxman and Mack David) (2:34) BONUS
  • Drinking Song (song, written by Franz Waxman and Mack David) (1:33) BONUS
  • He Died With His Boots On (song, written by Franz Waxman and Mack David) (4:01) BONUS
  • Zaporozhtzi – Film Version (song, written by Franz Waxman and Mack David) (1:04) BONUS
  • Kontakion for the Departed (Traditional Russian Orthodox Hymn) (4:02) BONUS
  • The Ride to Dubno (Ride of the Cossacks – Pianos : 6 Hands Version) (5:06) BONUS
  • Overture (Concert Suite Version) (2:43) BONUS
  • The Birth of Andrei (Original Version) (2:48) BONUS
  • Pastorale (Orchestral Backing Tack) (2:03) BONUS
  • The Ride to Dubno (Ride of the Cossacks – Concert Suite Version) (5:06) BONUS

Running Time: 128 minutes 06 seconds

Tadlow Music TADLOW-13 (1962/2011)

Music composed by Franz Waxman. Conducted by Nic Raine. Performed by the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra and Choir. Original orchestrations by Leonid Raab. Recorded and mixed by Jan Holzner. Score produced by Franz Waxman. Album produced by James Fitzpatrick

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