Home > Greatest Scores of the Twentieth Century, Reviews > DIE NIBELUNGEN, PART II: KRIEMHILD’S REVENGE – Gottfried Huppertz



Original Review by Craig Lysy

Austrian director and screenwriter Fritz Lang had long desired to bring a grand fantasy adventure film to the big screen. He eventually found inspiration in the epic 12th century Germanic poem Die Nibelungenlied. He collaborated with his wife Thea von Harbou in writing the screenplays for a two-part series that would be titled Die Nibelungen: Siegfried and Die Nibelungen: Kriemhild’s Revenge. The German production company Decla-Bioscop agreed to produce and fund the film, with UFA overseeing distribution. For Lang this was a passion project, and he assembled one of the finest casts ever assembled, which included; Paul Richter as King Siegfried of Xanten, Margarete Schon as Kriemhild of Burgund, Hanna Ralph as Queen Brunhild of Isenland, Bernhard Goetzke as Volker of Alzey, Theodor Loos as King Gunther of Burgund, Rudolf Klein-Rogge as King Etzel, Rudolf Rittner as Margave Rüdiger of Bechlam, Hans Adalbert Schelettow as Hagen of Tronje, Georg August Koch as Hildebtandt, Georg John as Mime the Goldsmith/Albert the Dwarf/Blaodel, Getrud Arnold as Queen Ute of Burgund, Hans Carl Müller as Gerenot of Burgund, Erwin Biswanger as Giselher of Burgund, Fritz Alberti as Dietrich of Bern, and Annie Röttegen as Dietlind of Bechlam.

The second film explores the aftermath of Siegfried’s murder by Lord Hagen. Kriemhild’s demand for familial revenge is overruled by her brother King Gunther and the family, who are complicit in his murder. Denied vengeance at home, Kriemhild seeks help from without, which ultimately leads to the ruin of all. She begins traveling her dark road of vengeance by marrying Atilla, the powerful king of the Huns. When she bears him a son, he bestows upon her a gift of her choosing. She asks that he invite her family to celebrate the summer solstice and then secretly bribes his soldiers to exact revenge by killing Hagen, who has also stolen the Nibelungen treasure. Kriemhild unleashes a massacre when her family and Hagen attend the summer solstice feast, which brings ruin to all as thousands of Huns die and House Burgund is ended. We bear witness to Lord Hagen slayimng her son, the death of her two brothers Giselher and Gerenot, her beheading of her third brother King Gunther, her slaying of Lord Hagen when he refuses to divulge the location of the Nibelungen treasure, and last, her death by the hands of Hildebrandt for her treachery and reign of terror.

Director Fritz Lang hired Huppertz for both films and was ecstatic with his score for the first film. He presented Huppertz with a story, which was in many ways more compelling, brutal, and tragic. Huppertz understood that this second film’s narrative was driven by Kriemhild’s seething rage for King Gunther and her two brothers for their betrayal and complicity in the murder of her beloved Siegfried. This rage overtook reason and became an obsession, which led to her resolute pursuit of retributive vengeance against Lord Hagen. The prosecution of these powerful emotional drivers of rage, vengeance, duplicity, would precipitate war and carnage, which would consume Kriemhild and bring ruin to all. Accepting this, we find that the score to the second film is more dynamic, emotional and epic than the first film.

As was done in the first film, Huppertz chose to provide his soundscape with a multiplicity of themes most of which are attached to emotional drivers, both overt and covert. For theme from the first film that are reused, the Nibelungen Theme, carried by strings solenne, serves as the identity of the Burgundians and speaks to their pride, strength and fighting prowess. The Tragedy Theme offers a repeating eight-note descent by solo oboe draped in a shroud of strings sinistre, filled with regret, with each descending statement ascending in register. It is in the macrocosm attached to House Burgund, and in the microcosm attached to the fate of the Burgundians themselves. Siegfried’s Theme supports the memory our hero who is treasured by Kriemhild. His theme in the second film is shorn of its bold, heroic confidence, replaced by a wistful iteration of love now lost. The Parting Theme offers a repeating twelve-note statement full of heartache, shifted among solo woodwinds, which speaks to what will be the fated loss of Kriemhild’s beloved Siegfried for which she is tragically complicit. The Treasure Theme offers an ethereal misterioso of wonder with repeating four-note phrases by refulgent violins crowned with a harp arpeggio. Lord Hagen’s Theme supports Siegfried’s nemesis and killer. Strings and woodwinds sinistre emote slithering nine-note ascending phrases, which speaks to his menace.

Huppertz introduced a multiplicity of new themes for the second film, foremost being Kriemhild’s Revenge Theme, which speaks to her seething rage born of the murder of her beloved Siegfried, and betrayal by her kin with their complicity. A violent, swirling upsurge by strings irato unleash the opening phrase of the Conflict Theme, creating a new thematic identity that will permeate the story, and empower her revenge. The Fate Theme speaks to the desolation, which permeates the Court in the aftermath of Siegfried’s murder. A pall of death drapes all in an unbearable blackness. It emotes with somber strings and woodwinds tristi as a dirge like ten-note statement, with a five-note coda, which obliquely references Siegfried’s Theme. The Guilt Theme is attached to King Gunther, who is racked by guilt following his order for Hagen to kill Siegfried. The theme offers a depressing, repeating six-note phrases by strings del lutto with a contrapuntal bass line. The Regret Theme speaks to his misery and desolation in the aftermath of Siegfried’s death. Strings sofferenti emote a descending four-note phrase, answered by a questioning three-note phrase. The Conspiracy Theme is attached to King Gunther and Lord Hagen and speaks to the inevitable retribution for their treachery, which will soon over take them. Grim, portentous, mid-register strings and woodwinds allude to retribution as a contrapuntal bass line moves in contrary motion.

For themes supporting the Huns, we have foremost Atilla’s Theme, which is emblematic of his power and dominion as “Lord of the Earth”. It offers a repeating, grand, fortissiomo five-note Anthem Reale, which resound on horns imperiose declarations. The Huns Theme supports the identity of these proud horsemen warriors and offers an aggressive, repeating eight-note anthem by horns bellicoso. The Pledge Theme supports the fateful pact Atilla makes with Kriemhild to resolutely kill anyone who offends her. It offers a refulgent chord, which ushers in an ascending eight-note line by horns del destino. The Baby Theme supports Atilla and Kriemhild’s newborn son with a child-like statement by solo flute delicato, kindred woodwinds and strings tenero, which capture his sweet innocence. Father’s Theme supports Atilla in his role as father, which humanizes him with a repeating seven-note construct. Its articulation can be horn declared evoking his pride, but also tender by strings and woodwinds tenero when cradling and kissing his son. The Grief Theme supports Atilla’s and Kriemhild’s agony over the murder of their son by Lord Hagen. It offers a molto tragico multi-phrasic fifteen-note statement of grievous loss by strings sofferenti.

The Destiny Theme offers a fluidic, long-lined meandering construct borne by strings tristi or solo flute triste with kindred woodwinds. It is used to support Kriemhild’ seeking her destiny, her path to retributive justice. The Treachery Theme supports Lord Hagen’s theft of the Nibelung treasure and offers a repeating, plodding, nine-note construct with its five-note declarative phrase emoted by horns sinistre, and the four-note secondary phrase carried by pizzicato strings. The Elegy Theme offers a classic lament, which is carried by a solitary trumpet triste buttressed by strings malinconia. The theme is portentous and foretells the doom of House Burgund at the hands of Kriemhild. The Futility Theme supports the anguish of Lord Bechlam as he contemplates the death of his beloved daughter Dierlino who married the Burgundian Prince Giselher. The construct offers a long-lined melody with a fourteen-note declarative phrase and 12-note answering phrase borne by distraught woodwinds and strings sofferenti. The Retribution Theme supports Lord Bechlam carrying out Atilla’s and Kriemhild’s order for retributive justice. It emotes with repeating eight-note declarations by powerful horns minacciose resounding over an angry sea of tremolo strings. The Fire Motif supports the Hun attack on the Burgundians locked in the great hall. It emotes as a seven-note tension building stepped ascent by celli and bass over which fly trilling woodwinds, which simulate the flight of fire arrows. The Song of Endings Theme supports Volker’s last song, as all hope has been lost for the Burgundians. It offers repeating eight-note phrases of regret by strings tristi, a wistful lament for the end of their noble House Burgund.

Act I: “Main Title” offers a powerful score highlight where once again Huppertz, in a masterstroke, sets the tone of the film. It opens molto dramatico with resounding horns terribile, which usher in a vengeful, fortissimo declaration of the Kriemhild’s Revenge Theme. The music reprises as we read; “Now Kriemhild mourned over Siegfried and how King Atilla woos her through his ambassador Rüdiger von Bechlam.” “Siegfried’s Vault” offers a score highlight, where Huppertz introduces six of his new themes. It reveals Kriemhild and her handmaidens assembled in Siegfried’s burial vault. A portentous Fate Theme speaks to her simmering rage as she performs a ritual honoring his death. The music, so full of mourning descends in pain, as the scene fades to blackness. We segue at 0:16 into “The Banquet Hall at Worms” where the strings del lutto of the Guilt Theme descend like a pall as we see King Gunther seated on his throne, with his head bowed, and clearly in distress. At 0:32 a courier arrives and announces that Margrave Rüdiger von Bechlam requests an audience. King Gunther greets him under the pervasive weight of the Suffering Theme. At 0:52 the Fate Theme joins on grim, portentous, mid-register strings and woodwinds, which allude to retribution as Bechlam arrives and gives greetings. A drum roll dramatico supports Bechlam’s announcement; “I come as ambassador of King Atilla, who is called Lord of the Earth. At 1:29 deafening horns imperiose twice declare the grand Atilla’s Theme as we see him sitting in resplendent grandeur on a radiant throne of gold. Bechlam then adds; “He seeks the hand of Kriemhild, your sister in marriage.” We close at 2:06 as King Gunther rises, and is clearly distressed as the dark Fate Theme joins on portentous horns as he states; “I am afraid King Atilla does not know whom he woos.”

“In Front of Siegfried’s Funeral Chapel” reveals the chapel doors opening and the townsfolk kneeling as Kriemhild exits. Huppertz supports with the grieving Parting Theme, borne by solo flute triste and then transferred to solo oboe. At 0:16 a solo violin doloroso and kindred strings emote the heartache of the tremulous Love Theme as Kriemhild stops and bestows gifts to the people, declaring; “In the name of Siegfried who was murdered and whose murderer lives!” At 1:03 Hagen’s Theme joins on strings malevolo as he leers at Kriemhild. The lurking and malicious Conspiracy Theme joins at 1:11 filling us with dread as Kriemhild reminds the people; “Bear in mind how Siegfried died.” We close dramatically with strings sinistre as Hagen departs. At 1:43 we segue into “Treasure Hall” atop the ethereal and refulgent beauty of the radiant Treasure Theme as we see Hagen walking amidst the Nibelung treasure. The theme slowly loses it splendor as we see a contemplative Hagen pondering the fate of the treasure trove. We close at 2:44 atop a fleeting sad statement of the Love Theme, which fades away on fluttering woodwinds as Kriemhild walks through freshly fallen snow back to the castle.

“Hall of the Burgundians” reveals Kriemhild walking into King Gunther’s court carried by the strings sofferenti of the Suffering Theme, joined by a cadence of death. Lord Bechlam comes to her, kneels, and advises; “King Atilla send me, Lady Kriemhild, to plead in his stead for your hand!” Dire, aggrieved horns resound and usher in a grave declaration of her revenge theme as she replies; “Rüdiger, you seem to know quite well how I am exposed to grievous wrongs in the house of my clan!” King Gunther approaches her and the Parting Theme joins on the aching strings as she declares; “Brother, where is your brother Siegfried?” As he bows his face in shame, she adds; “My King, deliver to me the murderer of my husband!” At 1:35 a somber Conspiracy Theme supports his reply; “He has kept faith with me, I shall keep faith with him. This, Kriemhild, is my last word!” Kriemhild eyes fill with contempt as a grieving Parting Theme supports her angry stare. We close at 2:05 with the arrival of Lord Hagen, supported by his malevolent theme. As Kriemhild departs tremulous strings emote her simmering rage.

“Kriemhild’s Bedchamber” reveals Kriemhild contemplating her path as grieving statements of the Parting Theme, first by solo oboe triste, and then strings of heartbreak supports her isolation, and alienation. The Destiny Theme borne by a plaintive meandering string line joins and supports her dismissal of her boy servant with a message for Lord Belcham – who can unlock the door to realize her destiny. At 0:32 we segue into “Hall of the Burgundians atop the Parting Theme as the boy enters and then exits the throne room as the suspicious conspirators look on. The Plot Theme resumes, now carried by solo flute triste and kindred woodwinds as the boy comes to Lord Bechlam and informs him; “My Lord, the lady Kriemhild wishes to speak with you after evensong!” At 1:07 after the boy leaves, King Gunther approaches Lord Bechlam carried by the Tragedy Theme. The malevolent Hagen’s Theme entwines with the Tragedy Theme as he confides to King’s Gunther’s brother Gerenot; “Now is the time to keep close watch over our Burgundy, Gerenot!” At 1:38 we segue atop the Destiny Theme in a change of scene, which brings us to Kriemhild’s quarters as her boy escorts Lord Belcham. At 1:58 reserved fanfare by unison woodwinds and horns solenne support Kriemhild’s arrival, as well as a cut away of Hagen opening a trap door in the treasure room. As Kriemhild sits down with Lord Bechlam, the oboe carried Suffering Theme speaks to her unassuageable loss. We close darkly on the portentous Atilla’s Fanfare as Kriemhild asks Lord Belcham; “Tell me all about King Atilla”.

“Treasure Hall/The Banks of the Rhine” is supported by the ethereal wonder of the Treasure Theme as we see Lord Hagen in the treasure room where he takes its riches, descends through a trap door to the icy banks of the Rhine River, and then tosses it into its watery depths. At 0:46 we segue into “Kriemhild’s Bedchamber” atop the Fate Theme as we return to Kriemhild’s meeting with Lord Bechlam. The Destiny Theme joins at 1:01 as she states; “You are wooing a dead woman, Rüdiger. The murderer of my husband flaunts the green sparkling sword he robbed from the dead!” At 1:27 a change of scene takes us outdoors where we see Kriemhild’s boy servant sneak to, and peer through a window. Huppertz supports his spying with a dark tremolo strings construct. At 1:49 the Treachery Theme rears its ugly head as the boy sees Lord Hagen theft in the treasure room. Stealthy tremulous strings carry the boy’s departure. At 2:07 we return to Kriemhild and Lord Bechlam where strings tristi support his words; “If somebody, my lady, would do you wrong at Atilla’s court, King Atilla shall know how to avenge you!” Huppertz supports with a pathos for strings from which Kriemhild replies; “Lord Belcham, swear that to me in King Atilla’s name and yours!” They stand, and then he knells, pulls out his sword and swears an oath. At 2:52 her Revenge Theme erupts for two grand fortissimo declarations as she grabs his sword and speaks; “Not on the cross, Lord Bechlam, on the sharp edge of your sword!” At 3:40 a drum roll dramatico sounds as he consents and so swears. At 3:46 excited racing strings support her boy servant’s return, with a tension tremolo strings supporting his declaration that Hagen has stolen the Nibelungen treasure! Surging string ascents followed by five-note declarations support Kriemhild telling Lord Belcham “You have my word!” She then rushes out and runs to confront Lord Hagen. At 4:17 Hagen’s malevolent Theme carries his exit from the treasure room as Kriemhild arrives. At 4:30 the outrage of her Revenge Theme resounds as she asks him; “Hagen Tronje, where is the treasure?” Hagen answers; “At a place, my lady, where no one can use the gold to forge weapons against the kings of Burgundy!” We close atop a Treasure Theme, which has lost its luster as we see it laying submerged beneath the Rhine’s watery depths.

Act II: “Forest Source” offers a score highlight and opens with “Kriemhild takes leave of her homeland and how she was received by King Atilla.” The Destiny Theme weaves a meandering path as we see Kriemhild and an escort riding through the snow-covered forest. She dismounts and slowly walks to the brook site where Siegfried knelt to drink. Huppertz supports the scene with a beautiful set piece, a gentle slow flowing wistful dance. As she reaches the location where he was struck down by Hagen’s spear at 1:39 a sad, and wistful rendering of Siegfried’s Theme joins. Yet it is fleeting as she kneels as her Revenge Theme swells with rage. The wistful dance theme returns as she digs up part of the ground and places it in a handkerchief. The Destiny Theme joins to support her vengeful declaration; “Earth, you were once soaked in Siegfried’s blood. One day I shall come and drench you with the blood of Hagen Tronje!” “In Siegfried’s Vault” we see her contemplative in Siegfried’s burial vault. A tender rendering of his theme enriched with a contrapuntal oboe supports her reminiscence and declaration; “I shall return! Rest assured; I will come back!”

“Castle Yard” offers a poignant score highlight with masterful thematic interplay supporting a potent scene, which reveals the depth of Kriemhild’s alienation. She exits the vault and is greeted by her brothers King Gunther and Gerenot. A grim rendering of the Conspiracy Theme carries them to her. A second statement supports her refusal of King Gunther’s out-stretched hand. A third iteration of the theme swells as Gerenot aggressively takes her hand only to also be rebuffed with eyes, which could kill. At 1:41 an aching Tragedy Theme enters as we see anger in the eyes of her brothers. It is joined by the Fate Theme as she walks away, believing that what they did, cannot be undone. The Tragedy Theme returns again now supporting her mother’s efforts to reconcile her children, but Kriemhild remains cold and unreceptive. As she asks Kriemhild; “My daughter, don’t you want to bid farewell to you brother Gunther?” the Guilt Theme entwines with the Tragedy Theme. Her answer is swift; “No Mother.” The Tragedy Theme returns when a priest asks; “You travel far, Lady Kriemhild. Don’t you want to make peace with your family?” and she answers, “No, my priest.” The theme carries her departure and as the gates open at 3:14 Hagen’s Theme joins on strings malevolo as we see him sitting on the bridge. Her departure is carried by an entwining of the Destiny Theme and dire Revenge Theme. At 4:10 Hagen’s Theme supports Kriemhild’s pointing to the crowd at Hagen; a warning that he will pay for his crimes. We close darkly with the Destiny and Revenge Themes entwining as she sets off with Hun escorts, refusing a suggestion by Lord Bechlam to wave goodbye. We end with a violent strike as the bard Volker smashes his lute in anger over Kriemhild spurning his attempt to day goodbye.

“Hun’s Hill Crest” reveals Kriemhild’s blossoming springtime arrival in the land of the Huns. Hun scouts search the horizon from tree perches empowered by menacing strings and horns grave. At 0:16 we segue into “Wide Plains” atop a solemn Nibelungen Theme as we see the approach of Kriemhild and her escort. At 0:37 we segue into “Kriemhild’s Procession” on horns esotica, which usher in the bold, and aggressive anthem of the Hun horsemen who sight her approach and ride out to join the procession. “Atilla’s Castle Hall” reveals a festive celebration in Atilla’s throne room. We open grandly atop his horn declared anthem as we see him seated with stern countenance upon his throne. Energetic festive flavors support sight of men drinking. At 0:26 Atilla’s Anthem again resounds to support a closeup of his stern countenance. The energetic and festive ambiance resumes as we see the men playing games under Atilla’s watchful eyes. The Hun Theme joins at 0:46 as a scout rides into the throne room and declares the arrival of the queen, which earns him a reward of gold! Atilla’s Fanfare resounds as he throws a bag of gold to the rider and orders everyone to greet her. The Hun Theme carries the scout’s departure joined by Atilla’s Anthem as he declares “The King’s Treasure!” “In Front of Atilla’s Castle” offers energetic festive music, which supports the crowd going out to meet their new queen. Huppertz slow builds a crescendo of anticipation as we see the people hungering for sight of their new queen. At 0:38 Kriemhild arrives, her austere appearance supported by grave fanfare. Interludes of playful woodwinds support women and children waving, cut-off each time by her grave fanfare. A sharp ostinato by strings energico build a growing anticipation, interspersed with Kriemhild’s fanfare as Lord Bechlam leads her into the hall, where Blaodel, Atilla’s brother welcomes her.

In “Atilla’s Castle Hall” Kriemhild enters and stands austere for all to see, supported by a grand yet solemn declaration of Atilla’s Anthem. His anthem reprises as he walks down from his throne to meet her halfway. Tension rises joined by fragments of his anthem as she remains motionless while Atilla looks around nervously. Tremolo strings usher in grave horns as he orders the hall cleared and the doors locked. Rolling drums and grave fanfare support a stand-off as Kriemhild remains stubbornly fixed at the entry while Atilla stands perplexed. At 1:28 a solemn Nibelungen Theme carries her to the last step, yet she stops as a pool of water lies in front. Tension strings join as Atilla discerns the impediment of the water. At 2:27 horns grave resound as he chivalrously takes off his cape and lays it over the water. Rising horns of wonder support Atilla gifting Bechlam any kingdom in his realm for bringing such a wondrous woman. At 3:29 a dire declaration of her Revenge Theme resounds as she asks Bechlam; “Ask King Atilla, if he is ready to make your oath his own!” Atilla reproaches Bechlam for committing him so, yet steps forth and declares as fateful horns dramatico resound; “By my head, O queen, whoever dares to offend you, shall die a hundred deaths!” A dire reprise of her Revenge Theme, declared by a refulgent chord, ushers in an ascending eight-note line by horns del destino, which crowns the moment. We conclude at 4:40 with a dire proclamation of the Pledge Theme as Atilla commits to Kriemhild’s demands as she at last extends her hand and grasps his.

Act III: “Atilla’s Camp Tent” offers a score highlight where Huppertz’s offers a parade of oriental Hun cultural identities. We open with news that Atllia is laying siege to Rome and that Kriemhild has summoned her brothers, with Giselher engaged to marry Lord Bechlam’s daughter Dierlino. Huppertz drapes the film with several new Hun cultural motifs to support their war-like, nomadic culture. The first offers portentous chords and upsurge of strings irato, which speak to their war-like nature. At 0:16 we see a panorama of the Hun camp, which is supported by a repeating thirteen-note masculine statement by mid-register austere horns and strings, which speaks to their nomadic warrior culture. A repeating and descending eight-note statement by strings agitato and horns bellicoso speak to the confusion of Hun warriors over Atilla’s reticence to slaughter the Romans and sack Rome. They enter his tent to inquire, find him asleep, and withdraw. “Song of Werbel” offers a sardonic song sung by a Hun minstrel, which speaks to their confusion and dissatisfaction with Atilla’s inaction, as well as the white woman who uses her dress as a bridle. Huppertz sow oriental auras with an animated cadence by horns, joined by strings and woodwinds sardonica to support the minstrel. Atilla wakes, is enraged at the insult, and pulls out his sword to behead the minstrel. Before he can strike, we segue into “Arrival of Blaodel” atop the aggressive Hun’s Theme as Atilla’s brother rides furiously into camp. As he relates news that Kriemhild has borne him a son, Atilla’s Anthem resounds with grand, celebratory glory. An ecstatic Atilla departs to see his son carried by a galloping rendering of the Hun’s Theme.

“Kriemhild’s Chamber in Atilla’s Castle” reveals Kriemhild lying in bed in her chamber, with her son’s crib near-by. The gentle Baby Theme by flute delicato, kindred woodwinds and strings tenero opens the scene, but as Kriemhild gets out of bed, her brooding Revenge Theme carries her to the crib, entwining with the Baby Theme as we observe the infant. We see that she is conflicted and tortured by the past as she turns away. At 1:12 as she clutches her keep-sake chest, a plaintive Love Theme slowly unfolds. We flow into a bittersweet reprise of Siegfried’s Theme as she opens the chest. His theme becomes a lament as she lifts out the handkerchief of bloody dirt from where he was slain, caresses it, takes it with her to bed, and places it over her chest. “Fallow Land/Huns-Small Hill” reveals Atilla and fellow Huns riding over the countryside to his castle to see his new son. Hun fanfare unleashes a rousing galloping rendering of the Hun Theme buttressed with proud declarations of Atilla’s Anthem, which carry their progress. At 0:52 we segue into “Childrens Ring Dance where we see naked children ritualistically dancing in a circle around a tree. The music becomes celebratory as the kids are showered with treasure. We conclude with the galloping Hun Theme and Atilla Fanfare propelling the eager Atilla home, with shots of the castle and Kriemhild holding their son in her arms.

“Kriemhild’s Chamber in Atilla’s Castle” offers a powerful score highlight. It reveals Atilla arriving at his castle and racing to Kriemhild’s bedchamber. Huppertz introduces his Father’s Theme, a new repeating seven-note construct, as Atilla enters, and gets down on his knees in thanks for Kriemhild bearing him a son. The theme’s rendering is thirsting and thankful as he travels to Kriemhild on his knees and caresses his son. The theme swells with fatherly pride as he takes his son from her arms. At 0:23 the Baby Theme entwines with the Father Theme as he happily cradles and kisses his son. We slowly ascend with growing intensity on the Father Theme as he asks; “A wish, have you no wish that I can fulfill?” A dark hesitation enters as she ponders, supported by a portentous Nibelungen Theme. She responds by asking that he bid her brothers to visit her at court. When Atilla orders Blaodel to summon the brothers, a menacing rendering of the Revenge Theme rises up and swells on a crescendo dramatico, which concludes angrily.

Act IV: “Kriemhild’s Bedchamber/Hun Country” reveals script which states; “Kriemhild receives her brothers!” supported by a dark rendering of her Revenge Theme. Two Huns complain to Kriemhild that the brothers have stayed over a month at Bechlam’s castle and that Giselher has fallen in love with Lord Bechlam’s daughter Dierlino. She sits impassively as the darkness of her Revenge Theme descends like a black pall. At 1:02 we segue into “Hall in Bechlarn” atop flute delicato, which emotes a beautiful rendering of the Love Theme. The scene features an exquisite passage by solo violin romantico, as we see Giselher and Dierlino taking their engagement vows. We close full of foreboding at 1:56 atop the Revenge Theme as the two Hun’s inform Kriemhild that her two brothers depart from Bechlam’s castle to join her here. “Gunther’s Tent” opens darkly with an embellished rendering of the Hun Theme as Atilla’s knight Dietrich von Bern warns King Gunther and his sons of where King Atilla will lead him. To which King Gunther replies; “How could we forget, Lord, that we come to visit our sister Kriemhild”. At 0:37 we segue ominously atop repeating statements of the Revenge Theme into “Kriemhild’s Bedchamber” as she declares to the two Huns; “Whoever wants to win my gratitude, must remember my great sorrow!” At 1:20 we segue into “The Ride of the Huns” as we read; “On the day before the summer solstice the Nibelungen arrived at Atilla’s court. We see the arrival of the dreaded Hun horsemen supported by an aggressive and surging rendering of the Huns Theme.

“Yard of Atilla’s Castle – Procession of the Burgundians” reveals the arrival of King Gunther and the Burgundians. Huppertz supports with a solemn rendering of the Nibelungen Theme. At 0:24 the theme transforms into a processione reale as King Gunther and his sons ascend the castle stairs, are greeted, and told to rest for tomorrow’s very special celebration of the summer solstice. “Small Chamber in Atilla’s Castle” opens with the tender Baby Theme as we see his nanny rocking his cradle. At 0:07 Father’s Theme joins and entwines as Atilla’s arrives and gazes lovingly at his sleeping son. At 0:35 we segue darkly atop her Revenge Theme into “Kriemhild Demands Redemption from Atilla’s Oath” a dramatic powerhouse score highlight! As Kriemhild enters the nursery she declares; “King Atilla, remember your oath!” At 1:08 she walks to him, lays her hand on his heart and declares; “He who murdered my husband Siegfried is now in your home. Remember my suffering!” supported by a menacing Revenge Theme. The Fate Theme joins at 1:23 as he responds; “Can you never forget Lord Siegfried, woman?” She gazes off and at 1:40 a wistful Love Theme informs us of her answer. At 1:56 an ominous Revenge Theme sounds as Atilla declares; “Hagen Tronje shall duel with me for his life!” She is furious, and the theme surges at 2:24 as she grabs him and shouts; “You would fight an assassin? No, have him killed!” He recoils and says; “My Guest?” She is furious and the Revenge Theme swells with rage as she runs to the crib and declares; “Remember my oath, Atilla! On the life of your child, redeem it!” At 3:10 Atilla’s Anthem resounds as he declares; “In the desert, where I was born, there is but one thing sacred, the guest!” She stares with hatred as he adds; “Hagen Tonje shall be sacred as long as he regards the peace of my abode!” we close darkly on a diminuendo of the Revenge Theme as he has the final word and departs.

“Cellar Room” reveals a secret assembly of Huns supported by the Huns’s Theme rendered as an agitato. We read; “Whoever want to win my gratitude, should remember my great sorrow!” As Kriemhild enters, they kneel as her Revenge Theme full so full of malice supports her declaration; “Whoever brings me Tronje’s head will win a shield full of gold!” The two themes interplay as there is tiring among the men. She senses this and empties a bag of gold coins saying; “But I beseech you. Do not harm the sons of my mother!” We close on a portentous diminuendo of the Revenge Theme as we shift to a bedroom where King Gunther and her two brothers sleep. “Yard of Atilla’s Castle” offers the recurring eight-note Elegy Theme carried by a solitary trumpet triste buttressed by strings malinconia. Lord Hagen sees Kriemhild walk across the courtyard, and as she enters the castle at 1:43, hundreds of Hun warriors slowly approach the Burgundian Sleeping quarters carried by an ominous nine-note motif of menace, which entwines with the Revenge Theme. Lord Hagen sights them, stands up, and the Huns take notice of their discovery, and immediately withdraw. We conclude at 2:53 full of foreboding with a reprise of the trumpet elegy.

Act V: “Hall in Atilla’s Castle” reveals that Atilla has prepared a great feast to celebrate the summer solstice. We open with a grand declaration of Atilla’s Anthem, that is joined by the Nibelungen Theme emoted as a processione solenne as the Burgundians march into the great hall. King Atilla stands and is supported by a dire statement of the Revenge Theme as King Gunther, his brothers, and Lord Hagen reach the dais. The theme empowers Atilla’s query; “Is it the fashion of your court to sit at our table armed from head to foot?” Kriemhild adds; “Lord Hagen Tronje knows well, why he never lays aside his sword!” The tension of the room is thick as the Burgundians take their seats at the table, supported by an ominous diminuendo of the Revenge Theme. “Servant’s Hall” reveals Huns stealthily moving through the castle as the servant’s hall bustles with activity. Huppertz supports with the Hun’s Theme again rendered as a fast-paced agitato.

“Hall in Atilla’s Castle” offers an outstanding score highlight, which features masterful thematic interplay. It reveals the feast supported by Atilla’s Anthem joined by a grave iteration of the Nibelungen Theme as Kriemhild glares, and the Burgundians seem wary of the food and drink, Huppurtz entwines four of his primary themes to create palpable unease; her Revenge Theme, the Nibelungen Theme, Elegy Theme and the Tragedy Theme. All pretenses are dropped as Kriemhild turns her goblet upside down and slams it on the table, crowned at 1:27 by a dire declaration of her Revenge Theme. At 1:35 we segue into “Wall” atop the Hun Theme agitato as we again see Huns assembling for dark purpose. At 1:56 we segue on dire horns into “Servant’s Hall” joined by comic woodwinds as a Hun guzzles wine. The fanfare and comic woodwinds motif interplay, soon joined by the Hun Theme agitato as the Huns and Burgundian soldiers party. The musical merriment and lurking tension are sustained in “Werbel’s Dance”. At 0:24 we segue into “Hall in Atilla’s Castle” atop Revenge Theme fanfare as we return to Atilla’s feast. At 0:53 the Pledge Theme joins as Kriemhild states; “Methinks, from such a feast that the heir to King Atilla’s crown should not be absent!” At 1:23 we segue atop the energetic, string ostinato driven, festive revelry of the Hun and Burgundian servants partying into “Small Chamber in Atilla’s Castle”. At 2:22 we segue to the nursery and the Baby Theme supports a guard taking the boy from the nanny to bring to the King’s Table. As the boy is carried into the hall at 2:35 a dramatic rendering of the Pledge Theme sounds as the people cheer. A tender Baby Theme supports Atilla happiness as he displays his son. We close on an energetic Hun Theme to close the scene.

“Werbel’s Dance” features a festive danza esotica as we see the Hun and Burgundian soldiers partying. Armed Huns slowly infiltrate the room and begin secretly distributing swords to other Huns in the room with the Burgundians oblivious. At 0:54 we segue into “Hall in Atilla’s Castle” atop the Baby Theme as Atilla cuddles his son. When he passes him to Lord Hagen, the theme sours when Hagen declares; “Methinks, the boy has not long to live. We scarcely shall go as guests to any court of his!” At 1:29 a portentous Pledge Theme supports the return of the boy to Atilla. “Servant’s Hall/Knife Dance, Fight, Betrayal” reveals a return to the festive partying in the servants quarters where we see two Huns dancing with knives atop a table. The string ostinato driven danza esotica propels the dance, until the two Huns savagely leap upon and stab two Burgundians. Huppertz unleashes orchestral mayhem, which slowly coalesces into a brutal marcial della morte as the Hun’s mercilessly slaughter the Burgundians. A Burgundian soldier escapes, but is mortally wounded by an arrow. A horrific violin tremolo of betrayal supports his entry into the hall and cry out of “Treason”. We segue seamlessly into “Hall of Atilla’s Castle” atop the violin tremolo as the soldier staggers to King Gunther and dies at 0:42. Huppertz unleashes a torrent of violence as the Huns battle the Burgundians. At 1:34 we segue into “Death of the Child”, a powerful and tragic score highlight, atop repeated dire statements of Hagen’s Theme, which joins with a horrific violin tremolo as he unsheathes his sword and moves towards the baby on the table. A crescendo of death crests at 1:59, and unleashes a molto tragico rendering of the Baby Theme after Hagen slays the boy as Kriemhild watches and screams. At 2:39 as grieving Atilla holds his dead son, surging strings of rage resound as Kriemhild declares; “The work of your guest, King Atilla!” At 2:48 a molto tragico rendering of the Grief Theme supports Atilla as he declares “Now, you Nibelungen, all my men will be against you!” Descending horns of doom resound and unleash Hell as the Huns and Burgundians wage a brutal fight. At 2:48 Grief Theme again resounds as Lord Dietrich and Prince Giselher block Lord Hagen from slaying Kriemhild and secure safe conduct from King Gunther of the Hun nobility out of the hall. Surging string bellicose supports the Burgundians forcefully clearing a path, with the searing pain of the Grief Theme as the Hun nobility departs the hall with Atilla carrying his dead son, and Kriemhild at his side.

Act VI: “Hall and Yard of Atilla’s Castle” opens darkly as we see the carnage of dead and injured bodies littering the hall. Hagen, supported by his malevolent theme, decides to release a captured Hun, telling him to relay to Kriemhild what he has seen. A grim Nibelungen Theme and dire phrases of a distressed Hun’s Theme support Hagen revealing all the dead Hun bodies. At 0:42 the descending four-note Death Motif by distressed horns supports Hagen releasing the Hun. At 1:29 a grim rendering of the Revenge Theme supports Kriemhild standing on stairs observing the great hall as the released Hun brings her news; “Not a Hun is alive in Atilla’s hall!”. The Revenge Theme resounds with ferocity as she responds; “Huns, avenge your dead!” as we close on a grim diminuendo. “The Hun’s Revenge/Beginning of the Battle” reveals their attack on the massive wooden doors, which elicits the Burgundians to force them open and counter attack. Huppertz propels the battle with the Hun’s Theme ascendent in the early phase. Eventually, the Huns are repelled by impenetrable line of Burgundian shields, with the Nibelungen Theme becoming ascendent as the Huns retreat. At 1:33 in the battle’s aftermath the Huns surround Kriemhild, who empowered by her grim Revenge Theme declares; “Avenge your dead, Huns, and the royal child!” At 1:45 we segue into “Atilla’s Chamber” supported by repeated statements by elegiac horns emoting the Baby’s Theme as we see a devastated Atilla hold his dead son in his arms.

“Hun’s Village Street/Atilla’s Castle” reveals a call to arms for all able-bodied Hun villagers, which Huppertz drives with a six-note ostinato by strings bellicose and drums of war. Tension builds on a repeating, ascending seven-note motif by low register strings countered by a violin tremolo. Rising and falling string waves joined with martial horns escalate the tension, building on a crescendo of war as the massive assembly of Hun warriors swells outside the hall doors. “Hall and Balcony of Atilla’s Castle” offers a dynamic score action cue. It reveals the Huns hoisting ladders and climbing up to the hall balcony empowered by the Hun Anthem. Rising and falling string waves joined with martial horns unleash an orchestral maelstrom as the Burgundians are overwhelmed by the Hun’s superior numbers. At 0:52 the trumpet declared Hun’s Anthem resounds and the Nibelungen Theme becomes beleaguered as Burgundian retreat from the balcony. At 1:15 proud trumpets declare the Nibelungen Theme as they assemble for a last stand in the great hall. “Giselher and Kriemhild” reveals Giselher alone on the balcony seeing Kriemhild supported by the Regret Theme. A dire Revenge Theme sounds at 0:13 as he calls out “Sister!” She has but a cold stare and he adds; “Sister, think of our mother!” She opens and stretches out her hands supported by a molto tragico rendering of her Revenge Theme and says; “Hand over the assassin of Siegfried and you are all free!” When he fails to replies, the Hun’s scale ladders to attack him on the balcony, supported by trilling violins and dark drums of doom.

“Dietrich of Berne’s Chamber” reveals a contemplative Dietrich looking out a window and relating; “The fight is too uneven! The dawn will see no Nibelung alive”. Huppertz supports with the Grief Theme carried by solo flute triste and strings of regret. At 0:40 a distressed Lord Bechlam adds; “With Giselher my own child will die!” as a portentous Nibelung Theme sounds. Dietrich tries to restrain a departing Lord Bechlam from interfering with forlorn horns joining at 0:46 as a soldier relates; “Blood cries for blood!” A shift to the castle reveals an anguished Atilla still holding his dead son. At 1:12 the Futility Theme borne by strings sofferenti support a distraught Lord Bechlam who is overcome with anguish as he contemplates the death of his beloved daughter Dierlino. “Atilla’s Castle/Battle” reveals the Huns again storming the balcony of the great hall defended by Prince Giselher and a few men. A struggling Nibelungen Theme replete with cymbal crashes and dire horn declarations supports as the Hun’s fall upon them. At 0:19 aggrieved statements of the Hun’s Theme sound as the tide of battle turns against them. At 0:39 horns dramatico resound with the Nibelungen Theme as their better armed and armored men work in disciplined prcision to drive the Hun’s off the balcony and out of the great hall. A defeated Hun’s Theme sounds at 0:49 as Kriemhild watches in horror her Hun warriors once again defeated as the music closes on a diminuendo of death. We close with an angry Hun’s Theme as an outraged Kriemhild summons Lord Bechlam.

“Yard of Atilla’s Castle” offers an aching and poignant score highlight. It reveals the aftermath of yet another Hun defeat. We open with a lament, which supports a priest praying over dead Burgundian’s. A return to the taciturn Kriemhild is supported by the heartache of the Grief Theme. At 0:41 the heavy weight of the Tragedy Theme joins as Lord Bechlam arrives and Kriemhild declares; “Now the time has come, Rüdiger! Redeem your oath!” He hesitates, and at 1:02 the grave malice of the Revenge Theme joins to support her words; “Margrave Rüdiger I demand from you the assassin of Siegfried!” The Tragedy Theme returns as Lord Bechlam declares; “Not against Hagen Tronje do you send me, Queen, but against your brothers who defend him with their lives!” At 1:32 the grave Revenge Theme supports Kriemhild’s declaration; “Rüdiger, you swore by the sharp edge of your sword!” Lord Bechlam is distraught and a tender Love Theme joins at 2:03 as he pleads with Kriemhild; “Giselher is engaged to my only child!” Yet she is resolute and the Tragedy Theme resounds at 2:47 as she declares resolutely; “Blood cries for blood Rüdiger!” At 3:06 we segue into “Atilla’s Chamber” atop forlorn horns, which take Lord Bechlam to King Atilla. The king sits on his throne still holding his dead son. The Grief Theme joins as Lord Bechlam pleads on his knees; “Lord, do not force me to kill my only child!” Horns di morte join as Atilla undrapes the swaddling cloth and reveals to Lord Bechlam the face of his dead son, causing Bechlam to stagger back as the all-consuming string pathos of the Grief Theme returns. We close at 3:45 with a molto tragico joining of the horns di morte and Grief Theme as Lord Bechlam departs to carry out Atilla’s command.

Act VII: “Hall and Yard of Atilla’s Castle” offers a score highlight. It opens ominously and reveals Lord Bechlam pounding on the great hall gates demanding entry. The Retribution Theme’s repeating eight-note declarations by powerful horns minacciose resounding over an angry sea of tremolo strings empower him. The Grief Theme joins as he is identified and juxtaposes Giselher’s misjudgment of declaring that he will bring peace! As the gates open, Lord Bechlam and his personal guards stand fully armed, with Giselher asking; “What are you bringing us, father?” To which he replies at 1:07; “Death!” supported by the repeating dire fanfare of the Retribution Theme. The fanfare supports his walk in to face King Gunther as Kriemhild watches from high atop the battlements. At 1:37 the Tragedy Theme supports Dietrich’s futile entreaty to King Atilla; “O Lord, do not allow that they who love, kill one another!” At 1:50 the orchestra erupts with rage as Atilla’s grabs him by the neck, and declares angrily; “Tell them that if they deliver to me the murderer of my child, they may go free!” The Grief Theme entwines with the Tragedy Theme as Dietrich replies; “King Atilla, you do not know the German loyal soul!” At 2:26 we segue into “Rüdiger Slays Giselher” with the Tragedy Theme supporting Lord Bechlam’s reply to Prince Giselher plead; “My oath to Kriemhild is older than my oath to you!” Giselher pleads again and Lord Bechlam replies; “Don’t force me to break my oath! Fight!” When no one lifts a sword an impassioned Grief Theme resounds with fury as Lord Bechlam shouts; “Do you want me to lose my honor? Defend yourself Hagen Tronje!” The music swells with menace as Hagen steps back clutching his sword sheath. Lord Bechlam advances prepared to strike Lord Hagen only to have Giselher block him and take the mortal blow at 3:19. We close darkly on a diminuendo of death.

“Fight Between Rüdiger and Volker” reveals Lord Bechlam devastated having killed his son-in-law. Trumpets irato and strings quivering in rage support Volker’s attack. Bechlam succumbs to Volker’s fury, and is slain, which causes his personal guard to attack, propelled by trumpets bellicoso and an impassioned Grief Theme. At 1:24 we segue into “Kriemhild on the Tower”, which opens darkly with the Revenge Theme as we see her standing impassively on the battlements. At 0:50 declarations by horns of pain resound as Gerenot carries his brother’s dead body out into the courtyard. As he looks up at Kriemhild the malice of the Retribution Theme resounds as he cries out; “O sister, what have you wrought!” She is clearly distraught, steps back, and clutches her heart, supported by her Revenge Theme. At 1:03 the resolute malice of her Revenge Theme resounds to support Hun’s pouring into the courtyard as she calls out to her brother Gerenot; “Deliver Tronje to me and you are free!” At 1:35 we segue into “Yard of Atilla’s Castle” atop agonal cries of the Nibelungen Theme as angry Hun’s converge on Gerenot and viciously hack him to death. At 1:54 horns di morte cry out to mark his death, as Kriemhild clutches her heart in pain. As she runs down to the courtyard at 2:15, a molto tragico rendering of her Revenge Theme carries her progress. As she arrives and see her two dead brothers, her Revenge Theme emotes, with interludes of writhing tremolo violins. At 2:37 a martial Nibelungen Theme resounds as the Hun’s flee the great hall and the victorious Lord Hagen emerges. There is fury in his eyes and at 2:42 the horns of Death Motif resound amidst a raging orchestral sea blood as he declares to Kriemhild; “Rejoice in your revenge Kriemhild! Dead are your two brothers. Rüdiger is dead. Dead are all his men!” The Revenge Theme with declarations of the Death Motif support the confrontation. As he tosses Lord Bechlam’s shield at her feet with contempt, he adds; “But Hagen Tronje, who slew Siegfried, still lives!” His boast is crowned by defiant orchestra strikes. We end darkly on the Revenge Theme with interludes of writhing tremolo violins as the Nibelungens take their dead and withdraw behind the massive doors of the great hall.

In “Atilla’s Castle” the Huns converge on Kriemhild supported by tremolo violins of rage and a repeating six-note contrapuntal line by celli irato. She cries out; “Throw fire into the hall!” The Huns all run and fetch torches and at 0:33 we segue into “Fire Blight” empowered by the Fire Motif, whose repeating stepped seven-note tension ascent supports trilling woodwinds simulating the flight of fire arrows. Woven into the music are fleeting references to the Revenge Theme and as the conflagration worsens wailing trombones join. The Burgundians make a desperate attempt to put out the fire and fail. A diminuendo interlude at 1:48 supports a shot of the desperate Burgundians and then an aggrieved Atilla who is informed that Kriemhild has set the palace aflame. The Revenge Theme and Fire Motif entwine, becoming one as we see the great hall aflame. At 2:44 the ominous Revenge Theme becomes prominent as Atilla declares; “Lady Kriemhild is right, more than right. I myself will stand at her side when the fire will flush out Hagen, the murderer!” Atilla’s declaration is crowned at 3:11 by his resounding fanfare as he bristles with bloodlust for the murderer of his son. We close on a ferocious Fire Motif as we see Atilla and Kriemhild watching the great hall being consumed by fire.

“Hall in Atilla’s Castle” opens darkly with a dire Revenge Theme entwined with the Death Fanfare as Atilla declares to Kriemhild; “Thank you, Kriemhild. Although we never were united in love, we are at last united in hate!” As she looks at him, he adds; “Never was my heart more filled with love!” At 0:50 the Burgundians sense their end in near and Huppertz supports with a molto tragico rendering of the Tragedy Theme. The theme becomes ardent and noble as Gerenot approaches Hagen and offers to give himself up to Kriemhild rather than see King Gunther die in flames. At 1:40 the theme weakens when Hagen is unreceptive, Gerenot turns to the men and declares; “Speak you Nibelungen. Will you buy your freedom with Hagen Tronje’s head?” He turns to Hagen and adds; “Loyalty which iron could not break, will not melt in fire Lord Tronje!” At 2:46 horns of doom and the Fire Motif rise up as the burning ceiling begins collapsing around them. At 2:57 the malice of the Revenge Theme sounds as Hildebrandt declares to Kriemhild; “I call it a shame and disgrace that you let the heroes, who could not be defeated in battle, perish in the fire’s fury!”

“Volker’s Song” offers a very moving and poignant score highlight. It reveals Volker playing a last song on his violin. The Song of Endings Theme offers a lament by solo oboe triste and wistful strings doloroso for the tragic demise of House Burgund. The transfer of the melodic line to solo flute and horns of despair bring heartache as Dietrich and Hildebrandt hear Volker’s lament. The song becomes molto tragico, joined by wailing horns as onscreen script reveals; “O would we be back on the cool green banks of the Rhine!” The end comes as we see the burning ceiling collapsing upon the Burgundians. Slowly the strings borne melodic line ascends and gains potency as Kriemhild says; “Do you hear? Volker is singing!” At 3:12 the music sours as Hidebrandt beseeches Kriemhild; “Are you not human Lady Kriemhild?” to which she answers, “No, I died when Siegfried died.” We conclude with a molto tragico rendering of the song as Hidebrandt and Dietrich bear witness to the inhumane tragedy unfolding. We end with a violent crash as Atilla declares; “It is over!” and races to the great hall doors.

In “Stairway of Atilla’s Castle” there is a variance between the music heard in the film and what is provided on the album. I believe the album version is more congruent with the scene and in preserving fidelity of thematic application. As such, I will review using the album version, which is Huppertz’s original conception. We open with an aching Grief Theme joined by wailing horns, which supports Dietrich barring Atilla’s as he declares; “Lord Atilla, there still lives one vassal!” At 0:52 the Tragedy Theme joins as the doors are opened and Dietrich walks into the hall. At 1:03, Dietrich encounters a defiant Hagen standing before him empowered by his malevolent theme. The two themes entwine, as Dietrich, King Gunther and Lord Hagen, the only two survivors exit the hall. At 1:38 the malice of a fortissimo declaration of the Revenge Theme resounds as Kriemhild sees at last the murderous Hagen within her grasp. At 2:27 dire fortissimo horns resound as she grabs Siegfried’s sword and presses it against her heart. Her grim Revenge Theme joins as King Gunther stares at her with hatred in his eyes. At 3:47 a suffering Tragedy Theme supports the removal of the injured King Gunther. Hagen tries to intercede but is stopped as Kriemhild declares; “I cannot go home to my dead Siegfried, until every wrong has been atoned…Lord Hagen, here is the sword. Where is the treasure?” A sad Tragedy Theme supports Hagen’s response; “I swore not to betray the location of the treasure as long as my king is alive!” The Tragedy Theme erupts at 4:22 for a molto tragico declaration as Kriemhild responds by showing Hagen the severed head of King Gunther. A grand climax at 4:59 supports Hagen’s response, now full of hatred; “Now Kriemhild, nobody knows about the treasure but God and me and God is more discreet than I!” At 5:12 Kriemhild is outraged and slays Hagen supported by grand fortissimo declarations by horns of doom. Hildebrandt can stand no more and thrusts his sword into Kriemhild’s back. A stunned silence of disbelief follows, and as she pulls out her keepsake, the handkerchief of blood-soaked earth from her gown, a wistful rendering of the Love Theme joins as she utters her last words; “Now, Earth, drink your fill.” And falls to her death. Drums of death roll as Atilla gazes at her and states; “Take Kriemhild home to Siegfried, her dead husband, as she has never belonged to another man!” We close the tragedy at 6:05 with an elegiac regret, which ends on a chord of sadness.

I would like to commend Frank Strobel and the creative team of Pan Classics for this monumental recording of the complete film score to Gottfried Huppertz’s masterpiece “Die Nibelungen”. This masterwork of German cinema has long been a Holy Grail for lovers of film score art, and we consider this album, a Godsend. The audio quality is exemplary, and the performance of the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra under Frank Strobel’s peerless baton, outstanding. Director Fritz Lang with this second film presented Huppertz with a story, which was in many ways more compelling, brutal, and tragic. Huppertz understood that this second film’s narrative was driven by Kriemhild’s seething, implacable rage for Lord Hagen’s murder of her beloved Siegfried, as well as the filial betrayal of King Gunther and her two brothers who were complicit in protecting Lord Hagen. This rage overtook reason and became an obsession, which ultimately leads to the ruin of all. In a remarkable testament to Huppertz’s genius, an astounding twenty-four themes and motifs support his soundscape. To ensure continuity of the story’s narrative, seven themes from the first film are reprised. The Nibelungen Theme gains prominence as the emblem of House Burgund, Lord Hagen’s Theme sustains the malevolence of our villain, while the Love Theme and Siegfried’s themes have lost their luster, transformed by tragedy into wistful memories of happier times. For new themes, foremost is Kriemhild’s Revenge Theme, which speaks to her seething, implacable rage born of the murder of her beloved Siegfried, and betrayal by her kin with their complicity. A violent, swirling upsurge by strings irato unleash the opening phrase of the Conflict Theme, creating a new thematic identity that will permeate the story, and empower her revenge. Most of the new themes support the powerful emotional dynamics driving the film’s narrative rather than people or places. As such, the music has a profound impact on the audience as you really feel this score deeply. Juxtaposed to the Burgundians are the Huns, and Huppertz masterfully evokes their nomadic, horsemen of the plains oriental culture, but he also as evidenced by his father and baby themes, humanizes them, thus making them relatable. Atilla’s Anthem, more than his onscreen appearance brings the great leader who holds dominion over the earth to life. For the Hun warriors their oriental infused aggressive battle anthem offers a perfect foil to the Burgundians. Folks, the burden on the composer for silent films is great as the absence of dialogue requires their music to step up and drive the film’s narrative, emoting both the overt and covert character emotions. I believe that in scene after scene you feel the drama, pathos, rage and tragedy of Lang’s story-telling due to Huppertz’s score, which I believe to be his Magnum Opus. In my judgement the Die Nubelungen duology stands as the greatest film scores of the Silent Film Age. Their scope, multiplicity of thirty-eight themes and motifs, and masterful confluence with Fritz Lang’s story-telling is simply remarkable. I cannot overstate the richness, timeless beauty and magnificence of these scores and highly recommend you purchase this exemplary album for your collection.

For those of you unfamiliar with the score, I have embedded a YouTube link to a magnificent 24-minute suite; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RIaVxJnSgSU

Track Listing:

  • Main Title (00:32)
  • Siegfried’s Vault/The Banquet Hall at Worms (02:22)
  • In Front of Siegfried’s Funeral Chapel/Treasure Hall (03:16)
  • Hall of the Burgundians (02:33)
  • Kriemhild’s Bedchamber/Hall of the Burgundians (02:43)
  • Treasure Hall/The Banks of the Rhine/Kriemhild’s Bedchamber (05:22)
  • Forest Square (03:08)
  • In Siegfried’s Vault (01:19)
  • Castle Yard (05:20)
  • Hun’s Hill Crest/Wide Plains/Kriemhild’s Procession (01:01)
  • Atilla’s Castle Hall (01:42)
  • In Front of Atilla’s Castle (01:36)
  • Atilla’s Castle Hall (05:37)
  • Atilla’s Camp Tent (02:22)
  • Song of Werbel (01:59)
  • Arrival of Blaodel (01:26)
  • Kriemhild’s Chamber in Atilla’s Castle (03:27)
  • Fallow Land/Huns-Small Hill/Childrens Ring Dance (01:57)
  • Kriemhild’s Chamber in Atilla’s Castle (02:47)
  • Kriemhild’s Bedchamber; Hun Country/Hall in Bechlarn (02:25)
  • Gunther’s Tent/Kriemhild’s Bedchamber/The Ride of the Huns (01:47)
  • Yard of Atilla’s Castle (00:53)
  • Small Chamber in Atilla’s Castle/Kriemhild Demands Redemption from Atilla’s Oath (04:11)
  • Cellar Room (02:12)
  • Yard of Atilla’s Castle (03:33)
  • Hall in Atilla’s Castle (01:59)
  • Servant’s Hall (00:49)
  • Hall in Atilla’s Castle/Wall/Servant’s Hall (02:31)
  • Werbel’s Dance/Hall in Atilla’s Castle/Small Chamber in Atilla’s Castle (03:20)
  • Werbel’s Dance/Hall in Atilla’s Castle (01:51)
  • Servant’s Hall/Knife Dance, Fight, Betrayal (02:18)
  • Hall of Atilla’s Castle/Death of the Child (03:47)
  • Hall and Yard of Atilla’s Castle (02:06)
  • The Hun’s Revenge/Beginning of the Battle/Atilla’s Chamber (02:05)
  • Hun’s Village Street/Atilla’s Castle (01:42)
  • Hall and Balcony of Atilla’s Castle (01:39)
  • Giselher and Kriemhild (01:32)
  • Dietrich of Berne’s Chamber (01:38)
  • Atilla’s Castle/Battle (01:27)
  • Yard of Atilla’s Castle/Atilla’s Chamber (04:33)
  • Hall and Yard of Atilla’s Castle /Rüdiger Slays Giselher (03:41)
  • Fight Between Rüdiger and Volker (00:27)
  • Kriemhild on the Tower/Yard of Atilla’s Castle (03:29)
  • Atilla’s Castle/Fire Blight (03:39)
  • Hall in Atilla’s Castle (03:29)
  • Volker’s Song (04:50)
  • Stairway of Atilla’s Castle (06:46)

Running Time: 125 minutes 14 seconds

Pan Classics PC-10345 (1924/2015)

Music composed by Gottfried Huppertz. Conducted by Frank Strobel. Performed by the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra Original orchestrations by Marco Jovic. Recorded and mixed by Thomas Eichler. Score produced by Gottfried Huppertz. Album produced by Udo Wüstendörfer, Michael Sawall and Andrea Zietzschmann.

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