CONCERT: 5th Film Music Festival in Kraków, Poland (24-26th May 2012)
Posted 01 June 2012 - 08:59 PM
I attended the festival only once before, and only for one evening. It happened to be a live performance of The Two Towers back in 2009. That edition of this festival was still held outside, which proved to disastrous, because at one point the massive wind (or storm) destroyed the stage. I liked that night a lot, but it was incredibly cold as well.
The I moved to do other things in my life for another three two years so, sadly, it was impossible for me to attend the next two years's events. Pity, because I always wanted to hear Joe Hisaishi's music conducted by the composer himself. That would have been something. The festival has been almost cancelled. Not because there was no interest, but because they couldn't find any funding to sustain an event of this magnitude with a budget they were given at the beginning of this year. It was almost entirely funded by city itself, you see. But things have changed. After a massive response from fans and composers from all around the world, the new sponsors emerged and, to surprise of many, this years's edition has been announced. I couldn't miss it this time, the progamme was too good to miss. Booked my tickets on the first day and off I went...
The festival opened with Perfume: Story of a Murderer – Live to Projection. It was an experiment, born three years ago in Kraków when Ludwig Wicki performed The Two Towers live to film. There he heard a suite from Tom Tykwer’s film and shared this idea with him that they might put together this kind of a performance. It is not great music, in an academic sense, but certainly pleasing on the ears. It plays a very large role in the film and is perfectly suite for this kind of a event. I’m not a fan of this film, but if you are to experience it, this would be a perfect way. The performance by Sinfonietta Cracovia (under the baton of Ludwig Wicki) was really good, which is a big thing since the original was performed by world-renowned Berliner Philharmoniker. It was a very pleasant night, but could have been presented with an intermission. Sitting through two and a haf hours of such a performance was a bit much, even for real enthusiasts. Tom Tykwer and Johnny Klimek were both in attendance. The audience sang Happy Birthday (in Polish) to the director, who happened to celebrate his birthday on the day before. It was a good night.
The second night was a very Pole thing. A big celebration of Wojciech Kilar’s 80th birthday. He’s a very humble and quiet man and it felt like he didn’t exactly feel like attending this kind of an event. I have a mixed feeling about this concert. Because it was filmed for television it was less about music and more about remembrances of different people. I felt that there was too much talking and not enough playing. The first part was dedicated to his Polish works mostly from the 70’s and 80’s. They played some clips from the films. That was a better part of the evening. The second part contained all the stuff mainstream worldwide audience knows. Portrait of a Lady, Death and the Maiden, Dracula and The Ninth Gate. They played a long suite from Francis Ford Coppola’s film, which contained a chase scene from the finale that didn’t appear on the soundtrack album. And while it is an iconic music, I would have preferred to hear more music from Roman Polanski’s film. I feel it is simply a better score and music. Again, a solid performance. This time by the National Polish Radio Symphony Orchestra conducted with great gusto by Jose Maria Florencio. It was all good, but left me wanting more.
And then the final night arrived. It was a perfectly formatted concert programme, unlike that one from the previous night. We were introduced to Alien: A Biomechanical Symphony that premiered at the Filmucite festival on Tenerife three years ago (which has been released on CD/DVD combo by Varese Sarabande last week). But in slightly modified form. That original work focused mostly on Jerry Goldsmith’s score to the first Alien. The version as presented on Kraków was the same, but with greatly expanded Alien 3 section (more on this in a moment). Robert Townson himself presented this work.
The suite opened with 18-20 suite from the first score, which sounded absolutely fabulous as played live. Jerry Goldsmith tackled the horror bit very well, but the score as a whole is incredibly majestic and beautiful. The performance consisted of Main Title, The Landing, Breakaway, The Droid, The Door and End Title. A very strong selection, I must say. If the album doesn’t convince you, this kind of performance surely will. Fantastic stuff.
Then we were treated to 10 minutes of action material from James Horner’s Aliens (namely Futile Escape and Bishop’s Countdown). It definitely sped things up.
Then, finally we moved to the longest, newly premiered, section from the third film. They interrupted the concert for a bit to introduce Elliot Goldenthal who came on stage and payed respects to Krzysztof Penderecki, who attended the concert (he was also present on the first night). He said that being in the same place at the same time as this composer was something he will cherish for the rest of his life. You can hear so many influences in Goldenthal’s scores to Polish avant garde that it came as no surprise that he admired Penderecki’s works. Then the orchestra picked where they left off. Unlike the original Filmucite suite (which contained only Lento and Adagio), we were treated to over 22 minute suite from that score performed by orchestra, choir, soprano and some electronics. It also contained Bait and Chase, First Attack, excerpt from Wreckage and Rape and, of course, Lullaby Elegy and The Entrapment. I must say the final cue, with choir added on top, was almost a religious experience for me. The whole score has a definite post-modern requiem mass feel to it.
The 80+ minute performance was wrapped by a short selection from Alien: Resurrection, which actually wasn’t bad at all, given the predecessor’s quality. A definitely more tonal and easily enjoyable than everything else from the series. A bried 90 segment from Alien vs. Predator: Requiem closed the suite. A weakest element of this work, to be sure, but given that it ripped off so many scores from both franchises, it worked as some sort of coda to the whole thing.
During the 10 minute break Julie Taymor and Elliot signed some autographs. This time I had something to sign (the Frida CD), but, sadly, couldn’t get one. A bummer, but, ah well, at last I took pictures earlier on after one of the festival's seminars. Elliot is quite a funnt guy. And his wife, Julie Taymor, is also very articulate and intelligent woman. Glad that I could briefly meet them both!
Then the second part of the evening started, dedicated solely to Elliot Goldenthal’s works. It kicked off with a very lengthy (20-something minutes) suite from Interview with a Vampire. I’d say the covered all the highlights from the album. Libera Me, Madeleine's Lament, Escape to Paris. Santiago’s Waltz, Abduction and Absolution, Born to Darkness were all present. But we were also treated to such nice bits as harpsichord Lestat’s Recitative. The suite ended with tumultuous Louis’ Revenge, which, to my surprise, has been ended by the spectacular timpani solo from Othello (which ends Tarantella). It was identical. I wonder why he chose to do that?
The concert had been interrupted yet again and Julie Taymor came on stage to introduce music from the two films. The first one was from Titus. Victorius Titus opened this segment, but the opening of this cue was played with addition of brass on top of full chorus (instead of just a capella chorus as heard on the album). Unforunately, it muted the singers to the point you couldn’t hear them at certain points. Procession & Obsequis followed with all this ancient-sounding percussion and low male chanting. The suite, if I remember correctly, contained also Revenge Wheel, Arrows of the Gods, Crossroads, Vortex and wonderful finale. There might have been bits that I forgot about, most likely some quiet writing.
Then the intense mood changes completely and we were treated to a very small and romantic Mexican-influenced music from Frida, performed mostly by guitars and vocalists (with some occasional backing from the string section). This included two songs written by Goldenthal for the film. It is a very different work from anything presented this evening, but I welcomed it, as everything was so intense that we just needed a break.
Similarly to A Biomechanical Symphony the concert ended with a small coda. It was a 3-4 minute section from Batman Forever, which consisted of Obligatory Car Chase, followed by an exceprt from Fledermausmarschmusik , containing the Batman march, which segued directly into March On rendition of the same theme. Of all scores I thought that was the weakest performance, mostly because of the brass. But probably had to do with the acoustics of the place, which was essentially a tinning plant. A strangely fitting location for this particular performance.
A special mention must go to Diego Navarro, who conducted all music this evening. His very enthusiastic (almost comical) direction really added some charm to the whole performance. It was a very challenging programme to play so kudos to Sinfonietta Cracovia for pulling it off as well as they did.
I would have liked the music from the other films as well (especially Michael Collins and more selections from Batman Forever), but, quite frankly, the concert showcased all that is great about Goldenthal's music. In fact I recently came to believe he's one of the true greats. The way he blends the worlds of classical, post-modern and pop is simply astounding.
One quibble: While the musicians were still playing a lot of people started to leave the place making quite a lot of noise. Maybe they thought they were attending a pop/rock summer festival or maybe they felt it was an end title music and it’s time to leave. I felt a bit embarrassed by this disrespectful behavior and regretted that I didn’t have that flame thrower from Aliens to teach others some manners.
Other than that I had a great time. Finally, I got tome for some sight-seeing as I visited Kraków only briefly before. A truly beautiful city with plenty to see. Recommended!
EDIT: Sorry if there are any mistakes. Can't say I read the all the above paragraphs. I just kind of typed it all in one go.
Posted 01 June 2012 - 09:34 PM
Ars superior est vita hominum.
"We pop out and come into the world and music is there. We didn't invent it - it's all organised in the atmosphere by divinity or whatever. It's a miracle." - John Williams-
I think music is a stream of some kind. It could be blood. It could be water. It could be ether. Whatever it is it seems to be a living, organic force that’s in motion, that serves humanity and is part of humanity and part of what describes us as humans. We sing, play, dance, all the things that we do. And there is a vibrant and great literature we have been given. ... As musicians, we join the stream. We swim in the stream with all the other millions of music makers. It’s a life force, a strong one, surrounding us and we are part of it. -John Williams-
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