K19 The Widowmaker
with Julia Migenes (soprano)
Original score performed by the Kirov Orchestra and Chorus
HOLLYWOOD RECORDS 2061-62371-2
For this new film based on the true story of Russia's first nuclear submarine
that suffered a malfunction on its maiden voyage in 1961, Badelt has written
a dark hued melancholic score. Too much of it is in this mood of gloom -even
the prestigious Kirov cannot relieve the tedium. There is also much that is
derivative. The score is to all intents and purposes summarised in the four-movement
'Suite for Orchestra in G Minor' The opening movement (Fear-Largo) moves forward
with the heavy tread of a funeral march and there is more than a hint of Tchaikovsky
angst. War-Allegro shows Badelt's association with Hans Zimmer for there is
more than a hint of that Gladiator battle music here. For the final 'Soul-Mysterioso'
we are in Mahler territory, deep soul-searching and such floor-board quivering
bass that the choir, pianissimo, is practically inaudible.
The succeeding tracks: 'Home', 'Heroes' and 'Journey' have little to differentiate
them through a continuous bleak elegy (that is almost a dirge) with just a few
upbeat (well as upbeat as you can possibly get in such a downbeat score) patriotic
march rhythms. 'Capt. Alexi Vostrikov (Harrison Ford) seems stern and dourly
stoical indeed from this musical portrait which nods this time towards Mussorgsky
and is counterpointed by figures suggesting the submarine making heavy weather
ploughing through the depths. For 'Missile Launch – The Rescue' the music stirs
itself after a ponderous opening to the figures used in the 'War' movement of
the opening Suite with the Dies Irae motif mingling with the Holst-like material.
The best thing on this album is the track rather enigmatically named 'Reactor
– Selections from Voices of Light', composed by Richard Einhorn, a moving requiem
scored for soprano (Julia Migenes, delivering beautifully phrased and controlled
singing) and womens' voices preceded by tolling bells and followed by a most
unusual but highly effective droning string dirge. The mood is carried forward
into the final track 'Reunion' that is a rather lovely elegy with an affecting
climax and some pleasing writing for woodwind.
A score best appreciated for its concluding two tracks.
Gary S. Dalkin adds:-
K-19 The Widowmaker is Klaus Badelt's second major score and rapidly follows
his music for the recent version of The Time Machine http://www.musicweb.uk.net/film/2002/Jun02/Time_Machine.html
(2002). The film stars Harrison Ford and Liam Neeson and purports to tell
the true story of a little known piece of Cold War history involving the first
nuclear submarine disaster. Strange then that the album for this tale of heroic
Soviet submariners should open with a helping of cod Wagner at his most brooding
and foreboding. Recalling the way Hans Zimmer's soundtrack for Crimson Tide
(1995) was divided into five lengthy suites, this disc begins with a four part
"Suite for Orchestra and Chorus in G minor". Presumably this
is not a coincidence, as Badelt is a graduate of Zimmer's Media Ventures film
scoring collective and has provided additional music for many of Zimmer's projects.
Indeed, Zimmer gets a thank you in the notes, deservedly given the reworking
of his "Mars" theme Gladiator (2000) now retitled "War
What follows is an hour's worth of superior suspense and action writing with
a strong emotional core build around a theme bearing passing similarities to
Zimmer's main melody from The Assassin / Point of No Return (1993). Cues
such as "Soul - Misterioso" offer an understated longing with
a dignity rare in modern blockbuster film making, while the waltz-like "Home"
presents a sense of nostalgia akin to Maurice Jarre's Doctor Zhivago
(1965). Clearly the temptation to introduce a balalaika proved just too much.
With the beginning of "Heroes" Wagner returns and is determined
not to go away, though the chord progressions soon acquire a more traditionally
Russian melancholy. "Journey" revisits the nostalgia of "Home"
then twice introduces a rousing choral version of the main theme in a cue which
at over 13 minutes should form the heart of the disc but is unfortunately too
fragmented to work as a stand alone piece of music. The portrait of "Capt.
Alexi Vostrikov" commences with appropriately Russian brassy grandeur,
then turns into a more propulsive version of the main theme, leading to the
moment when the disc finally takes fire with "Missile Launch - The
Rescue", once more reworking Gladiator's take on Holst…
So it is that the strongest cue on the disc is a montage entitled "Reactor
- Selections from Voices of Light", and this is strange indeed because
Voices of Light is a cantata by Richard Einhorn inspired by that composer's
love of The Passion of Joan of Arc (1929), and later used as the soundtrack
to a DVD version of that film. Here are eight minutes of extracts from that
score as rearranged by Walter Murch. Fragments they may be, and rearranged fragments
at that, but they leave a powerful impression. Indeed, enjoyable as parts of
this current CD are most listeners will be more rewarded by the complete recording
of Voices of Light, a simply superlative disc with spine tingling performances
by early music ensemble Anonymous Four. Following this music is a hard act,
but Badelt's final cue "Reunion", proves his most impressive
simply for being so clearly indebted to Einhorn. A ghostly lament which is to
all intents and purposes a continuation of the Voices of Light extracts
before developing into an elegiac version of the "Home" theme.
The performances are good though louder moments are seriously let down by some
surprisingly harsh sound.
Gary S Dalkin