Kilar’s score for Francis Ford Coppola’s fine interpretation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992) was for me one of the most unexpected delights to come along in a very long time. Until then I had been neglectfully unaware of the composer’s work and I was immediately entranced by his distinctive sensibilities and his dense, challenging arrangements. But despite strong work on several other high profile productions (Portrait of a Lady, The Ninth Gate etc.), disappointingly Kilar has not really risen to the very top ranks where he belongs, probably mainly due to his reluctance to take on a project simply because it is commercial. But at least here on this compilation we are given a wonderful opportunity to savour some of both his better known work alongside several more obscure pieces.
The selections from Bram Stoker’s Dracula are generally well chosen and they are all well performed by the Polish National Symphony Orchestra and the Cracow Philharmonic Chorus, even managing a solid version of the devilishly difficult ‘The Storm’. Less well known is the music from König der letzten Tage (The King of the Last Days) (1993), but is has just as much quality and impact with its biblical, Rózsa-like orchestrations ( ‘Intrada’ in particular), plus some darkly telling choral work (‘Sanctus’). The inclusion of this music really does make this CD worth seeking out, even for those who already own the original recording of the Dracula score. The melodic invention on display here, seeming to echo so much of the film music of the past (reminiscent of Morricone and the aforementioned Rózsa) is hugely impressive and yet there is still a contemporary accessibility that gives his music such a universal appeal.
Also included is work taken from Roman Polanski’s Death and the Maiden (1994), the first of Kilar’s collaborations with the renowned director (The Ninth Gate and The Pianist were to follow) and here we find the composer in psychological thriller mode. The first cue, ‘The Confession’, while admittedly effective, does bear a melodic resemblance to ‘The Storm’ from Bram Stoker’s Dracula, but setting that aside, Kilar’s intrinsic sense of emotion and drama shines through, particularly in the lilting, melancholic ‘Paulina’s Theme’, a highly melodramatic piece that still manages to remain affecting without falling into the trap of becoming overblown.
Pieces taken from two films directed by Kazimierz Kutz conclude the CD. A selection from the 1980 production The Beads of One Rosary is an understated, poignant cue featuring piano, trumpet and woodwind, while Pearl in the Crown (1972) is a darker, more sombre affair with powerful string writing and a real sense of tragedy and oppression.
Kilar is a composer of great integrity, a true artist and his music speaks from the heart. Anyone with even a passing interest in film music should acquaint themselves with his work at the earliest opportunity and this CD would seem a very good place to start.
See also last month's review.