This new album from ECM Records is the complete score for the Greek film The Weeping Meadow ('To livadi pou dakrizei') directed by Theo Angelopoulos. The music is by Greek composer Eleni Karaindrou who has previously worked with Angelopoulos on the very successful Ulysses' Gaze, and also Voyage to Cythera, The Beekeper, Landscape in the Mist, The Suspended Step of the Stork, and Eternity and a Day.
The Weeping Meadow is the first film in the new Theo Angelopoulos' Trilogy, telling the fate of the Greek people through the relationship between two people. The story starts in Odessa in 1919, continues through to the end of the civil war in Greece in 1949 continues to the present day. The director depicts, "Exile, separations, wanderings, the collapse of ideas and the ordeals of history. From innocence to tragic passion. And more than ever before, a eulogy on human destiny."
The Weeping Meadow is a tragedy, the score based around one mournful central theme and two further motifs which are so significantly related to the main theme as to be essentially variations. Karaindrou uses the technique of building the themes upon a repeated, syncopated double-bass melody, a 6-note harp motif that constantly loops in on itself, and a final 3-note harp motif that is also frequently repeated.
Many of the most effective parts of the score are found in the use of responses by one instrument to another, where a theme is performed by an instrument and another 'answers back' with either the same theme or one of the other motifs appropriate for the specific moment. It's a kind of 'question and answer', a dialogue between the different instruments used almost constantly used throughout the whole score.
The album introduces the atmosphere of the score and film with the aid of the fascinating pictures from the movie which accompany liner notes by the composer in the CD booklet. We start with the main theme at the beginning of the score through 'The Weeping Meadow'. The whole piece is built upon the syncopated double-bass rhythm and so, after a short introduction by the accordion, we hear the main theme firstly performed by solo cello and string orchestra (the well-known 'La Camerata' string orchestra, Athens) and immediately followed by a flawless French horn response. After that we get the first variation of the theme by the full orchestra and the accordion. It is vivid, sad music, with a 'hidden' intensity that slowly builds. It concludes with a violin and accordion performance of the main theme. The rest of the score follows in a different vein, being much slower and dramatic, so in 'Weeping meadow I' we get a slower, version of the above piece, by full orchestra and solo cello. The instrumentation here is different and this piece is not build upon the syncopated double bass rhythm; it's rather laid-back and relaxing.
'Theme of the uprooting I' introduces us to the 6-note harp motif and the second variation of the main theme by solo cello and orchestra. It's a one-time performance, in a short piece that flows away almost without one taking notice. 'Theme of the Uprooting II' it's a slightly slower version of the above, with the same instruments.
'Waiting I' is the longest piece of the score and hides enormous amounts of intensity. It's built upon the syncopated double bass rhythm, only this time is very slow and has become almost unrecognisable. A quiet and 'stealthy' performance by the orchestra holds the same note throughout the piece and allows parts of the main theme and of its first variation to be showcased by cello, violin and high-pitched writing for strings, reminiscent of the trademarked Hans Zimmer writing for strings as heard in such scores as The Thin Red Line. For 'Waiting II' we get the same musical themes by French horn, accordion, violin and cello accompanied by a beautifully rendered background that consists of the syncopated double bass rhythm plus a two note harp motif and a one-note performance by the brilliant-sounding Constantinople Lyra.
In 'The Tree' the composer presents the 6-note harp motif plus piano, violin and violoncello background and above this, a marvellous rendition of the first variation of the main theme, by solo Constantinople Lyra that clearly reminds us of the Veronica Guerin violin main theme by Harry Gregson Williams. Dialogue with the accordion and the lyra follows.
'Young Man's Theme I' is a performance of the main theme and its first variation in a dialogue between the accordion, the flawless Constantinople lyra performance and the Harp. In 'Young Man's Theme' we get an exact performance of what was heard in 'The Weeping Meadow' only this time is by solo accordion. It's a nice piece indeed although one can not help but to remember the Amelie score by Yann Tiersen.
'Theme of the Uprooting' consists of the 2nd variation of the main theme by accordion, Constantinople lyra and harp in a very slow and eerie piece. 'Theme of the Uprooting III' is the same variation again, with cello performing above the original six-note harp motif and the laid-back orchestra in a very short piece.
'Prayer' is by far the best piece of the whole score and it's also the biggest surprise. We have a string orchestra and a 3-note harp motif background. Upon this, French horn and Constantinople Lyra perform the 1st variation of the main theme and dialogue constantly with accordion and a heavenly vocal ensemble performing wordless lyrics (the 'Hellenic Vocal ensemble' directed by Antonis Kontogeorgiou).
'On The Road' it's the second standout piece of the score, featuring constant dialogue between the full orchestra, French horn, Constantinople lyra and accordion, altogether performing the 1st and 2nd variation of the main theme and accompanied by the 3-note harp motif.
The album ends a little abruptly with 'The Weeping Meadow II' which is a nice slow piece that consists of a dialogue between the high-pitched strings, the accordion and the French horn (which closes the score), altogether performing the 1st and 2nd variation of the main theme structured above the 3-note harp motif again.
The Weeping Meadow is an excellent piece of work, with compelling writing for string orchestra and solo performances by the accordion, violin, cello and the Constantinople Lyra, brilliant and colourful melodies and memorable themes; music sad, tragic and solitary that takes the listener on a magical, silent and slow inner journey. One of the best scores I've ever heard and definitely the best work by Eleni Karaindrou, this is surely a must for all the lovers of serious music. A genuine masterpiece!
Gary Dalkin adds:-
This is a truly beautiful score. The album may retain virtually the same tempo and sombre mood throughout, but it is never less than entrancing. Imagine a Greek equivalent to the music of Zbigniew Preisner, specifically to his rapturous, haunting, enigmatic masterpiece La Double vie de Véronique. Those who love European style of film music with a clear, mesmerizing sound closer to modern classical minimalism than Hollywood should add this disc to their collections at the first opportunity.
From the ECM website:
February 5 , 2004
Karaindrou's new album – presentations and concerts
Eleni Karaindrou's new ECM album – the soundtrack for Theo Angelopoulos' latest film "The Weeping Meadow" – is on the way! European release is scheduled for April.
In Greece where the film will be launched on February 13th, the album is already available, and Karaindrou, together with producer Manfred Eicher, introduced it at an Athens press conference on February 4th, attended by more than 200 journalists and media figures. In one of the first press reactions TA NEA, the Greek newspaper, colourfully described the music as "compelling. With a subcutaneous intensity, allowing no trace of smoke in the surface. Silent. Solitary. Made of the subject matter of sound with the clarity of the water and the magic of a slow, inner journey, laden with its own rhythm, its own silence."
"The Weeping Meadow" is the first film in Theo Angelopoulos' "Trilogy". It tells of the fate of the Greek people through the relationship between two people. Angelopoulos says of his latest film: "The story starts in Odessa in 1919, continues through to the end of the civil war in Greece in 1949 and ends today, in New York. Exile, separations, wanderings, the collapse of ideas and the ordeals of history. From innocence to tragic passion. And more than ever before, a eulogy on human destiny."
On February 12 and 13 the film will be shown at the 54th Berlin International Film Festival.
On the 11th of Julye a special concert will take place in Rome at the Auditorium Parco della Musica where Karaindrou and her musicians will play music she has written for Theo Angelopoulos' films, including "Voyage to Cythera", "The Beekeeper", "Landscape in the Mist", "The Suspended Step of the Stork", "Ulysses' Gaze", "Eternity and a Day" and, for the first time outside Greece, "The Weeping Meadow". Eleni Karaindrou is also currently preparing for a series of concerts at Megaron, the Athens Concert Hall in the months ahead.
"The Weeping Meadow" is Eleni Karaindrou's sixth ECM recording. It follows "Music for Films" (ECM 1429), "The Suspended Step of the Stork" (ECM 1456), "Ulysses's Gaze" (ECM New Series 1570), "Eternity and a Day" (ECM New Series 1692) and "Trojan Women" (ECM New Series 1810).
Eleni Karaindrou's Website: http://www.elenikaraindrou.com/