L'Enfant des Loups is a French TV mini-series originally broadcast in 1991. The drama is described in the booklet accompanying this CD as a "Middle Age melting plot melting pagan beliefs and Christian dogmas amongst snow, blood and fire", while the stills reproduced suggest something along the lines of The Name of the Rose. The series is described in the booklet by Gérard Dastugue as a "barbarian opera" and no one could argue with his statement that it "emphasized a score whose richness could seldom be found on TV." Indeed, Serge Franklin's music strikes me as some of the most ambitious, imaginative and dramatic written for television anywhere. Imagine Ennio Morricone reworking Carl Orff's Carmina Burana with a helping of Nino Rota's Romeo and Juliet and a flavour of the melodic glory Trevor Jones brought to such projects as Excalibur, The Dark Crystal and Merlin.
Choral writing is often to the fore while extravagant melody, often with the melancholy of Morricone or Rota echoes through every track. It is a score of tragedy, grandeur and immense dark romanticism, centred around an epic conflict between dark and light, paganism and Christianity. The vivid choral writing brings a sense of Gothic drama to the score which is at times electrifying, while a solo soprano in a cue such as 'Le Livre des Lumieres' provides a moment of pure beauty amid fatalistic majesty. A flute melody – which recurs through the score – is suggestive of Rota's Romeo and Juliet love theme. The swirling strings of 'La Pierre Levée' together with stark percussion and ominous choir establish a mood of fantasy largely unparalleled in television music. 'La Révolte des Nonnes' has a choral impact to match anything in Jerry Goldsmith's Omen scores, with the performances having a remarkable weight given the choir only consisted of 30 voices. The massive set-piece 'Danse des Sacrilèges' combines hand-claps, percussion and a rather uninhibited choir in a dance of such blistering primitive sexuality as to give Stravinsky a run for his money.
This 'Special Signature Edition' soundtrack comes with approximately 24 minutes of previously unreleased music and a booklet in French and English, offering both the above mentioned notes by Dastugue and commentary by the composer, as well as several stills. The album offers a new stereo mix of the music which aims to give it a more cinematic sound than the original TV mix, though it is noted that "some artefacts may still underline the weakness of a recording and a mixing initially aimed at a television broadcast." There is no need to worry though, for even if the sound is not demonstration quality it is rich, full, detailed and powerful, with a warm, lush character which thrillingly envelopes the listener. Like the recently reissued Star Wars soundtrack, the disc ends with an uncredited "easter egg" – an alternative version of one of the main themes.
Television, or film, music rarely gets more powerful, extravagant or exhilarating than this work of dark Gothic beauty. L'Enfant des Loups is an essential addition to any collection, and while Serge Franklin is a previously unknown name to me I will be seeking out more of his recordings in future.