December 2006 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Michael McLennan
Managing Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster: Len Mullenger

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Mother of Mine  
Music composed by Tuomas Kantelinen
Performed by the London Session Orchestra
Orchestrated and conducted by Matt Dunkley and Tuomas Kantelinen
  Available on Miracle Records (MIR-101)
Running Time: 38:25
Amazon US

Mother of Mine (2005) is a highly acclaimed Finnish film, the story of Eero, one of  70 000 Finnish children who were evacuated to neutral Sweden in the Second World War. According to the digipak sleeve ‘Eero has to cope with living in a foreign country, and a different language, to grow up with two mothers and two cultures. As an adult he has to face the difficult, forget and forgive.’

The music is by Finnish composer Tuomas Kantelinen, who if he is known to English speaking audiences at all, it is most likely for the music to the little seen Hollywood thriller Mindhunters. Happily Tuomas Kantelinen is a real, classically trained, composer – besides over 30 films scores he has composed an opera and a piano concerto. His music for Mother of Mine contains all the elegant formal grace one would expect from a first rate European film score. The work is richly romantic, largely focused on piano with string orchestra, and beautifully melodic in the way one might expect from Delrue, Fenton or Preisner. That said, of recent film music, the scores Mother of Mine most calls to mind are Daniel Tarrab and Andres Goldstein’s La Puta y la Bellena and Jeremy Sams’ Enduring Love. Indeed, while in the former comparison it is a matter of melancholy romantic mood more than anything, there is pastoral romantic writing in Mother of Mine which is very redolent of the way Sams’ score for Enduring Love evoked Vaughan Williams’ The Lark Ascending. Just listen, for example, to ‘Running Away’ at around the 2 minute mark.

But that is to get ahead of ourselves. The album opens with ‘Train Trip’, one of the most intensely passionate cues in an often understated score. The music builds to a powerfully emotional climax with an intensity the disc does not find again until the string furioso of ‘Tremolo’. It is exhilarating music that makes an immediately striking impact, the sort of skilfully crafted film music which brought most of us here in the first place. Music a world away from the bland generic scoring of too much current Hollywood ‘product’.

Kantelinen provides a memorable main theme, developed in an often low key way, with a significant amount of atmospheric string writing and reverberant piano. This will not appeal to all listeners, but effectively sets the scene for the more intense and moving later cues. From the piano solo ‘Surrendering’ onwards the disc builds to a compelling finale. ‘Storm’ is a gripping set-piece, while ‘Life is Beautiful II’ has a charm far greater than its brief playing time. The final three cues, ‘Memory’ (a piano solo), ‘The Message’ and the title music have an emotional directness, a nostalgic potency and impact rare in modern film music. They make one long to see the film to discover what effect they have in context – little hope of that when my local cinema finds it more useful to play the latest Pirates of the Caribbean on five of its ten screens, and Superman Returns on three more. So roll on the DVD, but meanwhile here is a fine new score from a notable composer from whom I hope we hear much more in future. Highly recommended for those willing to try something new.

Gary Dalkin

Rating: 4

James Southall adds:-

There’s been a marked shift in film music at some stage over the past couple of decades.  We have moved from a position where the best film music was written by the best composers on the biggest films, to one where many composers writing music for the biggest films have no training at all (and boy, does it show – some people seem to have a frankly ludicrous idea that as long as some good orchestrators are employed, the biggest non-composers of all can write fine orchestral music – but these composers’ “abilities” come from time spent in their bedrooms as youngsters playing on their computers).  For sure, not every film needs a big, complex orchestral score – and many of these new composers are fine when they’re sticking within their limitations – it’s just when they try to write music that they just can’t, that they run into problems.  I don’t know how things have ended up this way, but still – these days, the finest composers frequently find themselves unable to get work on big movies, and the result is that some of the finest film music of all is being written for films that most people have never even heard of.  (Just out of interest-- of the top ten-grossing films of 2006 so far, five were scored by current or former members of Hans Zimmer’s troupe – including all of the top four.) [Editor’s Apology: True at the time of writing – I really should have posted this up earlier!]

Mother of Mine is a case in point.  As Gary explains above, it’s a relatively small-scale European film – one I would love to see, since it certainly sounds interesting – but one I’ll likely only ever experience through its soundtrack album.  But what an album – echoing the spirit of the late, great Georges Delerue with exquisite melodies, beautifully orchestrated – this is music which speaks directly to the heart, but doesn’t do so in any cheap or clichéd way.  Composer Tuomas Kantelinen bases his score around shimmering string sounds, creating a strained, emotional sound which turns his melodies into something almost as harrowing as they are beautiful; that most “domesticated” instrument, the piano, is used to add the personal touch that makes such an effective emotional connection with audiences, and in the case of the album, listeners.

Kantelinen has consistently shown what a talented composer he is.  I guess his big break should have been Mindhunters – but let’s hope that some day, it will come, so more can benefit from his deftness of touch and gently persuasive emotional style.  Mother of Mine is a superb film score, one that deserves a wider audience than it will get.

James Southall


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