Music Webmaster Len Mullenger


ANDRZEJ KORZYNSKI Music to the films of Andrzej Wajda (1969-81) OST orchestras conducted by composer OLYMPIA OCD601 [77:28]



So much attention is focused on Hollywood's film music that we can easily forget the work of composers elsewhere. This is particularly true of the Eastern Bloc countries as they used to be known. Cultural and political barriers exacerbated the ignorance of these films and music although they travelled more freely from the early 1970s onwards and were increasingly seen in art-house cinemas and found their metièr on Channel 4 and BBC2.

As for Wajda's films I can in fairness recall seeing his grim war-time epics such as Kanal and Ashes and Diamonds in afternoon matinees on BBC during the 1960s. These were and remain granitically dark impressive films. They are lodged deeply in my consciousness. I was not greatly aware of the music and am not all clear as to who the composer(s) was although I seem to remember the name of the conductor Jan Krenz. I hope one day to hear the music for this series in a CD reissue and to review it here. Can anyone advise me of a source and catalogue numbers?

Man of Iron (1981 - 9 tracks - 26:58). The first two tracks are affecting string serenades on a single very strong theme. They occasionally veer towards Mantovani schmaltz but nothing seriously worrying. Track 3 is a horror with the theme taken by a Hammond organ and with a dreadfully seventies pop beat in the background. The fourth and fifth tracks are more restrained: like some grand pavane for strings. Tracks 6 and 7 have space age synthesised warblings mixed with 1970s USA TV music. All very dated and feeble now. The Funeral Music [8] returns to the strings for a sombrely meandering November-morning essay. The last track for the film is a starkly guitar accompanied song. It sounds like a bitterly spat-out folk-song - all hoarsely shouted.

Man of Marble (1977 - 8 tracks - 25:00). If the music for Man of Iron suffers from a dated trendiness then Man of Marble has it in spades. Electric guitars, processed choral singing, tinkling percussion and bongos dominate tracks 10-14. Track 15 (In the Shipyard) deploys a string orchestra in a sleepy evocative essay but even then the composer cannot resist a few burbles from the Hammond Organ and a 'get-on-down' guitar contribution. The Katowice Ironworks track sounds like a cross between Procul Harum, the Swingle Singers and the music for British Television's Countdown. The final track The Striptease has a breathy processed female breathing as an ostinato and over it a jazzy harmonica contribution. This is commercially appalling stuff.

The Birchwood (1970 - 3 tracks - 7:35) is a uplifting contrast to Man of Marble. A scorching violin solo (a sort of Lark Descending) against close-up strings and woodwind sings affectingly. A harpsichord adds to the atmosphere of this exotic aubade. This music might have come from some dream of Sheherazade. I am impressed with the quality of sound extracted by Olympia. The music resonates with that of Alan Hovhaness and Korzynski's countryman Szymanowski.

Hunting Flies (1969 - 7 tracks - 17:48) is dated. Imagine a cross between Swingle Singers cool, bossa nova, The Shadow of Your Smile, Claude Lelouch's Un Homme et Une Femme and you have the picture. Track 22 is dated pop. Track 23 is like the chase music from a Benny Hill TV show with an insufferable then hilarious Hammond organ. Track 24 again deploys a prominent and prominently awful Hammond. A Country Landscape [25] and The Wonderful House [26] takes us back to the attractive, palely Eastern and natural music of The Birchwood. The last track Trying to Catch a Fly is a deliberately reversed orchestral track (pity I cannot find a way of re-reversing it) which in its twitterings and swoopings ends the disc in the surreal.

Olympia's valiant series merits closest attention. There is great variety on this disc. Korzynski can clearly write music of striking mood magic as well as music of appalling date-stamped trendiness. There is too little of the former here. This is a well-filled disc which includes some extremely fine concert music (tracks 1, 2, 18-20, 25) as well as much that does not bear a second listen. It would be a great pity for you to miss the music on the listed tracks. It is amongst the most original and attractive I have heard in a long time.

The disc was issued as long ago as 1993 and received little critical attention at the time. I hope that you will try to track it down and explore its strengths as well as discovering some of its awesomely awful weaknesses. The notes are typically (for Olympia) excellent.

The low star rating reflects the majority of the tracks. The other tracks listed above merit at least four stars.


Robert Barnett


Robert Barnett

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