Music Webmaster Len Mullenger


Geir BØHREN & Bent ÅSERUD Sista Kontraktet (The Last Contract) Terje Mikkelsen Conducts the Latvian National Symphony Orchestra MTG MTG-CD 58585 [52:00]  


Crotchet (UK)

There is as much suspicion and theory about the murder of Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme in 1986 as there ever was about JFK. This film tackles the subject bluntly, adapting an anonymously written book. For such a politically hot potato, you might expect some punches to be pulled. Though while the score is for the most part insinuatingly subtle, it saves some surprises for brief outbursts of tension.

The compositional duo of Bøhren and Åserud is very well known in Europe, and particularly in their Norwegian home. Exactly where the line splits as to who does what differs with every project. Since the collaboration produces consistently excellent material - so what ?

It took me some while to work out what the film's main theme reminded me of. In its most developed state, such as in "The Tragedy", it has a regal nobility. With that, the slight similarity to Morricone's Hamlet presented itself. It has that slow tragedian quality, even if in a more truncated fashion here. A more complex variation features in "The Contract", where a funereal beat underlines the theme alongside a lethargic tambourine. Like several of the cues, it erupts for a short with some furious energy. There is a secondary dramatic motif that bursts in and out with trumpet fanfare and the quickening pace of kettle drums. It makes its first impression with the overture-like initial cue "Olof Palme, The Uncompromising Statesman".

In the main, this really is a textbook example of unobtrusive underscoring. Throughout there are magnificent uses of footstep-like harp chords ("Two Steps Behind"), and gentle cello swirls ("The Puzzle"). "Planning The Attack" is a terrific 6 minute cue which sustains the interest through a series of gentle passages for string and harp. Despite the histrionics of a title like "Heavy Pressure", the cue is a spotlight for gentle bassoon and clarinet playing.

The last cue of the album is of a different style entirely. "The Family's Theme" is a solo trumpet speaking of Americana and humble folk. Concentrating on the piece, it really is hard to equate it back to the massed snare drumming and racy pulse of "The Assassin" or indeed the one-off use of a synth beat under nervy strings in "Robber At Large"

Overlook any doubts you may have about a CD with subtitles, and this will be a very pleasing surprise. The packaging is great, with composer photographs and a complete listing of the entire orchestra. This won't take you any closer to a solution of the Palme mystery, but it will have you wondering why you don't have more by these two fantastic musicians.


Paul Tonks


Paul Tonks

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