End of last month we visited the Krakow Film Music Festival including its main four concerts: Kon-Tiki: Live in Concert (nominee of Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film 2013), 007. Best of James Bond, Gladiator: Live in Concert and the International Gala of Film Music celebrating ASCAP’s 100th birthday. Here is how we experienced them. We invite you to listen to our Krakow Film Music Festival 2014 playlist on Spotify while reading it!
The charming Kon-Tiki
Kon-Tiki in one word will have to be charming. Johan Söderqvist’s tragically romantic tone in his music for Let the Right One In is completely gone and a soft, warm tone sails Kon-Tiki. If you would have told me I was going to be experiencing it in an industrial works, I wouldn’t have imagined what I saw. The film and the venue don’t match at all, which is what was so fascinating about it. The juxtaposition of hard metal and hanging chains with a story about crossing an Ocean is wonderful, and the large, open, seemingly endless space inside the venue was actually a fitting representation of a vast ocean.
Of course, we very nearly didn’t get the concert at all because of Johan not being convinced of the films’ potential in a live Orchestra setting. “I am a perfectionist and would hate to do Kon-Tiki in a bad way, and it is a very complex score, so it was easier to say no, rather than yes, but they got the funding, and I had a lot of help from the Score Producers, so I couldn’t say no.” Thankfully he did agree because the Orchestra’s sweeping sounds filled the cavernous space easily, and it was very suited to a concert performance, as Johan explains, “we had six people playing twenty drums, which was really cool because there’s a lot of percussion in the film.” So it was clear to him that after he heard it in rehearsals, he was convinced it would work, and from the biggest heroic musical moments of full Orchestra, to the smallest solo harp or solo piano, you still felt every note of his beautiful themes. “I came into the film very late, with only 6 or 7 weeks to go, and I wrote notes on how to approach the themes. It’s a quadrant of thoughts. The first is the magic of Tiki, represented by the Conch Shell. Then it’s the obsession, which the story is about. Then it’s the fragility of the journey, represented by the piano, and finally is the adventure, with the epic orchestral sound.” All of these styles were apparent in the concert, and the many tones of the Orchestra made you feel like you were watching several films; in some moments a historical drama, and in others a survival adventure film, but always with the underscore of the love element of the main character, either for his quest or for his marriage.
To complete the night, Johan took to the stage at the end to acknowledge the flawless performance of the players, and was clearly happy about the deserving standing ovation. “It was very touching. They played very beautiful. They played with their hearts and gave a lot to the music. It was humbling and moving for me.” As a Swedish Composer, Johan didn’t feel the pressure of the subject matter, as much as a Norwegian Composer would. “When I got the film, I asked my father, and he told me that in the 1940’s Kon-Tiki was the big thing. It would be compared with the moon landing. After we made the film, I understood how big it was.” Johan’s words speak the words of the watching audience. Everyone, after seeing the film and hearing the music in such a spectacular fashion and in such unique circumstances, finally understood just how big it all was.
Good old memories: Best of James Bond
The beloved 50 years old James Bond film series is a hard thing to get right in Concert form because of their being so many iconic songs, and so many memorable Scores from some of the great Composers of the last half century. So what do you focus on? Well, the Krakow Philharmonic Orchestra, led by the wonderful Conductor Diego Navarro, chose to showcase all the right things, including the songs we all love, from the power of Goldfinger and Licence to Kill, to the softness of You Only Live Twice and Nobody Does It Better from the Spy Who Loved Me. However it wasn’t only songs that left you speechless and brought back the memories, because a lot of Score music was also portrayed, including the sheer delight of action moments from You Only Live Twice and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. It was just surprise after surprise and smiling was a constant occurrence throughout with consistently pleasing arrangements and suites. But of course to not mention the talent that took us back to all those decades ago, all the way up to now, would be a crime. Incredible Polish singers like Justyna Steczkowska, Zbigniew Wodeck and Monika Borzym wowed the thousands of people that turned out to witness the history. Each of them and the others that were equally enchanting, gave everything their voices let them, in flawless performances alongside the faultless Orchestra. Old and new blended brilliantly and you didn’t know what decade you were in, as it all came together to feel as one huge selection of some of the best musical moments from the life of the British Secret Agent.
Gladiator live in concert
Ever since the Lord of the Rings was performed live to the film all around the world, and still is, there has been a sudden increase in other films being transformed in the same medium. The one thing that all these films have in common is that their music is one of the biggest and most remembered thing about them, and in some cases the music is the thing that people immediately point to. Hans Zimmer is a Composer who does everything big, so what is more fitting to his genius, and in this case, also the genius of his Co-Composers Lisa Gerrard and Klaus Badelt, than to have it on a gigantic screen, in front of 15,000 people, with a live Orchestra and Choir and the spell-binding voice of Kaitlyn Lusk? The answer is that nothing is more fitting than the spectacle it received. The pounding battle music shook you in your seat, as the brass and the drums made you feel like you were in the middle of a battlefield, and the chilling, hair-raising, and highly emotional solo voice of Lusk soothed every one into relaxation. The opposite tones of the Score’s heroics and villainy worked perfectly together, and as the film ended, I’m sure there were a few people dabbing their eyes after the emotional turbulence of the night. Zimmer himself kick-started the Concert by coming on-stage and thanking the performers and of course the audience for still loving the film that was released 14 years ago, and for still appreciating the Score that he put so much work into. But as the man himself said, “we had a lot of fun making this. It wasn’t that hard, it was a joy and a pleasure.” Well Hans, so was listening to your masterful music in the best way possible: live.
International Gala of Film Music
A concert showcasing the music of a particular film or genre is limited to that one thing, which of course is great, but when a concert is dedicated to performing a wide range of music, it can be a wonderful surprise, and the ASCAP 100 Year Anniversary Concert was just that. Celebrating the music of all the attending Composers, including Hans Zimmer, Patrick Doyle and Dario Marianelli.
Before the film legends entered the stage either in person or through their masterpieces of film music history, the Young Talent Award 2014 of this year’s festival was handed over to Jan Sanejko. The films they chose were not the most obvious choices either. When thinking of Doyle, one may remember Henry V or Rise of the Planet of the Apes, but instead they did a highly emotional suite from Frankenstein, with big brass power and heavy sweeping strings that really brought the concert to life. As well, you think of Marianelli and Atonement comes to mind, but instead a lengthy suite from Anna Karenina was danced across the stage, showering the audience with feeling of being in Vienna at the height of the Waltz. Ending the first half of the concert with Philip Glass mesmerizing The Hours Suite, Movement III the second half started off representing the many Marvel movies that have been released over the recent years: Patrick Doyle’s Thor Suite led into the much more modern last hour of the concert. After enjoying Doyle’s Harry in Winter from his score to Harry Potter & The Goblet of Fire, Gustavo Santaolalla greeted everyone in the hall via video apologizing he unfortunately could not make it in person before his Brokeback Mountain Medley began. Before Hans Zimmer entered the stage to perform his massive Inception Suite with the orchestra Elliot Goldenthal received the concert’s first standing ovation after his 20 minutes long Grand Gothic Suite merging parts of his incredible scores for Batman Forever and Batman & Robin. It was definitely the evening’s highlight – including an impressive light show.
All that is left to say for now is that the festival was a fantastic experience and that we recommend everyone to be there next year as it is planned to be even bigger. All the smaller concerts around it were of astonishing quality and you will hear more about them on our social media channels where we will publish our photos and pictures once we’re done reviewing the huge load of material we brought from the festival as almost every single minute seemed to be worth capturing. Short reviews to many of the mentioned scores you find here.