Tag Archives: ALFI KABILJO


Can I begin by asking you about the TV series, ANNO DOMINI 1573, How did you become involved on the series, and how much music did you compose for the series?

Firstly, it was a movie called THE PEASANT UPRISING directed by Vatroslav Mimica that introduced me to the director and I got the Golden Arena for the music at Pula film festival 1979. Then Mimica made from this material and some additional material TV series ANNO DOMINI 1573. I recorded some music specially for series with choir and Symphony orchestra of Croatian radio television. I was involved in the movie by my friend Branko Lustig who was a producer, and later in LA he got 2 Oscars.

Is it very different writing for a series on TV than it is composing a score for a motion picture?

It is just little different because for series you must write very quick and in motion picture you have more time, but there are directors who change timing in last minute, so you must be prepared to change the score at the recording. As I conduct my scores I can solve easily the new timing.


What was your first scoring assignment and how did you become involved on it?
As a child I was in love with pictures and I was always listening to the background music. In a period from 1960 to 1970, and of course later I was known as a hit composer and the most famous Yugoslav singers have recorded my songs. Also, I got many prizes at International and Yugoslav song competitions. At year 1971 a small movie company in Zagreb proposed me to write some short movies for a talented young director Lordan Zafranović. For this recording I wrote music mostly in classical style for Zagreb Philharmonic, so it was a surprise because they did not expect from a hit composer. A lot of musician came to me asking to write some chamber music for them, which I am writing even today.

You have worked on European and American movies, does the process of scoring a movie differ greatly from country to country?
It is not a big difference from country to country. The director is important – how is his knowledge and interest in music, and of course the budget for music is important. The communication between director and composer is the most important thing in realisation of music


SKY BANDITS was a film I felt should have done better at the box office, your score was filled with so many themes, where did you record the soundtrack, and what size orchestra did you utilise?

I am sorry that the movie was not a great success. I had a great symphony orchestra called National Philharmonic orchestra from London where the best London musicians play. It was recorded by famous engineer Keith Grant who also recorded The Beatles. I also used in an orchestra contrabass clarinet and euphonium.


When you begin to work on a movie, at what stage do you like to become involved, do you like to read a script initially or do you prefer to start by looking at the film in its rough-cut stage?

I prefer to read the script and speak with director and producer. With rough-cut is a little faster, but today there are some directors who want to hear some cuts on synthesizer. It is important to trust the composer.

Do you feel that Orchestration is an important part of the composing process, and do you carry out all the orchestrations for your film scores or does this at times become almost impossible because of the scheduling?
Orchestration is very, very important. I love to orchestrate and when I compose I hear the whole orchestra. It is convenient when you have some more time for orchestration. Just in one movie I had to give my music to orchestrator ‘ because I was writing my opera  CASANOVA IN ISTRIA, at the same time, and opera was a great success.


What are your earliest memories of music of any kind?

My first memories are when I was listening my mother playing classical music and some contemporary hits on piano. I started to learn music with 6 years and I had wonderful professors, a famous Croatian composer Rudolf Matz and his wife Margite Matz as a piano teacher. My parents had a wonderful big collection of records, mostly classical music, but after the war I bought a lot of Soviet music and records for peanuts, and we had an American library with many movie and musicals records. This was my “university” of good music.

When did you decide that you wanted to compose music as a career?

Even with 10 years I started to compose imitating my professor, but during my study of Architecture, which I finished I realised that the music will be my profession. I was very successful with my song writing, arranging and producing for record companies and radio and television. In 1969 I wrote my first musical THE BIG RACE and in 1971 the most famous YALTA YALTA which is still on repertoire.


What musical education did you receive, and did you concentrate upon one particular area or instrument during your studies?

I finished the music school Vatroslav Lisinski in Zagreb. I played piano and flute and I was excellent in theory. But my best school was when I started to conduct my music for records, film music and in theatres conducting my musicals.

I understand that there is A collection of compact discs available which are all your film music, did you have an active role in the selection of what cues would be used and what scores would be included in the collection?

I have very active role in the selection of my cues, but unfortunately still there are a lot of my film music which are not on the records.

Would you say that you have been influenced by any particular composer or composers, either in film music or classical music?

Stravinsky, Ravel, Shostakovich had a big influence on me and in film music Jerry Goldsmith and Nino Rota.

What is your opinion of the lack of themes in contemporary film scores?

Even today in songs there are not many good melodies, but good themes in contemporary film music are rare. It is a question of talent and education.



When you begin to write a score do you have a set way in which you approach a project, by this I mean do you begin with the opening theme and work through to the end titles, or is every movie different?

Mostly I try to begin with an opening theme. This theme if I like I am trying to use it in different arrangements.

How much time are you normally given to work on a motion picture score, or doe the time scale differ from project to project?

It differs from project to project, but it is very seldom that I have a lot of time.


How many times do you like to view a movie before you begin work on writing the score?

2-3 times is enough for me, because I am writing every situation in my notebook.


Do you perform on any of your film scores, and do you conduct all of your soundtracks?

I conduct all my music and sometimes I play piano. If there is a song I also sing backing vocals.


Do you have a preference to what studio you record your film scores at. If so is there any reason for this?

I like a good studio with big space and with excellent technical equipment.

Is the TEMP TRACK something that you have encountered often, and do you find it helpful or distracting and have you encountered a director who has wanted you to copy the temp?

It is most of the time distracting.

What is your opinion of the increased use of samples and electronics in film music and of the DRONE sound that is now a part of the scoring process in many recent scores?

I am not happy with this. It is bad for all composers, especially young one.


What is the largest orchestra that you have used on a film score?


The largest orchestra was National Philharmonic Orchestra in London, 3 flutes, 2 oboes, English horn, 2 clarinets, bass clarinet and contrabass clarinet, 3 bassoons, 4 French horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, euphonium, harp, piano, a lot of percussion, 16 I. violins, 14. II. violins, 12. violas, 10 cellos, 8 contrabasses.


When you are writing a piece of non-film music, for the concert hall, do you find it easier to write without images and sound effects etc that are present within films?

It is easier to write when you have nice images in movies, but if not, a lot of time I find some imaginations in my mind.



My thanks to the Maestro for his time and patience.

Also Many thanks to my good friend Sergei Karov, without whom this interview would not have happened,

Thank you Sergei.



The Gold series as presented by the ever industrious Kronos records has yielded many exciting and interesting titles within a relatively short period of time. The label making available either long out of print soundtracks or bringing scores to collectors for the very first time. The latest batch of scores to be issued under this banner are certainly no exception. They include two soundtracks from Italian cinema and the score to a movie which I have to admit I have not seen. BANOVIC STRAHINJA or THE FALCON was released in 1981. Directed by Vatroslav Mimica who also collaborated on the screenplay with Alexsandar Petrovic the pair basing their writings upon Strahinja Banovic who was a hero in Serbian epic poetry. The film starred Franco Nero as Banovic and included a performance by well known German actor Gert frobe in the role of Jug Bogdan, both Nero and Frobe were dubbed for the production Miodrag Radovanovic provided the voice over for Nero and Peter Banicevic doing the honours for Frobe. Set in the late part of the 14th Century, the story centres upon Medievil Serbia which has become the target of Ottoman invaders, a group of these invaders lead by Turkish bandit Alija attacks and destroys a castle killing all of the servants and occupants apart from the young wife of the nobleman Banovic Strahinja who is the lord of the estate where the castle stands, the bandit leader kidnaps the woman and thus starts the nobleman’s almost endless task of finding his wife and returning her to her home, he gathers around him a company of renegades and rouges to assist him in his quest and is determined to find her even though many around him try to convince him that she is lost forever to the Turks. The music for the movie is by Croatian born composer Alfi Kabiljo, when soundtrack collectors think of this composer his score for SKY BANDITS (1985) immediately comes to mind, but Kabiljo has worked on numerous movies and TV projects both in and outside his native Croatia, these include TRANSYLVANIA 6-500 the spoof horror movie with Jeff Goldblum and Ed Begley jnr, SCISSORS (which starred Sharon Stone) and GYMKATA which was a Japanese/USA co-production amongst others. The music for THE FALCON is certainly very different from the work the composer produced on SKY BANDITS this is an epic sounding score that enlists the aid of choir and full symphony orchestra, the work is filled with numerous choral pieces which set the scene perfectly and create an aura and atmosphere of an ancient time. The composer also makes effective use of the string section and woodwind within the soundtrack, and sets down a musical foundation in the form of a central theme which is formed of a four note motif that is melodic and haunting, this theme returns throughout the score but it is re-invented and presented in many differing forms with the composer giving it a fresh appeal via alternative orchestration and instrumentation.

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The score is filled with dramatic dark passages and also contains its fair share of highly melodious and sweeping interludes, Kabiljo utilising harpsichord and solo piano at certain points that are underlined and supported by the string section, there are also various ethnic pieces or at least compositions that contain performances by ethnic instruments which makes the soundtrack even more interesting and also authentic. I have to say although I have not seen the movie the music worked for me as a stand alone piece, overflowing with inventive orchestration and bursting with rich thematic material, plus it also made me revisit Kabiljo,s SKY BANDITS. Presented well, with colourful front cover artwork and crisp and clear sound quality. Certainly one to pre order now.