The story of MICHAEL STROGOFF is a popular one and also is a tale that has been committed to celluloid on more than 30 occasions either as a television project, a silent movie or as a feature film, the first of these was a silent version produced in 1914 and was made in The United States. Based on the novel from 1876 by Jules Verne, it is a tale of high adventure, filled with action, drama and romance. The book when first published was hailed as the best story that Verne had written. The musical score for this particular incarnation of the story (1999) is every bit as adventurous, exciting, fast paced and dramatic as the storyline itself. The soundtrack is filled to overflowing with haunting melodies, fearsome action cues literally is brimming with affecting leitmotifs and thematic properties that accompany the main protagonists as the story unfolds and develops. Monsignor, Scholar and composer Marco Frisina’s score is an epic sounding work, which is grandiose and robust but also has the ability to become intimate and melancholy, it posses a fragility and also a emotive side that is attractive, poignant and powerful. Frisina was Born in Rome in 1954, he studied music at the Conservatory of Saint Cecilia and was ordained as a Priest in 1982.
He has scored numerous TV and feature film productions and written Oratorios, Masses and Hymns for the Vatican, during his career he has collaborated with a number of high profile artists, Ennio Morricone being one of these.
The Maestro provides the production with a lush and imposing score that at certain points within the proceedings evokes the Style and the atmosphere of the vintage movie soundtracks of Hollywood, by this I mean it has real themes and is beautifully crafted and orchestrated.
The opening theme for example is a rousing, strident and proud piece, written for brass and strings that are underlined rumbling percussion which when combined set the scene perfectly for much of what is to follow. Frisina’s theme for the marauding Tartars is also an impressive one and includes driving strings that are embellished by percussive elements and timpani and driven on even harder by the utilisation of wild brass and wistful sounding woodwind that are punctuated and given more vigour and impact by crashing cymbals, the composer creating an urgent and unmerciful sounding piece that seems to be relentless. Then we have the theme for Strogoff’s wife NADIA which is a text book Frisina sounding composition if indeed there is such a thing, a delicate and gorgeously alluring melody is carried by the string section and underlined and enhanced by lilting woodwind and harp, mid way through the piece there is a stunning guitar solo that picks out the core theme and adds a atmosphere of calm before the cue then changes its mood and direction becoming less melodious and adopting a more sinister and slightly threatening persona which is purveyed by sinewy strings and ominous and apprehensive woodwind. Frisina’s soundtrack is somewhat different to what we have become accustomed to from the composer, yes there are a number of striking thematic moments present but it also brings into focus the darker elements and a greater sense of foreboding in places and an there is an underlying ambience that can be likened to certain scores from Eastern Europe by the likes of Kilar for example. The composer utilises the Balalaika at times which reminds one of the sound that is achieved by Maurice Jarre in Dr Zhivago, predictable ? Maybe, but affective, there are so many themes and addictively melodious passages within the work it is hard to take them all in on first hearing the score. The composer makes effective use of a number of solo instruments throughout the work to bring forth a richness and a lavishly emotive sound which invades ones subconscious.
This is demonstrated perfectly in track number 6, CANTO TZIGANO, a mesmerising solo viola is accompanied by woodwind and then gradually given support by the full string section treating us to a stunning and totally absorbing piece. Track number 8 NEL CUORE DI MICHELE is also a standout cue, Frisina again turning to the solo guitar theme which we heard briefly within NADIA,S THEME, this time however it is accompanied by romantically laced strings with the support of subdued percussion.
The music has up until now only been available digitally as a download, this edition released by Kronos records being the first actual compact disc release of the score. So it’s a score that you should really add to your collection. This is an exclusive review and will be released by Kronos records very soon.