for (at FMF Krakow)

Even good things must come to an end. Yesterday was officially the last day of the 2018 Film Music Festival (FMF), set in beautiful Krakow. The historical city – a jewel kept intact by Allied Forces and retreating German troops at the end of WW2 – offered plenty to see and hear, inside out, making herself even more shiny to match the tone of this glorious 11th edition of FMF. And if the recent past is an indication of the future, FMF Krakow is the place to be in May/ June 2019.

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(Photo: Wandzel Wojciech)

The ‘official’ closing night, for professionals (and public on a large scale) was performed in the evening of Sunday June 3rd with a spectacular live musical accompaniment of David Arnold’s score to the James Bond adventure Casino Royale (2006) in front of an audience of 20 000 at Tauron Arena. Surprise guest, David Arnold himself, even provided soloist support for the famous Bond theme during end credits. Tremendous. In fact, the three performances at Tauron Arena (Bond, Disney’s Beauty and the Beast and the Video Games Music Gala) were performed before a full house. Crowds were also huge at each of the various venues and shows. All this beautiful rumble for live film music? Impressive from the point of view of a Canadian film critic.

Beauty and the Beast (2017), with large scale orchestra and synched-to-screen live vocals of songs from Alan Memken’s score was definitely an impressive set up for the whole family, and a crowd favorite.

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On Saturday, The Video Games Music Gala was at work before a mesmerized audience. With music by star of the genre, JesperKyd, they performed to a sold out, cheering crowd. Swiss conductor Ludwig Wicki led the Beethoven Academy Orchestra and the Pro Musica Mundi Choir, occasionally replaced by guest composers Eímear Noone and Austin Wintory, conducting their own works.

Among soloist performances that provoked sheer applause from the crowds, let’s mention renowned Tina Guo on cello, and flutist Sara Andon. The sad loss of composers Daniel Licht (1957-2017) and Johann Johannsson (1969-2017) were properly saluted in musical interludes in what were some pretty moving moments. Cinema guys Michael Giacchino and Elliot Goldenthal (again!!!) were also part of the musical celebration.

Live takes of the orchestra were integrated into the on-screen visuals. Thrown into a graphic world of video games, conductor Ludwig Wicki was a comedic target for assassins. This offered some highly original work and dark humor.

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(Photo – Alice Wroblewska)

Equally impressive was the less formal but exquisite final notes of the whole deal, left to the FMF Youth Orchestra on the 5th of June. A second serving of their May 3rd Krakow performance (in the newly named state of the Art Krzysztof Penderecki Concert Hall) of Monster Movie Music Madness Concert, this time at Krzysztof Penderecki European Centre for Music in Lusławice, masterfully conducted by Monika Bachowska. I peeked into some of Bachovska’s rehearsal with the youth, for a program including John Williams, Jerry Goldsmith, James Horner et al. What I subsequently heard live was a reminder that FMF’s pupils are in such good hands under the care of this amazing woman, ultimately delivering endearing performances under her baton. There was burgeoning talent in the house and I was, like everyone else in the room, successively entertained, stirred and moved. For a paying audience, it was worth every Zloty. For Art’s sake and the glory of the organization and the city, it was priceless.


The word priceless, as well as commitment, also apply to the overall achievement of the organizers, their team, the partners (among them Varèse Saraband Mogol,  Robert Townson), and the volunteers.

The quality of programming and rendering (as well as visual and radio diffusion) finds its roots at top level. First with strong support by Izabela Helbin of the Krakow Festival Office in trusting the duo of FMF General Manager Agata Grabowiecka and Artistic Director Robert Piaskowski. They can in turn relay their dedication to the whole team. Piaskowski, looking and sounding at times like Jude Law Polish style, was like a conductor among conductors. A melange of class, passion, refined taste and sincere diplomatic skills. He was everywhere. During our conversations, his cultural endeavor underscored the commitment of the organization to promote refined art, education, accessibility for everyone, overseeing culture as something socially essential while being economically viable, stating that every Zloty spent yields significant profits. Highly Interesting indeed.


(Photo: Wandzel Wojciech)

Take note, Montreal Mayor, Valerie Plante: following his participation in creating the Festival Cities Network with Montreal, Edinburgh, and Adelaide (and more to come), Mr Piaskowski will visit us in October and he is fully open for cultural exchange and business. As the only Montrealer who attended, I can advise your administration to find some time in your busy schedule to meet the man. You will not regret it as it could pave the way to amazing possibilities for both cities. It is as big as that.

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(Photo: Wandzel Wojciech)



After a stop in Katowice, the Penderecki caravan arrived in Krakow for an afternoon press conference, on May 30th, with some of the major guests including composers Krzysztof Penderecki and Oscar winner Elliot Goldenthal, Oscar nominated director Agnieszka Holland and celebrated conductor/composer Eimear Noone. Mr Penderecki, who abandoned writing directly for the big screen in the 1960’s, said he never bothered to watch the whole bunch of movies featuring his music. When, right after the conference, I inquired if at least he watched The Shining and The Exorcist, he looked at me with a smile and said with a confident voice: ”Well, of Course!”.

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(Photo: Wandzel Wojciech)

Krakow Mayor, Jacek Majchrowski, conducted a late afternoon ceremony to name the auditorium hall of the ICE Kraków Congress Centre after Krzysztof Penderecki. A perfect set up for the Penderecki2Cinema concert of the evening.

While film sequences, including Katyn, The Shining and The Exorcist,  were projected on a giant screen, Dirk Brossé, conducted  the National Polish Radio Orchestra. They vigorously performed Penderecki’s Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima for 52 string instruments, Polymorphia for 48 string instruments, Excerpt of the Christmas Symphony, and Symphony #3. The 85 year-old composer, in attendance, seemed to enjoy the vivid execution of his work by standing up after each piece, to salute the ovations of the crowd.

See also:

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(Photo: Wandzel Wojciech)

As we wrote earlier on, The Penderecki2Cinema evening concert also featured works by this year’s Kilar Award winner, Michael Nyman (See:

The portrait was completed by past winner of the Kilar award, Elliot Goldenthal, whose compelling Concerto for Trumpet and String Orchestra met a sturdy response. It is a mysterious, near elusive, gentle work saluting local ceremonials as well as historical figure, the Polish military man, Tadeusz Kościuszko. It slowly reveals itself, emerging like a figure in a foggy landscape. The suave trumpet solos, performed by Tine Thing Helseth, sounded at times like some distant hoodoo foghorn.

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(Photo: Wandzel Wojciech)

A Chat with Elliot Goldenthal and Anton Smit

I met with Elliot Goldenthal a few days later for an ‘official’ interview that turned out to be more of an open conversation. As we were rushed by time because some missing charts were calling for him to be elsewhere, we decided with fellow Anton Smit (from the resourceful to do this interview thing altogether. Anton and Soundtrackworld along with Gorka Oteiza’s, count among my beloved discovery of FMF.

What comes out of the encounter with Elliot Goldenthal, is that his exceptional musical gift is broad and stupendous. As a man, he displays a great deal of passion and curiosity with a kind of dreamy sweetness that leaves you in a peaceful mood. This can be traced into his music. With him the conversation is friendly, open and generous. No wonder why Krakow adopted him.

He whispered about the music written for the big screen compared to those intended for concert hall. The music is to serve the image, the will of a director or the cues of an editor. Sometimes it reacts, at other times it is character-driven or melody-driven. To him these commissioned works, with their apparent limitation, are as creative as anything because collective work is just another take on creativity. After all, ”the Brazilian National football team is exceptionally creative working as a whole”, says Elliot. Right on.

He cites architecture as an influence in his build-up for the concert Hall. And the influence of the NYC surroundings (he grew up in Brooklyn) as a gift since he could witness live Coleman, Mingus, Bernstein and the birth of Hip Hop.

One odd thing happened when Anton and I were waiting for Elliot. Composer Matthijs Kieboom – a past winner of FMF’s Young Composer Award, who was working this year with the fest – was depicting a passionate late-night conversation with the composer two years earlier in the same hotel. Upon Goldenthal’s entrance, he politely stopped in the middle of it, knowing we didn’t have much time with him. Then, Goldenthal, who couldn’t have overheard the conversation (he was still too far away when Kieboom stopped), just took over the story precisely (in the middle of the sentence!) where Kieboom left off.


NOTE: You can also consult this previous article, about Goldenthal’s presence at FMF 2018:

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(Photo: Michal Ramus)

Scoring4Polish Directors
This year, the series featuring musical works for Polish directors collected score excerpts from the films of Agnieszka Holland. At a press conference held on the afternoon of May 31st, the director mentioned that, for her, film music expressed things left unsaid in the process of shooting. She sees herself and fellow directors as thieves feeding off the composers. According to Holland, good film music doesn’t have to be technically that ‘good’ or even well played. A good score is one that builds a dialogue with the film, and adds emotions through synergy. She added that it would be difficult to imagine Fellini’s films without Nino Rota’s input.

About her fruitful collaboration with composer Jan P. Kaczmarek, she declared they seemed not compatible at first before Kaczmarek did a demo for her film Total Eclipse. Kaczmarek considers he lived ”the last days of romance” in film music (a long gone prosperity), and that it ”used to be great” with the greater availability of symphony orchestras.

Composer Antoni Komasa-Łazarkiewicz recalled a difficult time when he was invited to a live comment on an award-winning score he did. He did not know the final cut of the film featured a totally butchered version of his work. He also talked about mixing sessions in which the re-recording mixer was ‘allergic’ to the sound of real instruments.

During the concert portion of the evening, the goods were delivered. Performed by the Cracow Singers and the AUKSO Chamber Orchestra, and conducted by Marek Moś, it featured Łazarkiewicz’s suites from the films Spoor and In Darkness; Zbigniew Preisner’s music to Europa, Europa (1991) and The Secret Garden; and also the music of Jeff Beal for TV episodes of House of Cards. But it is still Kaczmarek’s music that stood out, simply because his writing seems perfectly suited for concert renditions.

See also:



(Photo – Alice Wroblewska)


(not yet…)

There was more and more… Cinematic Piano for Four Hands, offering versions from the Oscar nominated score to the Film Lion (2016), Dance2Cinema with songs from the films of Almodovar, Art of Inspiration, a recorded improvisation with guests Austin Wintory, Tina Guo and Sara Andon, under the patronage of Robert Townson (who is also putting out CD compilations of musical programs featured at the event), panels, conferences, workshops. I also talked with Netherland’s Jacques Van de Veerdonk whose Watch That Sound teaches kids about creating sound and music for films. See for yoursels:


Finally, I also strongly advise professionals and visitors to ask for guidance by the colorful Maciej Gil, an amazing self taught local historian/ film buff that took me to a walk through Krakow, sharing insights on the city, its history, its movie locations, its various architectures reflecting time periods and politics, its old cinemas, the anecdotes on Wajda, Has, Polanski, Wilder, Zinneman and the Łódź school of Cinema. Mr Gil is such a fascinating individual that he seems like he himself is right out of a movie. If you call upon him, you can tell sent you.


(Photo – Alice Wroblewska)

It is also crucial to mention that the work of love that is FMF, as a fascinating look on music made for moving images, would not be the same without the invincibles Marta Szkudlarek and Kasa Cudek, who’s work goes beyond their respective press office and guess department tasks and, of course, there is the numerous volunteers who came to my rescue quite  a few times.

Thank you All.

What a a wonderful week this was, dear Krakow.  Hope to see you next year for FMF# 12!