for Cinetalk.net

With the recent release by Finders Keepers of the soundtrack to 1963 Czech Space opera Ikarie XB1, it is time to return nearly ten years ago when they first dust out a jewel from the Barrandov vaults, Lubos Fiser’s score to Valerie and her Week of Wonders the surrealist masterpiece directed in 1970 by Jaromil Jires (see 3 by Jires ) . The musical album was re-issued in 2018.

Valerie and her Week of Wonders is one of the most beautiful film ever made. It needed one of the most beautiful score ever written. Both the film and its score remained obscure for a long time, preventing them to reach the classic stature that should belong to such achievement within their respective field.

Valerie came out as a knee-jerk reaction at the end of the Czech miracle (or Czech New Wave) crushed by the Soviet regime. Being closely watched,  Jires had to tone down the political agenda of his previous feature, The Joke (1968) to avoid censorship. As a following project, a dark fable seemed like a good ”compromise”. Partly because of the political turmoil, Valerie was rarely seen for decades and, when it did, it was either with a bad print or awful VHS copies. The wonders of modern restoration and proper Blu-Ray availability finally enabled us to fully appreciate this amazing piece of film making.

In 2006, Finders Keepers could locate the master tapes of Lubos Fiser’s score and secure the rights with Barrandov Films, making it their first, long dreamed of, release of a Czech soundtrack from the period.

Through decades, only a handful of recordings for films by Czech composers were made available and only for a limited time. It is the case of the soundtrack to The Shop on Main Street (1965 – Mainstream records) by Zdenek Liska, getting a rare release, thanks to Academy Awards consideration (the film won the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar). So this last decade, with nearly ten releases of such exquisite material by the FK label (they also released Fiser’s music to Juraj Herz’s Morgiana, 1972) is almost of archeological proportions.

Although he was even more renown for his concert and chamber music,  Lubos Fiser collaborated, beside Herz and Jires, with many central figures of Czech Cinema and theatre, including Karel Kachyna and Oldrich Lipsky. For Valerie and her Week of Wonders Fiser stayed close to the archetypal proposal of the era with its brilliant mix of classical, folk, sacred and experimentation, although he never goes as far as fellow composer Zdenek Liska on that specific ground of experimentation. The suites create various effortless change of pace and range from beautiful lyrical melodies with flutes, voices, harpsichord, choral work, as well as full orchestra, in which source music gets highly sophisticated and inspiring treatments.

Valerie and Morgiana even act as companion piece, the later using chimes, echoing flutes, lutes and piano with reverbs and tape variations with the matching orchestral tension.

Soundtrack Aficionados, these Czech treasures are a must have!

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