Jan Krenz

" Jan Krenz' two-sided score to Kanal is exceptionally strong "

Written by Joep de Bruijn - Review of the music as heard in the movie

Jan Krenz is Polish conductor and composer. During World War II his string quartet no. I premiered in an underground performance in the city of Warsaw. In 1949 he founded the short-lived Grupa 49 i walka o ojca with Tadeusz Baird and Kazimierz Serocki, whose aim was to write socialist realism music. The composer wrote music to three films by Andrzej Munk in between 1955-1960 (Eroica, Blekitny krzyz and Zezowate szczescie) and one to Andrzej Wajda´ Kanał in 1957. As a conductor, he gained a lot of widespread praise and spent most of his time using his baton. It was not until the 1980s he began to divide his time; half on conducting, the other half writing music. Unfortunately, I have little knowledge of his works as a composer to offer an informed opinion of his classical music.

Kanał was the second film in the Andrzej Wajda´ so-called war trilogy, besides Pokolenie (A Generation, 1954) and Popiól I Diament (Ashes and Diamonds, 1958). It is about company of Home Army resistance fighters escaping the Nazi onslaught through the city's sewers, set during the 1944 Warsaw Uprising.

Jan Krenz´ music for the main titles, showing images of the Uprise in Warsaw, leaves little to the imagination. He uses bold and furious orchestral gestures, including pounded percussion, swelling brass figures and frenetic strings. The music in the first half of the film is heard in various combat situations, usually no longer than one minute and a half. I must say, it doesn´t have a rather distinctive sound, and yet the unsubdued threat it provokes is befitting.

The second half of the film, as the resistance fighters descend into the sewers, changes everything. The tone of the film turns into a hopeless nightmare, as they crawl through these dark underground surroundings towards their inevitable fate. Musically, Krenz abandons the previously established style of the music now favoring a more darkened and atmospheric mood. One of the most striking motifs was written for viola and vibraphone, a melting of depressing suspense provided by the eerily viola and the vibraphone adding an echoing and intriguing nightmarish component. Krenz wrote a considerable amount of relatively short cues for sections of the orchestra playing more low-key, but urging (dissonant) music, continuously underscoring scenes of imposing tension. There are a lot of shorter and some longer cues that could make from some fine suites of tension and misery. Somehow, it is regretful that the music never gets an appropriate center stage moment in these sewers, devoid of sound effects and dialogue.

Jan Krenz' two-sided score to Kanal is exceptionally strong .The music is poorly presented by the Pomaton release Andrzej Wajda – Moje Filmy compilations (3 minutes of music), while the That´s Entertainment records RMP release (Andrzej Wadja – The Trilogy) includes a short suite.

(written 17-10-2019)
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- (music as heard in the movie 1957)