Rekopis Znaleziony w Saragossie

Krzysztof Penderecki

" the level of experimentation sounds like a hugely degraded form of what Penderecki is capable of. "

Written by Joep de Bruijn - Review of the regular release

Back in the 1960´s, the Polish sonorism (an avant-garde movement) was at its artistic heights with sensational compositions by the composers Wojchiech Kilar (Riff 62), Henryk Górecki (Elementi) and Krystof Penderecki (Fluorescencje / Fluorescences). All of them have gone through musical changes later on, and the only one who remained hugely active in the field of modern classical and film music was Kilar. Penderecki wrote music to a few short films, which I have not heard and experienced in these films. prior to his debut with the 1965 mesmerizing full length film Rekopis Znaleziony w Saragossie (The Saragossa Manuscript). He has not scored any film since, because he did not want to lose status as a 'serious composer'', much like Gorecki. His pre-existing music was sought out for rather popular films throughout the decades. The 2006 film Katyn directed by the Polish filmmaker Andrzej Wajda is important to him because of personal reasons, unlike other movies that re-used previously written music.

Rekopis Znaleziony w Saragossie is a film directed by Wojciech Has. It was a milestone in avant-garde cinema and is still unparalleled and incomparable to any other film, because of its convoluted story structure that brings a huge variety of stories within a story to the foreground. The director´s choice for composers has often been very good, including several collaborations with Lucjan Kaszycki and Jerzy Maksymiuk, while allowing Wojchiech Kilar and Tadeusz Baird to wrote music for a sole project.

The great composer Penderecki, one of my very favorite modern composers, has written memorable music prior to this film and his entire legacy is very impressive. However, scoring a three hour main feature is something quite different. The music is quite remarkable in adding a rather special and bizarre tone for the film, but the level of experimentation sounds like a hugely degraded form of what Penderecki is capable of. Especially his experimental string writing is entirely absent from this score. The atmospheric synthesizer tones display some rather fine, musical effects resembling bubbles and other disorientating sounds, while the baroque Beethoven, Spanish guitar and organ cues are more conventional. Somehow all the musical elements are there for a reason, addressing for one, the story of a Spanish Captain, religious symbolism in the film and rather daft parts of the film.

The music as experienced in the film is rather appropriate on a moderate level, but the separate listening is a bit puzzling and not a very attractive experience. In comparison to the rich music heritage of the composer, it is the least valuable thing he composed in his entire career. Arguably, the unique layout of the film makes for an impossible task for any composer, so perhaps I should give credit where credit is due. That is not to say that any, in his own words, ´a serious composer´, cannot write an inspiring score, for which Wojchiech Kilar is an appropriate example of having excelled in both.

In 2005 Obuh records launched the premiere of the score to Rekopis Znaleziony w Saragossie on lp, followed by a cd release in 2009. All cue titles are labelled untitled.


1 - 29 Untitled

Total duration: 42:45

(written 27-08-2019)
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Released by

Obuh Records (regular release 2009)