Michal Urbaniak

" The first theme is a marvellous circulating motif "

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

Michał Urbaniak is a household name within the world of jazz, working with Andrzej Trzaskowski, Krzysztof Komeda and many more. He has mastered the playing of the violin, lyricon, and saxophone, founded various jazz formations and contributes to helping out new talent. Once in a while, he composes music for film and tv-series, such as Eden (2002) and Dług (The Debt 1999).

Dług is a film that has this consistent feeling of desperate things that are bound to happen. As two friends seek money for their new enterprise, they encounter a criminal who makes them an offer that they decline. However, the criminal feels they owe him a debt for his troubles and a game of blackmail begins, putting themselves and their loved ones in a hazardous situation.

The score is based on two principle themes performed by violins, saxophone, woodwind, brass, percussion, bass and piano. The first theme is a marvellous circulating motif, first by strings, bass and woodwind, cleverly augmented with the urgent use of percussion and brass. Urbaniak makes no attempt – rightfully so – to develop the motif and relies on the strong dramatic sense that provides narrative to the events as they unfold. It is only in the end credits he extends on the short pounds of percussion providing closure.

Prior to the introduction of the secondary theme, the composer wrote a short-lived cue for subdued strings and two unremarkable saxophone solos with percussion. Then, suddenly, it all makes sense as the secondary theme is introduced, in a key moment, in which the dramatic consequences of the pursuing criminal have a great emotional effect on one of the characters. The short-lived strings come to live with a woodwind providing a memorable melody, similar to a Morricone, intertwine with the, by now, terribly mournful saxophone solo. Likewise, the second theme undergoes virtually no transition, but it really is such an effective sorrowful theme.

The music Michal Urbaniak wrote is likely to be called original at all, but the sheer feeling of effectiveness and great dramatic purpose, offers an engaging experience.

The music to Dlug has not been officially released, but the composer has performed the music in live 'UrbSymphony concerts', in collaboration with the Warsaw Symphony orchestra. It sheds a new light on his music, including his score to Dług. The 11:46 long track Film Music Dlug, as released by Ubx records in 2003, is impressive. The first four minutes of his Dług movement offer the secondary theme, the circular theme, closely resembling the original score, and then expands on the music with a popularised, almost James Last-like, bold version with orchestral power and jazz improvisation. This turnabout is great because of elements like the inclining solo violin performances by Urbaniak, intertwined with wonderful parts lifted from both themes. The audience' response to this change of gear in the live performance says it all. It adds a whole new level to the music, which transforms into something wonderfully joyful, which is so much different from the original tone of the score.

(written 07-02-2020)

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- (music as heard in the movie 1999)