Werckmeister Harmóniák

Mihály Vig

" It really has to be one of the most iconic pieces of music written for film. "

Written by Joep de Bruijn - Review of the regular release

Back in the 1980’s Hungarian director Béla Tarr organised film club meetings. The filmmaker had met musician Mihály Vig during their gatherings and knew Vig played in several bands. He took the time to listen to one of his recordings, which got him thinking. He then proposed Vig to write the music to his next film Öszi Almanach (Amanac of Fall,1984) and Vig gladly accepted. They have worked together ever since and is arguably one of the best in cinematic history. In Sátántangó (1994) the director even offered him to play one the lead characters and write the music. Part of their working process is that Vig reads the script, discusses the film with Tarr and then composes the music prior to principal photography. When the score is completed, it’s used on the set and fine-tuned in post-production.

In the case of Werckmeister Harmóniák (Werckmeister Harmonies, 2000) his initial ideas, the two cues Valuska and Öreg, were immediately approved. Both are sparsely used in this piece of contemplative cinema, with shots lasting for many minutes. Mihály Vig’s music is heard in several carefully selected key moments of the film, which makes a devastating impact. The composer’s musical ideas derive from a minimal musical approach written for an intimately performed violin, cello and piano. The slowly moving, minimal compositions are drenched in sorrow, and the repeated ideas reach a deeper and hypnotic stage as they progress. The 10 minutes long Öreg, more than Valuska, reaches such heights and additionally uses small drum accents. It really has to be one of the most iconic pieces of music written for film. I do not often come across something of such stunning beauty and feelings of sorrow and a sense of desolation.

Some film composers have openly expressed their love for the cinema of Béla Tarr and the music by Mihály Vig, while others were extensively inspired by it while writing their own score. The most obvious example is the equally beautiful Nick Cave/Warren Ellis’ The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, whose resemblances to Werckmeister Harmóniák are indisputable.

The music of Werckmeister Harmóniák is included on the Filmzenék - Tarr Béla Filmjeihez
cd, a compilation covering all their collaborations until 2000. These days, both the original release by Bahia Kiadó and its re-release by Periferic/Alexandra records have become a rare item.

1. Föcim (01:13)
Track 1-6: Öszi almanach
2. Lukin (01:37)
3. Öskigyó (01:27)
4. Lengyelország (01:42)
5. Pajesz (02:00)
6. Synth (01:46)
7. Csille (01:33)
Track 7-13: Kárhozat
8. Kész az egész (08:18)
9. Esö (04:24)
10. R&R (04:47)
11. Lassú tánc (05:05)
12. Körtánc (05:38)
13. Vonósnégyes (01:44)
14. Harang I. (02:47)
Track 14-20: Sátántangó
15. Esö II. (01:40)
16. Halics (03:46)
17. Szabad egy tangót? (03:04)
18. Körtánc II. (05:24)
19. Pityi (00:13)
20. Harang II. (01:33)
21. Valuska (04:14)
Track 21-22: Werckmeister harmóniák
22. Öreg (10:00)

Total Duration: 01:13:55

(written 19-10-2018)
(click to rate this score)  
(total of 2 votes - average 5/5)

Released by

Bahia Kiadó (regular release 2001)