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Stalingrad (Angelo Badalamenti)

March 6, 2014


Angelo Badalamenti, 2013, MovieScore Media
18 tracks, 52:41

It is unfortunate, but war has inspired some of the best films and soundtracks. The sweeping score for “Stalingrad” by Angelo Badalamenti being an excellent example.

Review by Pete Simons

What is it?

Directed by Fedor Bondarchuk, “Stalingrad” is a Russian film telling the story of the battle of Stalingrad during World War II. It sees a band of Russian soldiers fighting to prevent a strategically important building falling into German hands, whilst romantically getting involved with two women who live there. The lush, orchestral score is by Angelo Badalamenti; and it’s one of 2013’s finest!

What does it sound like?

Opening with a mournful solo for female voice (Anna Netrebko), accompanied by slow strings, “Stalingrad” is a slow but incredibly beautiful affair. The opening cue, “Stalingrad Theme” is reminiscent of Ennio Morricone’s work, though the remainder of the score is very much Badalamenti. Fans of his 2004 score “The Very Long Engagement” will find much to enjoy here, as “Stalingrad” is very much written in the same idiom. I’d say that his latest work has a bit more ‘sweep’ and urgency to it than “Engagement”. The second track, “Stalingrad Overture” showcase one of the album’s most expansive themes.

“Kahn’s Theme” offers broad, noble gestures from strings and horns alike; whilst “Katya’s Theme” is much more intimate with its wonderful descending strings-lead theme. “Lovers Steal Away” showcases a powerhouse of an emotional theme. Backed by slow strings, a cello takes centre-stage to perform the most lyrical theme this score has to offer – and indeed one of the best of the year. The album closes with two heart-wrenching variations on the “Stalingrad” theme in “Goodbye Brothers” and “Stalingrad Theme for Strings” respectively.

The album also houses a couple of action cues, that are as effective as they are interesting. It has become hard to imagine action music without pounding drums and synths, yet Badalamenti employs neither. Rhythmic strings and brass stabs are his norm, alongside some militaristic snares. Examples of this can be found in “Desperate Search for Masha” and “The Panzer Attack”. These stand out courtesy of their slightly quirky rhythm and brass calls. At other times, Badalamenti combines his rhythmic devices with anthemic chords and melodies, as heard in “Men on Fire” and “Execution and Attack” (and “Sergei’s Triumph”), lending a real sense of drama and importance to the action.

Is it any good?

“Stalingrad” certainly is one of 2013’s greatest and most welcome surprises. Let’s be honest, Angelo Badalamenti had disappeared off the radar a little. His score for “Stalingrad” is nothing short of an emotional tour de force. The clear and well mixed recording allows you to hear and appreciate every detail of the composer’s writing and orchestrations. If anything, it must be noted that the music moves at a slow pace. Not quite as slow as “The Very Long Engagement” (which was virtually going backwards), but still… it’s one to sit down with. Allow it some time to sink in. There may be themes aplenty here, but you won’t find instant gratification. That does mean that when you give it the attention it deserves, the reward is simply magnificent.

Rating [4/5]


1. Stalingrad Theme (featuring Anna Netrebko) (3:44)
2. Stalingrad Overture (Universal Theme) (3:18)
3. Desperate Search for Masha (2:28)
4. Kahn’s Theme (3:20)
5. Katya’s Theme (3:36)
6. Men of Fire (2:20)
7. Execution and Attack (6:38)
8. Sergei’s Triumph (1:44)
9. Russian Ambush (2:00)
10. The Rules of Warfare (2:01)
11. Lovers Steal Away (1:58)
12. The Panzer Attack (2:00)
13. Masha and Kahn (1:58)
14. Tragic Killing (2:45)
15. Childhood Memories (Katya’s Theme Reprise)( 2:55)
16. Goodbye Brothers: Stalingrad Finale (3:15)
17. Legenda (featuring Zemfira) (3:24)
18. Stalingrad Theme for String Orchestra (3:20)

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