Wojciech Kilar: Film Music for Piano

Selected & Reviewed by ANDREW EALES

In 2020, I was commissioned by PWM Edition to record five films showcasing Polish piano music. I was captivated by new musical discoveries, asked to see a wider selection, and have subsequently continued to independently review and introduce this repertoire to Pianodao readers…

Wojciech Kilar (1932-2012) was surely the best known and most respected Polish movie composer, his music not only enriching the films of Polish and international directors but in many cases also finding a second life in the concert hall.

To celebrate this popular music, PWM have produced two books of accessible piano transcriptions arranged by Michał Jakub Papara…

The Music

Kilar’s career as a film composer developed over five decades in which he wrote the music for more than 150 Polish and international films.

Kilar found international fame with his 1992 score for Frances Ford Coppola’s Dracula, going on to compose scores of Roman Polański’s Death and the Maiden, The Ninth Gate and The Pianist as well as Jane Campion’s The Portrait of a Lady.

Kilar’s music is remarkable for its memorability, and while the pieces here will inevitably have special resonance for those who have enjoyed the films from which they are drawn, they are worthy of wider uptake and likely to appeal to those who’ve never even seen the movies.

Soaked in romantic nostalgia, each of the pieces in Film Music for Piano volume 1 enrich player and listener alike with their lyrical melody lines, quirky character, and evocative sense of mood.

The seven pieces included are:

  1. Love Theme from the film Dracula
  2. Vocalise from The Ninth Gate
  3. Theme from The Pianist
  4. Prologue from The Portrait of a Lady
  5. Phantasms of Love from The Portrait of a Lady
  6. Music of the Cruise from The Shadow Line
  7. Waltz from The Land of Promise

Michał Jakub Papara’s highly effective arrangements are not too difficult for the intermediate player (around Grade 3-4). They do sometimes require the LH to stretch an octave plus however, and include leaps between the bass note and harmony (so characteristic of the waltz and other dance idioms). The RH melodies sometimes appear in octaves, legato.

A second volume includes music from Kilar’s earlier movie scores, which will especially appeal to aficionados of Polish cinema.

The Publication

Papara’s transcriptions in Film Music for Piano 1 appear as a 28-page book wrapped in a tastefully presented matt card cover:

Within, the pages are printed on soft ivory coloured paper. The book includes title, contents and credits pages, with a full page composer biography at the rear in Polish and English.

Notation is well-spaced, clearly engraved, each piece taking between 2 to 5 pages. Performance indications (which include pedalling) are fairly minimal, and no fingering suggestions are offered.

In short, this is an excellent working score which will suit enthusiastic adult players with an appetite for this music.

Tutorial Video

In her tutorial video for PWM, Italian pianist Maddalena Giacopuzzi takes a closer look at the Theme from The Pianist, perhaps the best known of all Kilar’s pieces. For English subtitles click on the “CC” icon once the video starts:

Closing Thoughts

Though not all will know the name of Wojciech Kilar, many readers here will have encountered and enjoyed his music. Papara’s masterful transcriptions are a real delight to play, and this is a book that is sure to please any intermediate pianist who enjoys catchy and evocative film music.

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Published by

Andrew Eales

Andrew Eales is a widely respected piano educator, published composer and author based on Milton Keynes UK.