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Review by Brad Green:
If movies teach us anything itís surely that those wanting to look back on their lives in crystal clarity had best go out in a blaze of glory. Heroic deaths always seem to come with the compensation of a Technicolor, personal bio-pic flashing before the eyes. Otherwise itís off to Shady Acres to await the gradual descent of Alzheimerís.

Either way, we all expect to look back before we bow out. What else but memories do any of us really have for a definition of self?†

On this CD we find one of Australiaís most in-demand cinema composers scoring for the smaller screen. With a sizeable budget, an A-list cast and a narrative built around the declining mental acuity of a man bearing scars of disenchantment, Cezary Skubiszewski was inspired to write for a TV mini-series what possibly amounts to his finest soundtrack.

The story is such that it could hardly succeed unless the music hit the mark. Its central protagonist is a former concert violinist and WWII veteran, now suffering from Alzheimerís. He has a myriad of vicissitudes flooding back, but only through the filtered light of a rapidly descending blind. Skubiszewskiís music serves both as a reflection and embodiment of these fitful recollections--the soundtrack to the video tape of a life rewinding and fast-forwarding at random before a deteriorating mindís eye.†

From the opening cues, the voice of the violin educes bittersweet emotion.†
Skubiszewski eschews florid runs in favour of unforced melody; his phrases are haunting, elegiac and pause in just the right places to allow us to absorb the emotion of the notes as well as the performance subtleties, the tone and vibrato, brought to the music by his leading violinist.†

Throughout, unmuddied arrangements permit nostalgia to flow without drowning us in sentimentality. In the opening cue, a shifting mosaic of piano, percussion and guitar provides a backdrop that hints at uneasy issues without ever spilling over into melodrama. At another point, minimalist string accents create a pseudo-tango pulse; and in the one, overt action cue, The Battle, timpani are shot over with short, sharp volleys of harmonic tension. In contrast, another track is built around echoing blues guitar, as effective and unpretentious as the riffs that underpinned the laid-back hits of Dire Straits; and on the cue Intimacy, an ambient guitar figure captures a similar mood to that which sufficed for Paul Kellyís entire Lantana score. In fact, guitars are almost as pivotal to this soundtrack as the violin, reflecting perhaps the further dimensions of the narrative--brothers, one of whom is a rock musician, reunited by their fatherís condition and still bearing family baggage from the past.

Unlike many productions that augment an orchestral score with source music for scenes requiring period recordings or genre songs, Skubiszewsky took on almost every requirment here. His flexibility is well showcased by a gorgeous Irish Air, a convincing 1940s jazz frolic, a laid-back reggae and even a gritty rock number. The only music he didnít compose are three selections from the classical repertoire -- Mozartís Laudate Dominum; Massenetís Meditation from Thais; and Handelís Music, Spread Thy Voice Around from Solomon -- and the benefit of Skubiszewskiís all-encompassing vision has created a stand alone soundtrack that comes across as perfectly cohesive despite its multifaceted elements.†

Overall, this TV mini-series score is right up there with the best cinema soundtracks Iíve heard this year. The gentle accruement and unpredictable bursting back of memories in all their powerful, untrustworthy and precious glory is an evocative theme. It could also be the catalyst for some terribly maudlin music, but it is to Skubiszewskiís great credit that his score instead evokes a rich, warm and far more rewarding catharsis.†

Published August 21, 2003

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TITLE: After The Deluge
ID: MD 3272
SCORE: Cezary Skubiszewski

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