The Ninth Gate, Roman Polanski's supernatural thriller about a book that can summon the devil, features an appropriately tense and eerie score by Wojciech Kilar, who also composed the award-winning music for Bram Stoker's Dracula. Sumi Jo's ethereal, operatic vocals grace "The Theme From The Ninth Gate," and the City of Prague Philharmonic and Chorus lend a brooding, Old World feel to pieces like "Corso" and "Bernie Is Dead." Piano and strings contribute to the ghostly, romantic aura of "Liana," while "Plane to Spain," "Chateau Saint Martin," and "The Motorbike" add to the score's continental atmosphere. Suspenseful in its own right, Kilar's music for The Ninth Gate reaffirms his skill as a film composer.
Francis Ford Coppola took an inspired gamble in hiring the Polish composer to realise his Gothic stage production made for the cinema screen. Nothing about Kilar conforms to Hollywood. His classical works and earlier European films for the likes of Polanski and Zanussi, show a style based upon a repetitive form that insinuates itself upon the ear until it becomes unforgettable. "Vampire Hunters" is a superb example, being a cyclic string and brass motif that develops an exciting dynamic by revolving between keys. A pounding drum keeps time and rhythm for a flawlessly edited scene of destroying the vampire's lair. There is also the exquisite theme for Mina and Dracula, which in "Love Remembered" is presented on the composer's favoured instrument, flute. Again, it's through instrumental interchange across repetitions of the theme that the piece achieves its effect. A little sound design ("The Ring Of Fire") offers pause before the tender choral dénouement. Despite the tail-end pop song, this was a blockbuster debut without precedent.
Director Roman Polanski's film The Pianist is based on the memoirs of Polish classical pianist Wladyslaw Szpilman about his harrowing experiences under the Nazi occupation of Warsaw during World War II. The soundtrack album consists almost entirely of Chopin piano pieces, most of them played by Janusz Olejniczak. Most of those, in turn, are solo performances, although Olejniczak is joined by the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Tadeusz Strugala, for Grand Polonaise for Piano and Orchestra. The sole non-Chopin track is the excerpt from Wojciech Kilar's score, "Moving to the Ghetto October 31, 1940," a klezmer-like piece running only 1:45 in which Hanna Wolczedska plays clarinet, accompanied by the Warsaw Philharmonic. Appropriately, the album ends with an actual recording by Szpilman of the Mazurka in A Minor, Op. 17, No. 4.
In what have to be the most electrifying Polish music recordings the year, this album presents compositions by Kilar, Penderecki, Opałka and Meyer in vivid interpretations by Jan Kalinowski, Marek Szlezer and Sinfonietta Cracovia under the baton of Jurek Dybał.