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Monday, March 15, 2010


Pushkin: The Last Duel
Music by Ivan Burlaev
KeepMoving Records KMRCD 012
28 Tracks 39:45 mins

Natalya Bondarchuk's 2006 film deals with the events leading up to the fateful duel the great Russian poet Pushkin fought with Dantes, and stars Sergey Bezrukov.
The music is by a new name to me, the 33-year-old Ivan Burlaev, who comes from a famous theatrical dynasty. It's fully symphonic, played by the Russian State Symphony Orchestra of Cinematography, and starts out with "Intro," its ominous rumblings building to a dissonant crescendo; with "1837, St.-Petersburg" providing a grand feeling of expectancy, giving way to the initially tragic strings of "Mortal Wound," but a beautiful violin solo suddenly bursts forth, before the final death knell is sounded. "Last Words" is a brief, but quite lovely piece for woodwinds and strings, and is followed by the equally brief "Poet's Death," for which choir joins the orchestra to send the poet heavenwards.
Presumably, the film then goes back in time, the next cue being "Before a Duel," which counts down to a suspended string conclusion. "Recollections about Nataly" follows and expands upon the "Last Words" theme. The sunny, joyful "Necklace," reprised in "Nataly and Dantes," gives way to a tender piano and strings version of Nataly's theme in "Remembering Pushkin." The dissonant "Wicked Tongues" is followed by the surging, dramatic "Copper Rider," which ends surprisingly on a tender note for piano; the same instrument tripping sunnily into "Meeting Emperor." The passionate "Pushkin's Letter" follows, but turns to despair in "In a Study," with the score starting down a very dark path with "Unseemly Proposal,""Russian Theme," and"Challenge to a Duel." The choir (possibly sampled) returns for the fateful moment in "Duel," and continues to add subtly to the orchestra in "Wounded Pushkin."
The penultimate track," Funeral" is a surprising uplifting affair, with the "End Title" ending proceedings with a particularly passionate rendition of the main theme leading to a reprise of the "Before a Duel" music.
Many of the tracks are very brief, which doesn't make for the most satisfying listening experience but, nevertheless, it's still a nice little score, with a some very pretty themes and memorable themes.
After the 22 track Pushkin score, the disc features a further 6 tracks from the TV series The Only Love of My Soul, on which, sadly, I can find no information.
"Main Title," the longest selection of another score made up of brief tracks, opens with a beautiful orchestral/choral theme; and is then followed by "Loving Memory," which sports another strong, somehow familiar, theme. "Love Theme 1 & 2" feature another lovely theme, first on piano, then fully developed on strings. The strong melodic music continues with the rhapsodic "Happiness," and the flowing "End Titles" plays us out nicely.
It's a shame this score is so brief, but it does manage to cram a lot of very nice melodic music into its short playing time; and Burlaev does display, with both these scores, a strong gift for melody.
As always, this is a limited release of just 500, and so you need to get along to to listen to samples and grab your copy while you can.


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