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Alexandre Desplat at the 12th FMF

Music for over a hundred films, more than thirty nominations for prestigious awards, nineteen awards in the collection – this is a balance sheet of the music and film work of French composer Alexandre Desplat. The two-time Academy Award winner will be the special guest of the 12th Krakow Film Music Festival in May 2019. Fragments of his soundtracks will be heard during two festival events – The Magic and Majesty of Alexandre Desplat, a monographic concert at the ICE Kraków Congress Centre and the fourth edition of the Cinematic Piano series at the Juliusz Słowacki Theatre in Krakow.

Alexandre Desplat, one of the youngest giants of European and American film music milieu, is one of the creators of the traditional art of composing, based on technical mastery and attention to instrumental detail. In his soundtracks, the two-time Academy Award winner (for his music to Wes Anderson’s Grand Budapest Hotel in 2014 and Guillermo del Toro’s Shape of the Water in 2017) combines symphonic music with elements of jazz, minimalism, broadly understood electronic music and folk music, including works from outside Europe, which fascinated the artist even in his early childhood. “The way of being a musician is winding and difficult, so it is very important not only to have a good education and appropriate background, but also to meet people who can listen and help you unleash the deepest layers of your imagination”, said Desplat, adding that in his artistic career he owes a lot to Polish filmmakers and musicians. “When I talk about Poland, I think of a continuum of sorts – of Chopin, Szymanowski, Komeda, and finally of Kilar, whom I admire both for his artistic freedom, as well as compositional precision and mastery of instrumentation – as well as of Roman Polański, who manifests all the fascinating Polish features that I observe in his works” said the artist during the 9th Krakow Film Music Festival in 2016, when he received the Wojciech Kilar Award, which was launched only a year earlier. 

The French composer will return to Krakow in May 2019 to present his film themes to the audience of the 12th FMF, this time presented exclusively in the musical version. “After last year’s concert featuring Krzysztof Penderecki’s works used in the cinema, this time we want to once again offer an alternative perspective on film music. We will present Alexandre Desplat’s film works in a slightly perverse way – in a concert form, disjointed from the screen, without any film or any production additions. Desplat himself asked for it. This is a great opportunity to show the extraordinary talent of our guest, who is considered the heir to great French music and the continuator of the compositional tradition of Hector Berlioz, Camille Saint-Saëns and Maurice Ravel”, said Robert Piaskowski, artistic director of the FMF.

On the 18th of May, the Krzysztof Penderecki Auditorium Hall at the ICE Kraków Congress Centre will resound with fragments of Alexandre Desplat’s most beautiful soundtracks, including Academy Award-winning themes from the Grand Budapest Hotel and Shape of the Water, the composer’s first famous soundtrack, written for Peter Webber’s drama Girl with a Pearl Earring, the most famous motifs from Birth by Jonathan Glazer, The King’s Speech by Tom Hooper, Luc Besson’s Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, Roman Polanski’s The Ghost Writer, as well as both parts of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by David Yates. Desplat will also conduct Pelléas et Mélisande for flute and orchestra, inspired by Maurice Maeterlinck’s 19th-century drama under the same title. The monographic concert The Magic and Majesty of Alexandre Desplat taking place on Saturday, performed by the Sinfonietta Cracovia Orchestra will be conducted by the composer himself.

On Sunday afternoon Alexandre Desplat’s music will be featured at the festival again. In the historical interior of the Juliusz Słowacki Theatre in Krakow, we will see Traffic Quintet – an ensemble founded in 1996 by the composer’s wife, violinist Dominique “Solrey” Lemonnier, with whom Desplat has been professionally associated since the beginning of his career, when at the turn of the 80s and 90s he composed music for theatre plays and simultaneously worked in the police as a fresh graduate of the Paris Conservatory. Dominique “Solrey” Lemonnier and Traffic Quintet have a special treat for the FMF listeners – a project entitled Quai de Scène; in the fourth concert of the Cinematic Piano series we will listen to Alexandre Desplat’s film works in new, chamber arrangements. The repertoire will feature intimate themes from the album Traffic Quintet Plays Alexandre Desplat, released in November 2015 (besides the Girl with a Pearl Earring, The King’s Speech and The Ghost Writer, we will also hear themes from Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life, Anne Fontaine’s Coco Chanel and Stephen Daldry’s Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close). Alexandre Desplat will play the flute and percussion instruments in a guest appearance.

Text: Maria Wilczek-Krupa