Film-Related & Film Reviews 2006

Roque Baños: Alatriste On The Stave

Source: Score Magacine

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Baños wanted to analyze his musical approach to the universe of "Alatriste". He informed us that he had tackled it thematically and that the chosen language, although it was symphonic, didn't privilege the musical realism. His contribution is dramatic, with some notes of the Spanish XVII c., but also modern. Baños explained that he had written three leitmotivs for the film, which are associated with the three dramatic lines of the story. Firstly he had had to solve the main character, which presented him with a considerable difficulty. He explained that Alatriste is a hero tormented by his military past (he was a soldier of the Old Tercios of Flanders); therefore, he couldn't do a typical heroic theme, but he had to combine in his melody heroism and affliction (in this way it emerges the "theme of the dejected hero", which represents the character's ambiguity).

The second of the themes of his repertoire is associated with the love story between Alatriste and María de Castro (Ariadna Gil). Baños confessed to being very proud of this melody, which wittily puts together a harmony of the 17th century and a melodramatic, universal character (the composer also joked about his unstoppable work pace, commenting that "this is probably the best theme I have the last few months.")

The third theme was conceived to underline the tragic relationship between Íñigo Balboa (Unax Ugalde), the youngster at Alatriste's service and the perfidious Angélica de Alquézar (Elena Anaya). Baños explained that this is a very rudimentary theme, of little strength on paper, but very functional and penetrating on screen.

With regard to the thematic concept of the work, he pointed out that, even though he had assigned one leitmotiv to every character, this hadn't been an impediment for him to equally resort to them if the dramatic circumstances required it that way; in "Alatriste" there is no unilaterality in the musical reference, so to speak (Alatriste has one theme, but its value falls on the dramatic meaning, which makes it possible to use it in other contexts.)

Baños, visibly excited for being given the chance of talking about his latest work, was requested to play the piano, with applauses and whistles, by an audience who really felt like listening to those ideas turned into music. Nicely surprised that the audience wanted to listen to him play, he made his excuses for his poor "piano ways" ("I can only play one instrument, which is the sax") and started to analyse them, in a very instructive way (before and after performing them he pointed out the inflections that the audience should take into account to perceive the musical translation of those concepts) on the keyboard.

Listening to this absolute scoop, the melodies of "Alatriste" immediately captivated the audience, who applauded excitedly at the end of every presentation. Regarding the "theme of Íñigo and Angélica", Baños explained again that its character is harmonic and not melodic (indeed, it's a very static theme on the piano), and that the instrument couldn't evoke the orchestral rank this theme was intended to have (thus the audience had the chance of measuring the existing distance between the musical idea and the final orchestration).

After this didactic pianistic interlude Baños presented a selection of images from "Alatriste" (in another scoop) for the audience to have the chance of listening to the final orchestration of the themes and analysing their relation with the images.

The first scene, whose aim was illustrating the application of the "Alatriste theme", shows the mercenary arriving at the hospice where María de Castro is confined. Wrapped in a tenebrous atmosphere, in the style of Caravaggio, the Captain takes off his hat while he enters a healing ward divided by some frames. The hero goes close to the lady, who is sitting on one of the rickety old beds, dressed in black and covered with a veil. The captain kneels down at her feet. The woman, visibly sick under the black clothes, objects to unveiling her face. The captain, gently, breaks her resistance looking at her eyes, then he removes her veil and they kiss.

The scene starts with the "Alatriste theme", entrusted to a contralto and with string accompaniment, in a very modern style, with some new age nuances. The theme develops while the captain heads for the infirmary, and ends when María appears, sitting on the bed. The scene continues in silence while Alatriste recognizes the sick and wizened face of his beloved. At the moment in which María yields to Alatriste's passion, the strings delicately introduce the "love theme", which develops, in an increasing intensity, until the lovers end up kissing.

Next, and after a rabid applause from the audience (moved by Baños' art), he showed a second scene to illustrate the efficiency of the tragic theme associated with Íñigo and Angélica. The scene takes place on the top of some outside steps, in a nocturnal and mysterious Madrid. Íñigo courts Angélica, who has already seduced him with her disturbing beauty. They struggle (the youngster wants to get her love; she is just playing) and finally Angélica, quietly, frees herself from his embrace and disappears through a narrow street. The scene is accompanied by that static rhythm, limited to a sixth and orchestrated for cellos and double basses.

For good measure, and with the intention of giving the audience a taste of the aforementioned thematic interrelation, Baños showed a scene composed of two fragments; the first one shows the hero rescuing Íñigo, who was left to his fate on a beach. The hero picks up the boy and both of them run out by the shore. There is a fade-in and the action goes to the battlefield where Alatriste defends a position commanding a line of pikemen that awaits the charge of the cavalry.

The beach scene is underlined by the "love theme", which in this context expresses the high regard that Alatriste has for Íñigo; when both of them start to run the melody softens to move on to a martial rhythm, in an old drum, that introduces us in the military scene. That drum rhythm is the core of a symphonic composition, very heroic, with a structure that is similar to Orff's Carmina Burana, full of brasses and crowned by a rhythmical melody for a male choir, with text in Latin.

Time had flown and the audience closed with a last round of applause and cheers the inaugural intervention of both composers, who for two hours filled up the UNESCO hall with their generosity, modesty and philharmonic view. An excellent overture for a memorable day.
Last edited: 15 February 2007 15:02:07
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