Popular soundtrack composer Kilar dies at 81

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Popular soundtrack composer Kilar dies at 81

WARSAW, Poland - Wojciech Kilar, a Polish pianist and composer of classical music and scores for many films, including Roman Polanski’s Oscar-winning “The Pianist” and Francis Ford Coppola’s “Bram Stoker’s Dracula,” died Sunday. He was 81.

The composer died in his hometown of Katowice, southern Poland, following a long illness, according to Jerzy Kornowicz, head of the Association of Polish Composers.

A modest man who often avoided public attention, Kilar’s main love was composing symphonies and concertos, and he always put that above movies, even though he wrote the scores of dozens of films. He drew inspiration from Polish folk music and religious prayers and hymns, which he had learned in Latin as an altar boy.

But it was film music, especially for Coppola’s 1992 erotic horror movie, that brought this prolific vanguard composer to the world’s attention and commissions from other celebrity directors, including Jane Campion and her “Portrait of a Lady.” Kilar once said the three criteria that made him write film music were, in this order: the name of the director, the salary and the script.

Kilar’s dedication to composing primarily for the concert halls even led him to lose a commission to write the score for Peter Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings” trilogy. “In a movie, music is just one of the many elements,” Kilar once said. “Serious music, which I compose, is signed with my name only, and I get real pleasure from that.”

Still, Kilar wrote music for more than 130 movies in Poland and abroad, but “Dracula” won him the Best Score Composer award from the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers in 1992.

His dense, broad and heart-swelling music is very evocative and seems destined to illustrate movies. Richly instrumented, it uses repetition of a simple melody, making it sound like romantic classical music. His trademark sounds involve basses and cellos.

AP

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