Gloria, movie theme from “King Of The Last Days”
Nothing special, it would seem: a historical series made for TV, an average director specializing in such productions, a German commission and fee. Yet Kilar wrote an entire suite of strong themes. Clear motifs, usually heard as a background to dialogue then in numerous instrumental variants sometimes adding expressive power to scenes in which they appear.
The German miniseries covers an episode from the history of Münster, when the people led by a charismatic preacher, John of Leiden (Christoph Waltz), rise against their Catholic bishop and join the Anabaptists. The problem is that their new spiritual leader is a cunning fraudster and the bishop has no intention of sitting idly by – he lays siege to the city, which has plunged into religious-sensual frenzy. Strings are pulled by women: the mistress of the self-appointed prophet who in the meantime has proclaimed himself king, and a girl who is in love with him and who has been saved from the Catholics by an itinerant jester.
In Kilar’s music, we can distinguish four main themes, two of which are harmonically related. The main motif, slightly archaizing (use of a diatonic scale, understated articulation of the strings), swaying and mellifluous, of course appears during the opening credits and many times through the series in several variants. In its lyrical version, it is played by woodwinds and usually accompanies love scenes; in its dramatic variant, it begins in the strings, subsequently joined by winds and percussion, usually during orgies of scenes of destruction. Finally, in its tragic form, there remain only cellos and double basses (this motif is heard as the preacher is captured and caged).
The second theme derives from the first and the chorus sings piano and sotto voce, creating a truly mystical atmosphere; after all, many inhabitants of Münster did believe in the possibility of spiritual renewal promised by John of Leiden. The third motif, again with the chorus in the leading role, has a touch of Orff-style brutalism: successive phrases of text are highlighted by thunder sheet, illustrating scenes of the flagellants’ procession, for example, and the raid by the bishop’s forces.
Kilar's fourth theme appears at moments of danger: it is characterized by a low, dotted piano rhythm, tremolo harpsichord and a string cluster in changing combinations. It illustrates the attack on the girl by Catholic mercenaries and her clever rescue by the jester, as well as the seduction of the prophet then the suicide of his mistress after she's caught by the bishop’s men. Also worthy of note is the use of elements of period sound-sphere in the soundtrack, for example during the conversation between two former friends in a bell tower, and in a fanfare for six trumpets (main theme) and music for street players (drums, pipes).
A few years later, Kilar arranged the first theme as a separate piece, adding a choir singing the liturgical text Gloria in Excelsis Deo. The second theme, for chorus, was published separately as Agnus Dei.