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Conquest 1453 by Benjamin Wallfisch

Conquest 1453

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Conquest 1453 (Soundtrack) by Benjamin Wallfisch











Conquest 1453 (Soundtrack) by Benjamin Wallfisch

Conquest 1453
Composed by Benjamin Wallfisch
Moviescore Records (2012)

Rating: 7/10

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“Had the entire score been of the same quality as the final seven cues, this would have been one of the surprise triumphs of the year. ”

Turkish Delight
Review by Edmund Meinerts



The most expensive Turkish film ever made, FETIH (or CONQUEST) 1453 is a historical epic about the Osman Turks’ successful siege of Constantinople in the year 1453, leading to the replacement of the Byzantine Empire with the Ottoman and the renaming of the city to Istanbul. Somewhat unsurprisingly, it is depicted entirely from the Turkish point of view, centered around Sultan Mehmet as the protagonist – and in Turkey, the film was released at exactly 14:53. Rather than hire a compatriot for this patriotic film, however, director Faruk Aksoy sought the services of one BENJAMIN WALLFISCH to provide the score. WALLFISCH is best-known in the film score industry for his orchestration work, notably on several of DARIO MARIANELLI’S works. CONQUEST 1453 marks his first major effort as a composer, and it is a promising one indeed.

“Mehmet’s Theme” (1) opens with a stately rhythm that sounds quite similar to that which underpins the title theme from VANGELIS’ 1492: CONQUEST OF PARADISE – perhaps WALLFISCH mistakenly thought 1453 was a prequel? But he wastes no time introducing his own title theme, a broadly noble anthem that is a tad simplistic, but certainly enjoyable and memorable enough to carry the score. WALLFISCH uses it liberally throughout, seeming to find a good balance between over- and underusing it. It helps that the theme is adeptly manipulated into several situations. For example, in “The Prophecy” (3), it is translated into an ambience of flowing fantasy complete with fluttering flute accents, whereas in the last half-minute of “The Attack” (18), it is integrated nicely into the action.

That action music, however, is the source of CONQUEST 1453’s greatest flaw. No cue exemplifies the problem better than “Duel” (2). It starts out promisingly, with ripping brass and snare figures that aren’t a million miles from ALAN SILVESTRI territory, but at 0:27, heavy synthetic loops and electronic pulsing suddenly explode into the fray, instantly shattering any medieval ambience the score had built up until that point in a truly jarring moment. These blatantly anachronistic devices sound like they belong in a modern chase flick, certainly not a film set in 1453. “Duel” (2) and “Tunnel” (24) represent the worst of this out-of-place contemporary sound, but even the ferociously slapping acoustic percussion in the action sequences is placed so prominently in the mix that it sounds overly modern. Elsewhere, even subdued cues such as “Journey” (9) and “Easter” (16) include a subtle synthetic pulse.

The use of electronics and loops in historically-set films is, of course, hardly a new phenomenon in the world of film music. It has been argued that orchestral music is just as anachronistic in a medieval setting as electronic music, and that is certainly a valid point. But, as recently with JAVIER NAVARRETE’s WRATH OF THE TITANS, one gets the impression that WALLFISCH doesn’t quite feel comfortable with the slapping loops – an indication, perhaps, that the director and not the composer wanted them there. Therefore, it isn’t just the fact that they are anachronistic that makes these cues so troublesome here – they simply don’t sound or feel natural. Their use is limited to a handful of action cues, but that only makes those appearances doubly awkward. The rest of the score is more traditionally orchestral and choral (though the brass occasionally betrays the fact that it is likely doubled by samples for extra oomph), and it is invariably here that WALLFISCH truly gets to show off. In particular, the final seven cues make for a fantastic eighteen minutes of music.

First, “The Stone of Eyup” (26) offers some beautiful woodwind performances that would have made for a very compelling secondary theme had they been used more often, before closing with a lyrical female-vocal variation on Mehmet’s theme. The emotional powerhouse of “Pulling the Ships” (27) then ramps the drama levels into overdrive, with an agonizingly layered, choral-aided climax that resembles DARIO MARIANELLI’s AGORA, an excellent score that WALLFISCH helped orchestrate. The stirring “Leader of Men” (28) and touching “Goodbye” (29) then offer two compelling statements of Mehmet’s theme and the underutilized love theme respectively, the latter of which is sadly restricted to this cue and its sweeping introduction in “Era and Hassan” (13). “End Game” (30) is probably the strongest of the action cues, allowing the chanting choir and orchestra to stretch its muscles, though the slapping percussion does retain a bit too much of its modern edge at times. “My Life for My Flag” (31) and “A Child of Istanbul” (32) then close out the score with two more variations on Mehmet’s theme, the former bloated and victorious and the latter more reflective.

Ultimately, CONQUEST 1453 is a good score, make no mistake about it. What makes it a potentially frustrating experience is that WALLFISCH definitely had the talent and ingredients to make it a great one. Had the entire score been of the same quality as the final seven cues, this would have been one of the surprise triumphs of the year. MovieScore Media’s uncharacteristically lengthy 72-minute album does CONQUEST 1453 no favors, however, and the more percussively and electronically inclined action cues in its first two-thirds do drag it down somewhat. In his softer cues, WALLFISCH occasionally throws in some gorgeous moments for solo female voice, flute and duduk, and it would have been wonderful to hear this material fleshed out more fully and/or thematically. These lingering issues stop the score from being as enjoyable as it could have been. It’s still plenty enjoyable, however, and anybody looking for yet another clearly talented up-and-coming composer to champion will find one in BENJAMIN WALLFISCH.


Rating: 7/10


Track Title Track Time  Rating
1 Mehmet's Theme 2:46  *****
2 Duel 3:35  ***
3 The Prophecy 2:22  ***
4 The Promise 1:57  ****
5 Basilica 1:45  ****
6 The Resistance 1:52  ****
7 Harbor 0:49  ****
8 Nightmare 1:34  ***
9 Journey 2:03  ***
10 Destiny 4:03  ***
11 Diplomacy Fails 1:57  ***
12 Arrows of Fire 3:59  ****
13 Era and Hasan 2:01  *****
14 Hippodrome 2:13  ****
15 Halil Summoned 3:32  ***
16 Easter 2:03  ****
17 War Drums 1:53  ***
18 Attack 1:49  ****
19 Mehmet Contemplates 1:20  ****
20 Era's Transformation 0:53  ***
21 FActory 1:47  ***
22 Mehmet's War 2:17  ****
23 Aftermath 1:09  ***
24 Tunnel 2:42  **
25 Isolation 2:17  ***
26 The Stone of Eyup 3:47  ****
27 Pulling the Ships 2:10  *****
28 Leader of Men 1:35  ****
29 Goodbye 1:29  ****
30 End Game 3:44  ****
31 My Life for My Flag 2:20  *****
32 A Child of Istanbul 3:00  ****
  Total Running Time (approx) 72 minutes  


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