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NOSFERATU

Nosferatu, a Symphony of Horror
(Nosferatu. Eine Symphonie des Grauens)
Germany
1921
Fantasy / Horror

NOSFERATU is a work that has been quoted and copied many times in cinematic history - nevertheless it is and remains the classic thriller par excellence. Based on themes from Bram Stoker‘s DRACULA novel, Henrik Galeen wrote the script for Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau‘s sombre film drama, telling the story of a nightmarish vampire, Count Orlok, who invades a small town. The sinister character spreads pestilence and death until a young woman sacrifices herself and makes him forget the morning sunrise. Employing a German expressionist cinematographic style, Murnau‘s direction of the film‘s mystery and horror is sublime. The film bathes the protagonist in quavering light reflexes, shows his action in slow motion, blows up his shadow and toys with the element of fears.

James Bernard wrote soundtracks to numerous thrillers in the 1950s and 1960s and became famous for his creation oft he „Hammer horror sound“. In compliance wtih ist subtitle: „A Symphony of Horror“, he interpreted Munau’s master piece as a classic horror film.

The contemporary ensemble version written by Michael Obst in 2003 creates a fascinating contrast to the old film material. A rather subtle composition, it picks up on individual images and accentuates them with colourful instrumentation. The spacey and atmospheric music, which is relatively straightforward for a contemporary composition, permeates the film and creates subtle tension.

Pierre Oser’s musical interpretation of NOSFERATU is characterized by a sharp distinction bet- ween the (initially) peaceful life of Thomas Hutter in Wisborg (orchestra) and the life of Count Orlok in the Carpathian Mountains as well as during the passage to Wisborg (choir). As soon as Count Orlok (Nosferatu) arrives in isborg, the previously separated worlds of pure vocal music on the one side and of instrumental music on the other side are combined and eventually culminate in the dramatic finale.

The text of the choral parts is taken from Ovid’s “Metamorphoses” in its original Latin, especially those passages that relate to plagues, diseases, catastrophes, and death. Although the choral part bears a slight resemblance to Gregorian chant, it is intensified by contemporary harmonics, clusters and driving rhythms which add up to a menacing and sinister picture. Pierre Oser’s composition for mixed choir, percussion and string orchestra offers a rather uncommon interpretation of Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau’s classic black-and-white horror movie.

Thomas Hutter is a real estate agent who is sent to the Carpathians to sell a house to a Count. Once he nears Count Orlok’s castle, he realizes that this is not a regular business trip. He discovers his host’s true nature, when Hutter injures himself with a knife. The uncanny Count plunges himself on him and Hutter awakes the next morning with two inexplicable marks on his neck. Hutter’s life is spared when the Count loses interest in him. Orlok sees a picture of his visitor’s wife, and swiftly makes his way to Hutter’s residence. Nosferatu tries to win over the beautiful naïve woman through his powers. She offers herself, as if under hypnosis, and Nosferatu forgets time. Taken by surprise, the brightness of the rising sun makes him disintegrate into smoke.

Compositions:

James Bernard

1997
  large orchestra (from 46 Musicians)    
 
stafflist
2/picc.2.ca.2+1bcl.2+cbn – 0.4.2ttrbn+2btrbn.1 – per(4).pno – strings (14.12.8.8.4) In case of a small instrumentation it is possible to have only 1 bass trombone and minimum strings (10.8.6.4.3)
     
 
Duration
94
sync fps
18

Michael Obst

2003
  Ensemble (1 - 15 Musicians)    
 
stafflist
1/picc/alto.0.1+basscl.1/cbs - 0.2.2.0 - perc. piano - strings (1.0.1.1.1)
     
 
Duration
93
sync fps
18

Pierre Oser

2012
  small orchestra (16 - 45 Musicians)    
 
stafflist
string orchestra, percussion, choir
     
 
Duration
94
sync fps
18

Baudime Jam

2002
  Ensemble (1 - 15 Musicians)    
 
stafflist
strings 6-6-4-4-1 (5 strings bass)
     
 

Hans Erdmann

1921 original music
  small orchestra (16 - 45 Musicians)    
 
stafflist
1.1.2.0 - 0.1.1.0 - 2 perc - pno+harm - (strings) 1.1.1.1.1
     
 
Duration
94
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