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Fort Ross (Yuri Poteyenko)

September 23, 2015

Cover_FortRossFORT ROSS

Yuri Poteyenko, 2015, Keep Moving Records
24 tracks, 57:26

If, like me, you had not heard of Yuri Poteyenko before, then it’s high time you get acquainted! Let’s start with the adventurous and colourful “Fort Ross”.

Review by Pete Simons

What is it?

Directed by Yuriy Moroz, “Fort Ross” is a Russian adventure film based around the history of Russia’s most important colony in California. The story shifts between St. Petersburg in 1825, Fort Ross in 1820 and modern times as a group of Russian journalists travel to San Francisco. Thanks to an iPhone struck by lightning, the group gets transported back to the 19th century where they immediately witness the hardships of Russian colonists. While battling a motley group of pirates and forging an alliance with the local Pomo Indians, the people of Fort Ross turn out to be real adventurers who can stand their own ground, even though all they wish for is to be left on their own and prosper.

The score for Fort Ross was written by Yuri Poteyenko, one of the busiest Russian film composers. He graduated from the Moscow Conservatory in 1986, his majors were composing (class of N. N. Sidelnikov) and choral conducting (class of the professor Lyashko). Some of his most widely seen works are Timur Bekmambetov’s “Night Watch” and “Day Watch” and the haunting Shostakovich-inspired score to “Leningrad”.

What does it sound like?

The album opens with a quirky tune on the bassoon. As the rest of the orchestra joins in, it turns into an incredibly joyful and colourful piece. It has a lighthearted, ‘piratey’ feel to it. The theme recurs many times throughout the album, each time as welcome as the one before. “On A Pirate Ship” is arranged in nearly the same way as the “Main Titles”; but in “Pirates vs. Naval Cadets” the theme takes on an entirely different colour, as it’s carried by the brass section.

From the get-go it’s clear that the orchestrations are going to be spectacular in their own right. Each section has its work cut out for them; and the play between instruments is absolutely delightful. “Meetings and Greetings” offers another playful melody for solo violin. Soon, woodwinds and light strings come in, with light percussion in the background. It’s a beautiful, colourful, classical-tinged cue with rich harmonies. “Water Gun/Kidnapping” features an exciting sequence for brass and timpani”, whilst “The Mission/On The Trial” presents yet another playful tune for woodwinds and strings, that may have a more traditional ‘pirate’ feel to it. Elsewhere, “Escape from the Ship” is a lively cue with soaring strings and brass. There are themes aplenty here. The trouble with not having seen the film is that it’s hard to judge who (or what) these melodies are for. Yet, that doesn’t at all hinder enjoying this score.

From the press notes: “During the composition of Fort Ross, Poteyenko revisits his classics pirate-themed video game scores (“Sea Dogs”, “Age of Pirates: Caribbean Tales”) as well as one of his own personal favorites, Isaak Dunayevsky score for the Soviet production of “Captain Grant’s Family”. The lush, symphonic swashbuckler score pays equal parts homage to Hans Zimmer’s “Pirates of the Caribbean” for the marauders as well as John Williams whimsical family adventures for the journalists’ adventures. Recorded in Moscow, the score recruits all the top talents of the local film music scene who contributed to Poteyenko’s past successes. The CD comes with 8-page liner notes by Gergely Hubai discussing the film and the score.”

To be fair, I’m not sure what parts play homage to Zimmer or Williams. It really sounds like neither. The only thing it may have in common with “Pirates of the Caribbean” is that it’s ‘fun’, first and foremost. However, the writing and orchestrations show a richness and depth that Zimmer’s work simply does not possess. In that regard, the skill and knowledge on display is indeed akin to Williams. However, I would argue that a comparison to James Horner would be far more apt. The score often reminds me of Horner’s animation and adventure films, particularly “The Pagemaster”. Perhaps this shouldn’t come as a great surprise, seeing as Horner’s style of writing and his orchestrations were strongly influenced by Russian composers.

The second half of “Pirates vs. Naval Cadets” starts to show off the score’s softer side, as slow strings and woodwinds offer moments of respite. This is explored further in cues like “Fima and Lucia”, “Second Chance” and “No Fate Than The One We Are Creating”. There are also a poignant renditions of this theme to be found towards the ends of “Night Attack/Return to the Fort Ross” and “Under Siege/Victory”. Stylistically, it reminds me a little of Alan Silvestri, particularly his “Pandora’s Box” from “Tomb Raider 2”.

Is it any good?

Yuri Poteyenko’s “Fort Ross” is a marvellous work for full orchestra. The writing and orchestrations show a richness and a depth that is rarely found in Western cinema these days. The score contains several themes, each one as infectious and as colourful as the next. There is a strong emphasis on woodwinds, particularly the bassoon, which gives the score a slight comedic tone. It’s not a brassy score, but when brass does come in it feels rather special. This score blew me away; and I urge you to discover it for yourselves. It’s only a tenner from the label’s website, and the CD is accompanied by extensive and insightful liner notes.

Rating [5/5]

Tracklisting

01 – Main Titles/ 200 Years Later (1:49)
02 – The Old Letter (1:03)
03 – The Magic Shop (1:46)
04 – Marketplace (1:06)
05 – Meetings and Greetings (2:00)
06 – Fort Ross (2:35)
07 – Pirates in the Town (1:17)
08 – Water Gun/Kidnapping (1:08)
09 – The Mission/On the Trail (3:25)
10 – Russian Rum (1:09)
11 – Ship on the Horizon (0:55)
12 – On a Pirate Ship (2:14)
13 – Gunpowder Storage (1:02)
14 – Escape from the Ship/Under Fire/Pursuit (6:41)
15 – Pirates vs. Naval Cadets (2:39)
16 – Wounded Fima (1:03)
17 – Scooter (0:40)
18 – Fima and Lucia (3:48)
19 – The Path to the Coast (2:00)
20 – Night Attack/Return to the Fort Ross (5:24)
21 – Second Chance (3:26)
22 – Under Siege/ Victory (5:18)
23 – No Fate Than the One We Are Creating (2:12)
24 – End Credits (1:57)

Availability

For more information and soundclips visit Keep Moving Records‘ website.

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One Comment
  1. As long-time prominent member and administrator of the PiratesAhoy! Community, I’m quite familiar with Yuri Poteyenko’s work for Sea Dogs and Age of Pirates: Caribbean Tales. However, this goes double for the 2003 Pirates of the Caribbean game as I have by now spent well over 10 years improving on that game. That never got a commercial release of the music on CD, but I have made a 1-hour selection of tracks for myself. Definitely some good pirate stuff in there too!

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