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Metsän Tarina
  • Composed by Panu Aaltio
  • MovieScore Media / 2012 / 51:18

A theatrically-released documentary, the Finnish film Metsän Tarina is about the colourful wildlife of Finland’s forests and the changes it goes through as the seasons change.  This type of natural history documentary has proved to be fertile ground for composers in recent years – George Fenton set the bar high with The Blue Planet and Planet Earth and subsequently in the astoundingly-unreleased Life and Frozen Planet (both of which were just as good, and better than 99% of film music that has been released during the period).  Other composers have followed suit – Kolja Erdmann’s music for Wild Russia is spectacular and my personal favourite (again, unreleased) is Edmund Butt’s Yellowstone.  Now we can add a new score to this great list – Panu Aaltio’s music for Metsän Tarina is very much in the same style and of the same quality.

The beauty and many facets of life are a natural ground for talented composers and there is rich diversity in Aaltio’s score.  The first three cues offer a glimpse at the diversity on show – “The Tale of a Forest” is expressive and colourful; there is a powerful majesty to the brass of “A New Beginning”; then, a joyous, playful innocence to the piano-and-reeds of “The Little Ones”.  “A Midsummer Treasure” brings even more of a sense of wonder – fluttering flutes a constant accompaniment to a melody first heard in an exquisite violin solo, before being taken up – manically – by all the strings – and finally returning to its original state.  It’s an outstanding composition.  A hint of the theme is taken off in a new direction in the more reflective “Snowfall” – it provides an eerie calm after the previous track’s exuberance, which is of course entirely, appropriately evocative of both the bleakness and beauty of winter.  In “The Woodland Spirit”, Aaltio brings a sense of doggedness and determination, of grit and courage.

Panu Aaltio

Panu Aaltio

Much of this core of material established in the first quarter or so of the album is reprised later in the album.  The wonderful theme from “A Midsummer Treasure” for instance returns in “Spring Treasure”, which is simply teeming with life – it really is full of the joys of string.  But not everything can be so joyful – “Days Gone By” introduces a sombre choir, “Ant Kingdom” brings with it a dark mystery.  It’s not all just an orchestra, either – keyboards join in “Home” (returning to the gorgeous theme from “The Little Ones”) and there’s an air of Hans Zimmer about it, particularly his scores for animations in the playful arrangement (if not in the melody itself).

Winds come to the fore in “The Bird and the Squirrel”, a playful dialogue between all the members of the wind section that’s simply exquisite.  There’s a humour inherent to various aspects of the natural world and that comes through in several cues, most notably the delightful “Twig Traffic”.  Then, there’s a restrained beauty in “Love, Care and Respect”, at six minutes the score’s longest cue.  A variety of warm melodies are carried largely by the strings.  By the time things conclude in the rousing “A Forest Adventure”, there’s been so much colour, such a sense of adventure and wonder, so much evocative beauty – this really is a very fine album.

MovieScore Media has released a couple of scores by Aaltio before (notably The Home of Dark Butterflies, which boasted an outstanding theme), but Metsän Tarina is surely his most impressive work to have been released to date; and it’s a real gem of a score by anyone’s standards, one of the most impressive of 2012.  I know that with the constant stream of releases by various labels of classic scores by great composers, many people’s soundtrack budgets have little room left in them for trying out music by composers they’re not really familiar with, or for films they don’t know – but music like this is well worth seeking out.  If you like Fenton’s music for nature documentaries – or expressive, melodic film music with a classical tinge in general – then I’d urge you to give this album a go – you’re unlikely to be left disappointed.

Rating: **** 1/2

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  1. mastadge on Sunday 30 December, 2012 at 22:34

    Thanks for the review! I was very curious about this one but the samples were insufficient to sway me right during holiday season. Your review has pushed me over the edge, though. I’ll be getting this for sure.

  2. Edmund Meinerts on Sunday 30 December, 2012 at 23:04

    I quite like both the other Aaltio scores you’ve reviewed so if you say this one is so much better, I won’t hesitate to pick it up!

  3. James Southall on Wednesday 2 January, 2013 at 21:46

    Ah – no sooner do I write this than Silva Screen announce that they are going to release George Fenton’s Frozen Planet music. Wonderful news!

  4. Momo SkySky on Sunday 7 February, 2016 at 20:28

    I think you would love Aaltio’s sequel score, Tale of a Lake, which was just released. It’s a little similar, but has some really beautiful vocal and cello work. ^-^