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Tale of a Lake
  • Composed by Panu Aaltio
  • MovieScore Media / 2016 / 63m

A follow-up to 2012’s Tale of a Forest, Tale of a Lake is another feature-length nature documentary exploring the wildlife of Finland, this time concentrating on its lakes and waterways – fish, birds, seals (the baby seal on the album cover leaves little to be desired from a cuteness perspective).

I loved Panu Aaltio’s score for the previous film and was delighted to see him back for this one.  He’s written a very worthy follow-up which shares many stylistic similarities with its predecessor but also goes off in one notable new direction – this time there’s an added spiritual element, a female vocalist (Johanna Kurkela) used to be the voice of “the mystical water spirit Ahitar” which sounds a bit dodgy from the point of view of the film but gave Aaltio another aspect to latch on to.

Panu Aaltio

Panu Aaltio

The main theme, introduced in the opening “Ahitar: The Water Spirit” but heard several more times (including in the wonderful “First Morning”) is really beautiful – serene, spiritual and very moving.  In that second cue the vocal is joined by a lovely hint of piano before the cue explodes into dazzling life, with a delightfully playful spirit.  And that playfulness graces a number of cues – “Reunion” is a rollicking scherzo for the full orchestra which is really very impressive (if, presumably, derivative of something); “Bug Ballet” a wonderfully comic waltz.

Needless to say, there are some moments of grandeur too.  “Tale of a Lake” is a serious little piece, “The Spawn” a darkly-hued piece of action music.  The following “Frog Wrestling” is also action music, but very different – it reminds me of the fast-paced, colourful music in John Powell’s animations.  The fantasy of reeds in “The Gulls and the Eagle” is just great, so intricate and detailed but when it gets going, it really soars away.  Contrast with the haunted sadness of “The Birds’ Farewell”, which is so touching.  The six-minute “Seal Pup” near the end of the album is like the whole score in a microcosm – moving from playful to beautiful to very touching, it’s just great.

Tale of a Lake is one of those albums that’s fairly long but really doesn’t have a dull moment.  I named a few cues in the paragraphs above but in truth could have talked about all 22 of them.  As is often the way with the best of this type of score, it teems with life and is wonderful at evoking the majesty of the landscape and the spirit of the creatures that inhabit it, with a really nice variety of sounds.  It’s really “big” music, with Aaltio using the full power of the orchestra at his disposal, and while it doesn’t have that really killer theme or two that would have pushed it to the very top of the pile, as with the score’s predecessor, this is a score that can sit comfortably alongside other illustrious music which has been written for this genre in the last decade or two by George Fenton and others.  Great album!

Rating: **** 1/2

Also see: Metsän Tarina Panu Aaltio (2012)

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  1. Momo Sky Sky on Monday 4 April, 2016 at 18:32

    I am very glad you liked this soundtrack! Some of my favorite soundtracks of all time are from documentaries, and I was very happy to add this one to my collection.

    It is not a movie or TV soundtrack, but one album I have been listening to a lot lately is from the video game “Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture,” composed by Jessica Curry. Have you heard it yet? I think it might be an under-appreciated score. After a few listens you can really hear the beauty and genius with which its various themes are intertwined ^-^ Some of my favorite tracks are “A Choice” (with a beautiful and sad primary theme on clarinet) and the duo of “The End of All Things” and “I Am Not Afraid” (a haunting choral arrangement of one of the main themes, which still gives me chills!).

    I hope you have an amazing day!

  2. James Southall on Monday 4 April, 2016 at 19:55

    Thank you! I did buy Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture but only listened once so far – it didn’t really connect with me – but I’ve been meaning to give it another chance. I’ve heard lots of people say how much they like it.