• Ben Erickson

The Death of Stalin

The Death of Stalin is a black comedy concerning the immediate fallout of Stalin's death as the Central Committee members struggle for power, directed by Armando Iannucci and based on the French graphic novel La mort de Staline. The score is composed by Christopher Willis who formerly collaborated with Iannucci on the television satire Veep, co-composing the score with Rupert Gregson-Williams. Willis is a musicologist besides with a Ph.D. from the University of Cambridge specializing in eighteenth century music, with a particular focus on Domenico Scarlatti. His score for The Death of Stalin is a tribute of sorts to Shostakovich, written as a clever burlesque of the Russian nationalist school after being told by the director, “[...]I’d love it to sound like we had the Soviet Union’s top composer from the 1950s to score our movie". The music is led by a commanding theme which pervades most of the score, at times memorializing and at others totalitarian, with a sprightly secondary theme used to great comedic effect at Stalin's funeral. Each family of the orchestra is featured in its turn, using cheerless strings, polished woodwinds, concert band style brass, militant percussion, sleigh bells, a deliciously dreadful canon on piano, and folksy, detached oom-pah rhythms, with the full orchestra coming together to create an exquisite symphony that becomes its own cockamamie caricature of the film to the extreme. All in all, Willis' music adds a terrific level of farcical humor to the spectacle, adjacent a recital of Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 23 in A Major, heard exclusively in the film.