Kate’s Classical Corner: Hannibal, Ep. 3.02, “Primavera”
As a classical musician, I can’t help but be influenced in my interpretation of Hannibal by its amazing score and soundtrack, composed and compiled by music supervisor Brian Reitzell. This is not intended to be a definitive reading of Reitzell or showrunner Bryan Fuller’s intentions in regards to the music, but rather an exploration of how these choices affect my appreciation of the given episode. Read my review of “Primavera” here.
Pie Jesu from Requiem in D minor, Op. 48 by Gabriel Fauré (1900): Will gets surgery/Abigail is autopsied
The main classical piece featured in “Primavera” is the Pie Jesu from Fauré’s Requiem. A requiem is the music for a Catholic mass for the dead, of which there are many famous classical examples, the Fauré being one of the most well known. Its most famous aria is the Pie Jesu, composed for soprano and sometimes sung by a boy soprano. The Pie Jesu is a short motet with the lyrics, “Pie Jesu Domine, Dona eis requiem”, repeated and followed by, “Pie Jesu Domine, Dona eis requiem sempiternam.” (“Pious Lord Jesus, Give them rest.” “Pious Lord Jesus, Give them everlasting rest.”) The connection to the scene is obvious, a prayer for peace for Abigail and rest for Will.
Adding to the fun is the fact that, like the Chopin Raindrop Prelude in “Antipasto”, Fauré’s Pie Jesu has been featured on Hannibal previously. Brian Reitzell used three different excerpts from Fauré’s Requiem in season two, in episodes eight, nine, and 12. The final movement of the work, “In paradisum deducant angeli” (“May angels lead you to paradise”), was used in episode eight, “Su-zakana”, as Hannibal and Will drove out to the barn where Peter (Jeremy Davies) was sewing his social worker Clark (Chris Diamantopoulos) into a horse, Hannibal leading Will to his first intended kill (before Hannibal stopped the gun from firing). The Kyrie was used in episode nine, “Shiizakana”, when Hannibal came home to see Randall Tier laid out for him on the table, a gift from Will (the lyrics: “Kyrie eleison, Christe eleison, Kyrie eleison”, or “Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy”). The Pie Jesu was then used in episode 12, “Tome-wan”, when Mason Verger drove to Will’s house to speak with him about capturing and killing Hannibal, the scene cutting to Mason’s bodyguards coming for Hannibal at his office while the music continued.
While Reitzell’s use of Fauré’s Pie Jesu here could be a reference to its use in season two, contrasting Will’s undermining of Mason’s attempt to go after Hannibal with Hannibal’s successful attack on Will, it feels like a more natural connection to the first two uses, Reitzell reusing the piece because it fits so nicely with the visuals here, rather than specifically connecting the scene to Mason.
- While it references the new sound Reitzell established for season three in “Antipasto”, the score for “Primavera” is much closer to those of the previous seasons than the premiere’s. In particular, the dense scoring for Will, with layers of instrumentation, sound, and white noise, stands in stark contrast to the solo, muted trumpet for Hannibal or synth for Bedelia in “Antipasto”.
- Though the opening scene of “Primavera” is a near-exact replication of the scene in “Mizumono”, the scoring is very different. Just as the scoring for Hannibal and Jack’s fight changed dramatically from “Kaiseki” to “Mizumono”, here the scene is accompanied with a wall of layered sound, rather than the variation of the Aria from Bach’s Goldberg Variations that Reitzell composed for “Mizumono”. Prominent in the mix is a mournful cello line, with violins ratcheting up the tension. This gives way eventually to a twangy piano and, as Will watches the stag die, his Happy Place theme (the music first heard in the pilot when Will finds Winston), accompanied by strings rather than just solo piano. The wall of sound continues through the shattering and reforming of the teacup/Will (the returning, powerful imagery from the pilot, “Oeuf”, “Mizumono”, and likely several other episodes I’m forgetting), and only releases with the start of the opening credits.
- The scoring for the opening scene is very different than its parallel scene in “Mizumono”, but the scoring for the scene in Hannibal’s office is very similar to its parallel. The ticking clock of the “Mizumono” score is prominent, along with the chimes and tinkling percussion, but the scene begins with a shuddering, rattling percussion not present in “Mizumono”, which transitions the viewer from the present—Will in his hospital bed—to the past. At the end of the scene, as Will realizes Hannibal will go to Palermo, an organ line enters and for the rest of the episode, organ features prominently in the score, both melodically and as sustained, tension-inducing pitches.
- The wood block and other water drop-evoking percussion returns as Will visualizes Anthony’s body, accompanied by a deep, drummed heart beat rhythm. This recurs, along with the organ, as Will looks at the photo of a younger Hannibal, and then again throughout the scene of Will processing Hannibal’s crime scene.
- The scoring as Anthony’s body is possessed by the stag is incredibly effective, combining the heartbeat motif, sliding half steps (reminiscent of the opening credits), an alarm-like chiming sound, a repeating horn line that becomes electronic—perhaps a reference to Hannibal’s European scoring?—and more percussion, mimicking the footfalls of the creature. It’s suffocating, anxious music and when Abigail releases Will from the stag, it’s a relief.
- The melancholy cello line as Will tells Abigail that Hannibal keeps taking her away, and which returns as Will sees Abigail’s body being zipped into a body bag at the “Mizumono” crime scene, reminds me of the dissonant cello line featured as Hannibal ate Beverly’s kidney in “Mukozuke”. This is likely unintentional—the cello’s a go-to instrument for many, many composers looking for a mournful or dolorous sound—but it’s a fun connection nonetheless.
- The incessant triplets in the percussion during the catacomb sequence, which fade into and out of prominence but continue throughout most of it, drive the tension of the scene. They make the scene and the space feel active and urgent, rather than reflective. Threaded throughout the score here is a solo violin which feels like a victim, caught in this chase and crying for help in the distance. However my favorite touch of scoring in the entire episode is the roll of the harp that follows Will’s, “Hannibal—” and precedes, “I forgive you.” It must be an intentional reference to the harp line from Debussy’s Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun used as Gideon rolled into focus—much like Will steps into focus here—at the start of the second of Gideon’s scenes in “Antipasto”. The memory, or fantasy, shown in “Antipasto” is bleeding into reality. “If only that company could be Will Graham”, indeed.
For more Hannibal talk, check out the podcast I cohost with Sean Colletti, This Is Our Design!