Kate’s Classical Corner: Hannibal, Ep. 3.06, “Dolce”
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 “Dolce” here.
Notturno in E-flat major, Op. 148 by Franz Schubert (1827): Cordell presents Mason with culinary options
This lovely piece for piano trio was likely chosen by Reitzell purely for its beauty, but it is also appropriate as a piece that feels inevitably repetitious, with the theme circling back on itself and the larger form of the piece doing so as well. This ties in nicely with the episode’s themes of history repeating and Will and Jack finding themselves once more at Hannibal’s table.
“Bloodfest” by Brian Reitzell (2014): Hannibal and Will meet again
Derived from the Aria from Bach’s Goldberg Variations, which is an important piece for Hannibal in Thomas Harris’ works and many adaptations of them, Reitzell’s “Bloodfest” was stunning when it debuted in “Mizumono”, scoring the Red Dinner. Bringing it back here for Will and Hannibal’s first conversation since then is powerful, highlighting how far they’ve come and how far the series has come since its first shot of Hannibal in the pilot, which is set to Bach’s Goldberg Variations. In the context of this season, the piece sounds almost choral, connecting it to the prominence of churches and the organ in Reitzell’s scoring for Italy, and rather than contrasting the action as in “Mizumono”, here the stillness of the piece complements the comfortable camaraderie that surrounds Hannibal and Will, enveloping them in a peaceful and warm, but not distractingly lush or romantic, sound.
“Ave Maria” by Patrick Cassidy: Jack enters Sogliato’s apartment
Performed in the above clip in 2011, this piece from Hannibal (2001) composer Patrick Cassidy is a lovely choice to accompany Jack’s discovery of Will at Sogliato’s apartment . The Ave Maria is traditionally a setting of the Christian Hail Mary, a prayer asking for help from the Virgin Mary. If diegetic, it’s in keeping with Hannibal’s sense of humor that he would select such a piece to accompany his takedown of Jack, as Jack scored his assault on Hannibal with Rossini, a perversion of the intent and a statement on the indifference of a higher power. If it’s non-diegetic, it’s a beautiful piece whose use of a choir and the organ fits wonderfully with this season’s connection to Italy and the church. Either way, it’s neat to incorporate more of Cassidy’s work, as his “Vide cor meum” from the Hannibal (2001) score was used in the season one finale, “Savoureux”.
Other scoring notes:
- Most of the episode is scored with what to this string player’s ears sounds like rolled percussion: covered mallets (comparatively) gently striking what sounds like brass percussion instruments to create a shimmering sound. (Note: Any corrections from percussionists absolutely welcome—please chime in in the comments!) This contributes to the impressionistic and dreamy feel of much of the episode, particularly the beginning, as Hannibal wanders through Florence.
- Also prominently featured in this episode are the clarinet and a few other woodwinds. They bend their lines or even a single note frequently, sliding up to or away from a given pitch to create a specific effect. This works wonderfully to match the drooping consciousness of the various characters who are drugged. There’s also what sounds like a slide whistle used when Bedelia starts to feel the effects of her “medication”, taking the occasional bent pitch in the woodwinds to a new level.
- The bending of the woodwinds or slide whistle used when Bedelia has injected herself is paired with electric guitar to give a psychedelic feel to her altered perception. Electric guitar pops up continually throughout the episode, frequently but not always in a similar context.
- Speaking of Bedelia, when she retrieves her syringe kit, there is a clear hit of percussion that sounds similar to Cordell’s Buddhist singing bowl: it is the start of a new day for Bedelia.
- Reitzell introduces a steady, driving rhythm to the score once Hannibal and Will leave the museum. However unlike the ticking clock of “Mizumono”, here the woodblock doesn’t match the tempo of the pulsing static, which enters later. This throws the viewer off balance—anything could happen.
- For Alana and Margot’s sex scene, the score starts off with a slow, jazzy drum beat and a sensuous clarinet. There’s a bit of an Eastern feel with the intervals created between the two clarinet lines, but for me at least, the primary note is slow jazz, which matches the styling for both Margot and Alana this season. That changes as the scene intensifies, however, and the scoring gets trippier to match the visuals. Electric guitar comes in, giving more of a rock feel, and pulsating percussion comes in after we see Margot and Alana share the frame. Things kick up a notch at this point. Whereas the score has been in a slow swung two or four, a new percussion instrument enters with a very straight, faster subdivided four, coming in when we start to hear Margot or Alana’s breathing. This intensifies to a triplet subdivision, mimicking a raised heartbeat, until the percussion fades back down to a pleasant wash of rolled percussion at the end. The scoring in this scene is a fantastic partner to the visuals and does a lot to contribute to its effectiveness.
- There are a few comedic (or nearly comedic) bits of scoring that I particularly enjoyed. When Bedelia introduces herself to Chiyoh, there’s a slight pause after she says, “I’m Hannibal’s psychiatrist” that Reitzell punctuates with a quick hit. The crisp percussion here is a nice button on the moment. Later, when Jack and Bedelia are speaking with the police and they rise to leave, the official’s, “Not you, Signora Fell” is accompanied with a slight slide down in one instrument, what feels to me like a subtle Sad Trombone, “wah waaaaah”. Poor Bedelia, you’re not as good an actress as you thought. Lastly, the scoring for the final scene with Hannibal, Will, and Jack features many of the elements already discussed, but when Will says, “The menu was all wrong” and Hannibal goes to retrieve his saw, there’s a bit of a drum roll as he carries it to the table and presents it to Jack and Will. Hannibal, ever the showman.
- There are plenty of other small notes of scoring that stand out in “Dolce”, from the slice of percussion when Hannibal lashes out at Jack to the slippery sound achieved for Mason’s eel, but perhaps my favorite is the organ that accompanies the “Mizumono” post-credits-style blue sky transition from Florence to the Verger farm.
For more Hannibal talk, check out the podcast I cohost with Sean Colletti, This Is Our Design!