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KCC: Reitzell plays with instrumentation in Hannibal, Ep. 3.07, “Digestivo”

KCC: Reitzell plays with instrumentation in Hannibal, Ep. 3.07, “Digestivo”

Kate’s Classical Corner: Hannibal, Ep. 3.07, “Digestivo”

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 “Digestivo” here.

Piano Concerto No. 21 in C major, K. 467, II. Andante by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1785): Mason entertains Hannibal and Will


This lovely piece is a fitting choice to accompany Mason’s dinner—he’s always trying to ape Hannibal and Hannibal is a fan of Mozart—but it’s made all the better by being a reference to The Spy Who Loved Me. In this Bond film the villain, Stromberg, scores the raising of his submarine from the depths with this piece, as he sits at an elaborate dinner. It’s a fun reference, but I like to think it’s not just Reitzell and Bryan Fuller selecting the Mozart for this reason, but Mason as well, who in this episode certainly fancies himself a super villain.

Symphony No. 5 in E minor, Op. 64, II. Andante cantabile by Peter Illych Tchaikovsky (1888): Cordell, Hannibal, and Alana perform surgery


Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony is a hugely popular work and the second movement is known for its gorgeous horn solo. As with the Mozart, the very beginning of the movement is used here, fading away before the horn enters. The excerpt we hear is dark and somber, fitting with the despairing tone of the scene, a series of slow chords that match the seeming inevitability of the events shown. As we cut from the gruesome peeling of Cordell’s face to the apparently fully developed baby, which Alana has removed from Mason’s “surrogate”, the music turns major and hopeful. We hold on Margot as she cradles the baby in her arms and it is in this moment that Margot and Alana decide they will kill Mason. The change in tonality marks their choice and the peace it will bring them and as soon as we cut to Mason, the Tchaikovsky fades away, replaced by scoring.

“Bloodfest” by Brian Reitzell (2014): Hannibal and Will have one more heart to heart

Reitzell brings back “Bloodfest” for the second episode in a row, the familiar strains entering as Hannibal returns to a now awake Will after saying goodbye to Chiyoh. The piece continues, adapted and reorchestrated from the original, until the FBI arrives and Hannibal steps forward, “Jack, I’m here”. It is then overtaken by the slow march (left, right, left, right in the percussion) of Hannibal stepping forward to turn himself in, the score acknowledging not only this motion, but the inevitability (to the audience) of Hannibal’s capture. The version of “Bloodfest” used here features a smoother, more resigned sound as compared to the more articulate piano of the Red Dinner or the almost choral-sounding version used in “Dolce” (note: it’s possible Reitzell is using the same piece of music and just tweaking the levels of the different instruments. What I’m speaking to is the overall effect. With dialogue over the scoring, it’s hard to get a clear sense of the specific changes between the “Bloodfest”s in “Dolce” and “Digestivo”). This episode truly marks the end of Will and Hannibal’s relationship, as it has been, and it will be interesting to see what Reitzell does with “Bloodfest” and the Bach Goldberg Variations from here, should either pop up in the second half of the season.

Hannibal S03E07

Other scoring notes:

  • The opening scene of the episode features electric keyboards/organ, a contrast to the pipe organ that has been so prominently featured in the scoring for Hannibal’s time in Europe. For me, this speaks to a perversion of what should be happening: the Polizia should be rushing in to save the day, but they’ve been bought by Mason and are instead quite content to kill Jack to strengthen their story of Hannibal’s escape. The majesty of the organ, which has signaled sacred spaces this season, is replaced with the artificial, modern sound of the keyboard. This also calls to mind the death of Beverly in season two and the almost comedic instrumentation that accompanied that off-screen moment, after the camera panned up through the basement ceiling to the dining room, but I would guess the connection to the organ and the other electronic scoring this season is Reitzell’s main intent.
  • The beginning of “Digestivo” has much heavier, thicker scoring than has been present for much of this season, aside from “Secondo”. As the Inspector says, “Open him all the way”, we get swirling percussion and electronic sounds, the whirring of the saw, and a quickening heartbeat in the bass/bass drum. This then transitions to the electric guitar for Chiyoh and the tinkling, bell-like percussion that connects her to her fairy tale trappings, both here and at the end, when she walks away in a light flurry of snow, as if disappearing into a magical realm.
  • The scoring for Alana and Margot’s first scene is calm, woodwinds moving in ominous, slow half steps. While it’s comparatively peaceful, it’s not reassuring in the slightest. When contrasted with the activity and screeching strings and percussion of the scene of Hannibal and Will being delivered to Mason, however, the Alana and Margot score is positively soothing.
  • The screech of the violins returns when Will bites Mason’s face. This is just one of many instances of the score paralleling the on-screen action. Another is the whistling sound of the percussion as Hannibal is branded, mimicking the sound of flesh searing on a metal grill. Reitzell does a good job of evoking these sounds without being distractingly overt.
  • When Hannibal emerges from the main house, the scoring is percussive and growly, working with Mikkelsen’s performance and the direction to keep this from feeling like a moment of triumph. Instead it’s dark, an evil unleashed upon deserving victims.

For more Hannibal talk, check out the podcast I cohost with Sean Colletti, This Is Our Design!

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