I was first introduced to Cris Velasco’s music while playing Mass Effect 2 DLC. Specifically, the “Kasumi’s Stolen Memory” DLC, which was pretty rad. Jeez, I need to play through Mass Effect again.
Cris and composer Sascha Dikiciyan teamed up for the ME2 DLC’s and also worked on Mass Effect 3 & Borderlands together.
Sascha is the electronics guy and Cris is the classically trained guy, and they make a fabulous team. As much as I enjoy the music they make together, I was pretty stoked when I heard Cris was scoring Company of Heroes 2 solo with a full orchestra.
Cris was asked to write a score that sounds Russian. There can be several interpretations of this, because Rachmaninoff wrote much different Russian music than Shostakovich, but there is a middle ground. Rachmaninoff (here’s a famous Rachmaninoff tune) and Shostakovich (likewise) both used the colors of the orchestra to great effect.
Rimsky-Korsakov, another Russian, gets a lot credit for, in many ways, changing the way composers wrote orchestral music. The German composers wrote so differently, still heavily relying on the string section for the bulk of the drama. If you listen to a bit of the final movement of Brahms Symphony No. 2, you can hear how the winds and brass largely play supporting roles only have the spotlight on occasion.
Additionally, Russians have amazing folk music. Some of the best, really, and Cris nails the flavor of Russian song right away in the “Main Theme”. I encourage you to listen from the beginning, but if you’re short on time, here’s the violin solo.
Cris writes several nice solos for various instruments in the orchestra. I enjoy the English horn and bassoon spots in “Epitaph”. Cameron Stone is the cellist, and Nicole Garcia is the violinist. Cameron and Nicole play together throughout the soundtrack, and have some nice duets. Listen closely to the violin solo in “Not One Step Back”, and you might recognize a quote from this by Prokofiev.
Cris’s music for CoH2 recently got nominated for a BSO Spirit Award, and he’s gotten other, much-deserved attention for the score.
I plan to ask Cris about Russian music when he joins us in Boston for the “Maestros of Video Games” Composer Panel. I sincerely hope to see you there.
Company of Heroes 2 is available now on Sumthing.com
In the meantime, if you’d like to hear more Russian music, here are some good places to start.
Sergei Prokofiev: Romeo and Juliet Suite, “Montagues and Capulets”
Alexander Borodin: In the Steppes of Central Asia
Dmitri Shostakovich: Piano Concerto No. 1
Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov: Capriccio Espagnol
Alexander Glasunov: Violin Concerto