- Review by Kaya Savas - October 11, 2018
Lorne Balfe follows up his brilliant score to season 1 of Genius with another excellent portrait score, this time for Pablo Picasso. Lorne has always showed strength as a composer of what I call “portrait scores”. These are scores the are so heavily focused on one figure, that they truly paint the character inside and out for the audience. Now, I know I’m using words like "portrait" and "paint" here, but that’s all coincidence. I used the same words to describe how Lorne expertly crafted Winston Churchill in Churchill and Albert Einstein in season 1 of Genius. For Picasso, Lorne is able to take us inside the mind of a craftsman and flesh him out as a person.
Saxophone dominates our main theme for Picasso, a perfect choice to personify him. Picasso set out to break the traditional rules of painting to carve his own path. Jazz is comparable to that mentality in music, where jazz is all about improvisation. While this is not a jazz score, the saxophone is most often recognized as an instrument of jazz.
The score sets the stage for Picasso’s early years in Paris and brilliantly meshes Spanish sounds in that Parisian setting. As the story continues, the music never fails to keep the character image intact. We feel Picasso move through the music, and when you put that with the image onscreen you get a score that truly helps carry the visuals. Lorne’s scores for both seasons of Genius are also very emotionally complex as well. There are layers of emotional depth that help make these iconic figures so incredibly relatable. As we see these pivotal moments in Picasso's life unfold, the score always helps us feel the inner core of emotions that our protagonist is feeling. Lorne never shies away from scoring the moment either, if we need a big accent or a big build on something the music delivers exactly that. There are also so many colorful moments of the score that help craft not only Picasso’s personality but also paint the surroundings around him. It's weird, but you can almost see the music thanks to Lorne's instrumentations on this one. The overall craft and structure of the score is also superb. Lorne matches the near perfection of the first season here in terms of narrative flow all the way through.
Genius: Picasso is another example of how much of a character composer Lorne Balfe is. While he’s brilliant at structuring action and doing theme and variation, it’s Lorne’s ability to craft a character via his music that has always stood out. He even managed to find moments to do it for Ethan Hunt in this year’s Mission: Impossible - Fallout. But here, this score needed to build a character and make that character open and vulnerable to the audience, and it succeeds. Genius: Picasso is the same level of excellence we heard last season, and I hope Lorne gets to crack more historical figures in the future.