From the Maestro

From the Maestro  

201404241986 The relationship between music and drama dates back centuries. Today, the place where orchestral music and drama (or comedy) meet with millions of people is in the movie theater.  It’s such a magnificent and potent combination – a fantastically told story up on a huge screen with dramatic music underscoring every emotion.  We all love it!  This year’s ASO Season Finale looks at some of the most brilliant film scores ever written.
Leonard Bernstein was my hero.  Most people know him for his musical theater masterpiece, West Side Story.  However, LB was a great film score composer, too.  His score to On the Waterfront received an Oscar nomination and the film itself took eight Oscars.  The movie is both violent and tender and LB’s score reflects both, with thundering percussion passages that rage angrily with a jazz pulse, to the sweet intimacy of the beautiful flute solo.  This masterpiece does what any great film score does – harness and magnify the film’s emotion.

Mozart didn’t know he was writing a film score when he composed his Requiem.  However, this music is used with stunning effect in the movie Amadeus, one of my favorite films.  As you can imagine, for any classical musician, seeing one of our heroes come to life on the screen is an unspeakable thrill.  The premise of the movie (that Saliere killed Mozart) is pure conjecture and the final (and most dramatic) scene when Salieri is trying to write down music as fast as Mozart can compose it, is completely not historically accurate.  It was Mozart’s student Sussmayer who completed the piece.  But the scene is forever burned into my memory.  Wow!  And Mozart’s music?  What fire! What beauty!  What pathos!  The listener is completely transported.  Well, it’s Mozart.

Prokofiev did know he was writing a film score when he wrote Alexander Nevsky for Russian genius director, Sergei Eisenstein. He didn’t know he was writing a Cantata!  The first time I heard this music was a showing of the full movie with the entire score played live.  The National Symphony was playing at Wolf Trap (their summer home) and I was utterly overwhelmed.  Even in black and white and in Russian (with subtitles) the movie hit me like a tornado.  The cantata is quite powerful, with several of the strongest cues in the score.  The big choral scenes will make your heart pound and the mezzo aria will bring you to tears.   Even without the movie.

No evening of movie music would be complete without the Dean of film composers, John Williams!  His score to Saving Private Ryan is one of his most brilliant but you can say that about so many JW scores.  One of the most extraordinary things about John Williams is just how different he can sound depending on the movie.  From the exotic, sensual sounds of Memoirs of a Geisha, to the heroic chase scenes in Indiana Jones, to the heart wrenching, patriotic, stirring beauty and power of Hymn to the Fallen from Saving Private Ryan JW can take us to every corner of our heart, mind and soul.  When it comes to film scoring, JW is the all-time genius’s genius.

Meow!  Buzz!  Roar!  Our family concert takes us into one of the beloved circles of childhood – love of animals.  When my daughter was growing up we went every Sunday to a petting zoo in LA and she spent hours (not exaggerating) holding, petting and interacting with the small animals.  Like the rest of us, composers have a wonderful fascination with the animal world. On March 31st, Saint Saëns’ classic Carnival of the Animals, music from The Lion King, Flight of the Bumble Bee, and many more animal-related pieces will bring you to that charming, empathetic place.  With an instrument petting zoo in the lobby, your kids can try to “tame” an instrument!  Who knows?!  Maybe this will spark a life-long connection to both animals AND the symphony!
<May 2019>


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The Anchorage Symphony Orchestra is funded, in part, by the Atwood Foundation, Richard L and Diane M Block Foundation , Municipality of Anchorage, Anchorage Assembly, Alaska State Council on the Arts, National Endowment for the Arts and through the generosity of many individuals and corporate community leaders.
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