GRANT PARK SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA
Movie music, long dismissed as a bastard art form, is now a crowd-pleasing component of almost every orchestra’s schedule. But even in snootier times, many serious composers grudgingly acknowledged the craftsmanship and encyclopedic knowledge of musical styles required to write a good film score, and the most open-minded among them (Copland and Shostakovich, for example) were quite proud of their contributions to the genre. The so-called golden age of Hollywood movie music, in fact, was ushered in largely by conservatory-trained European musicians who were drawn to the studios’ money and the refuge they offered from both rigid orthodoxy and the Nazis. That period began shortly after the dawn of the sound era, when cut-and-pasted excerpts from the 19th-century repertoire were replaced by original compositions; it ended in the late 60s when films like The Graduate and Easy Rider started using pop songs to anchor their sound tracks. This Grant Park Symphony Orchestra program examines a handful of the most noteworthy film composers of the 40s and 50s. Two were talented hacks: Vienna-born Max Steiner specialized in tearjerkers like Gone With the Wind (whose opening theme will be played here); Berlin-educated Franz Waxman excelled at epic sweep (Taras Bulba) and morbid sardonicism (Sunset Boulevard). Both men tended to illustrate moods and emotions, rather than heighten them like Bernard Herrmann or Erich Korngold, who are also featured on the program. Korngold, a child prodigy in piano and composition, contributed a truly visionary opera, The Dead City, to the German expressionist movement. Circumstances forced him to settle in Hollywood as the house composer at Warner Brothers, yet his gift for operatic flourishes and ironic edginess survived in his scores for the Errol Flynn swashbucklers Captain Blood and The Adventures of Robin Hood. Herrmann wrote for the concert hall as well, but his inventive work for the Hitchcock thrillers Psycho and North by Northwest has earned him his reputation as the best movie composer ever. Also on the program is the work of Miklos Rozsa, who scored the 1959 Ben-Hur. Conducting the GPSO is Peter Bay, a young maestro long affiliated with the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra. Friday, 8 PM, Skyline Stage, Navy Pier, 600 E. Grand; 312-742-4763. TED SHEN
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Peter Bay photo/ uncredited.