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MUSIC REVIEW

Angeles Features Film Scores to Showcase Composers' Power

March 07, 1997|TIMOTHY MANGAN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Give 'em film music and they will come. That's the moral of Wednesday's concert at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

A co-presentation of the museum and UCLA arts groups, and related to the current "Exiles and Emigres" exhibition at LACMA, the program featured the Angeles String Quartet in concert works by Erich Wolfgang Korngold and Miklos Rozsa, film clips that showcased their soundtracks and chatty prefaces by film composer David Raksin.

The brief excerpts from "Spellbound" (music by Rozsa) and "The Sea Wolf" (Korngold) showed the considerable power of the composers in the film music genre. Rozsa underscored his nervous scene with obsessively repeated rhythms, turbulent cellos and an eerily held note on the theremin. Korngold's music furthered the frenzy of a shipwreck, the mystery of the fog and the vastness of the ocean.

Yet the strongest impressions were left by Hitchcock's weird camera angles, Curtiz's lush photography, the faces of Peck, Bergman and Robinson. Music was truly second fiddle, serving a purpose other than itself.

But the clips did appear to open ears for the quartets that followed. Rozsa's Second Quartet is not at all like his film music but rather a folksy and tightly knit affair in the manner of his countrymen Kodaly and Bartok. So it's a little old hat; had it been written in, say, 1915 instead of 1981, it might be part of the repertory.

Korngold's 1945 Third Quartet reveals his two faces, merging his movie themes with more modern and acerbic utterances. The two don't always sit well together. Still, there is impressive work here--the third movement, for instance, which uses music from "The Sea Wolf" and gradually turns darker in mood.

The Angeles Quartet, which has recorded the Korngold, offered taut, focused interpretations, full of dash, finesse and pinpoint ensemble work.

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