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Movie music to receive top billing at Royce Hall

The Week Ahead

May 15, 2006|Lynne Heffley

"A Streetcar Named Desire," the film version, set to sensuous jazz notes. "Death in Venice," the Dirk Bogarde classic, pierced by Gustav Mahler's haunting "Adagietto." The exquisite textures of John Williams' score for "Memoirs of a Geisha."

When you think of a favorite film, its music may not be the first thing you remember, but hear a certain theme and those big-screen images are likely to spring vividly to mind.

But can movie music hold its own as concert repertoire?

John Scott, musician, film composer, symphony conductor and artistic director of the new 80-member Hollywood Symphony Orchestra, thinks it can. He hopes the audience agrees when the orchestra presents its inaugural concert Thursday at UCLA's Royce Hall.

Conducted by Scott and joined by the 40-voice Cantori Domino choir, soprano Renee Burkett and actors Samantha Eggar, Michael York and Alan Mandell, the orchestra will perform symphonic arrangements of film music both famous and obscure, much of it never performed publicly.

Among the selections on the eclectic program: "Sayuri's Theme" from "Memoirs of a Geisha," Eric Korngold's "Kings Row," a new adaptation of Elmer Bernstein's "Sweet Smell of Success," Alex North's "A Streetcar Named Desire," "Scott of the Antarctic," with Ralph Vaughan Williams' wordless vocals, and symphonic suites from Victor Young's "Around the World in 80 Days" and John Scott's "Greystoke -- Legend of Tarzan."

The concert will conclude with the premiere of a symphonic suite adapted from Scott's score for the 1973 Charlton Heston film "Antony and Cleopatra," with dialogue spoken by Eggar, York and Mandell.

"I know it's not original because there are many, many film concerts," Scott said, "but they concentrate on the most popular of film music. We want to delve a little bit more into its history, but not in a pretentious way.

"We want to present, for instance, unknown music written for documentary films, by people like Prokofiev, like Shostakovich, like Benjamin Britten. And did you know that [Camille] Saint-Saens was one of the first important film music composers?"

There will be clips shown from the "Antony and Cleopatra" epic during the performance, Scott noted, but he hopes that Thursday's concert will demonstrate that film music isn't inexorably tied to the movie that inspired it.

"I would hope not," he said. "Of course, it's written for a film, but music is to be listened to rather than looked at. And for me, music has to move people."

By reshaping film scores as symphonic music, Scott said, he hopes they can be appreciated in a new but equally accessible way. "We really want to bring it into the concert hall and try to put it on the same level as what we call concert music: the music of Bach, Brahms, Beethoven, Mozart. Why not?"

Hollywood Symphony Orchestra, under the auspices of the Hollywood Symphony Orchestra Society, an organization created to preserve and perform works by film and television composers, plans to present four concerts yearly.

-- Lynne Heffley

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