This is a wonderful release! An unusual but most welcome DVD issue and quite frankly it's about time too! For here is an 85 minute disc, that not only explains but also demonstrates the intricacies of adding music to film through the use of a live orchestra in a studio with film clips displayed on a screen in the background. The featured orchestra is the superb BBC National Symphony Orchestra of Wales conducted with fine aplomb by genial host and narrator John Mauceri. Mauceri lovingly takes us through some splendid explanatory excerpts of music from the movies by such legendary film music luminaries as Max Steiner, Alfred Newman, Erich Korngold, Dimitri Tiomkin and David Raksin.
Raksin himself is actually in attendance at the sessions and tells us how he came to write his now famous theme for "Laura" some fifty years ago and which remains, as it should, one of the finest standards in popular music. The studio orchestra then plays an excerpt from the score with the appropriate scene from the picture used as a backdrop.
The most interesting section is the first example where Mauceri explains to us in some detail how Steiner's famous Tara Theme works on our thought processes to identify with Scarlet's plight in the "I'll never be hungry again" sequence in "Gone With The Wind". And also when her father tells her that "land is the only thing that matters" the camera pans back to reveal Scarlet and her father silhouetted against that brilliant red sunset sky - Mauceri then gestures from the podium with his baton and the orchestra renders a spine-tingling fortissimo treatment of the famous theme exactly as Steiner scored it for the scene all those years ago.
We are treated to something similar with a scene from the Steiner scored "Casablanca". Then the late Eleanor Slatkin - lead cellist in the Warner Bros. orchestra for 25 years - tells us how Steiner loved her playing (he was the first studio composer to employ a female instrumentalist) and always wrote a cello solo for her in his scores. It goes on to show a sequence from the Steiner scored "Johnny Belinda" (1948) where Slatkin's melancholy and heart rending solo is playing in the aftermath of Belinda's brutal rape. A quite brilliant emotional example of the power of music in film!.
The great Alfred Newman is represented by three if his scores, the famous giving of water sequence from "The Hunchback Of Notre Dame" (1939), Bernadette's father disposing of the hospital waste scene from "Song Of Bernadette" (1943) and the lovely Irish based theme for Maureen O'Hara from "How Green Is My Valley" (1941). The welsh orchestra providing beautiful renditions of Newman's music with accompanying film extracts on the studio screen.
Erich Wolfgang Korngolds's blistering action cue for the final duel from "The Adventures Of Robin Hood" (1938) is given full vent by the accomplished orchestra who respond to Mauceri's conducting prowess with admirable elan - while up on the screen Robin dispatches, once and for all, the dastardly Sir Guy of Gisbourne and which elicits from David Raksin the quip "I don't think Errol Flynn would have been as brave without that music"! Finally we are treated to the Finale and End Title by Dimitri Tiomkin from his score for "Red River" (1948). Here a male chorus joins the orchestra in the studio and expertly intones that great Red River theme.
This terrific DVD was directed by Joshua Waltezky who in 1993 won an Oscar nomination for his equally brilliant documentary on composer Bernard Herrmann.
This disc will not only be indispensable to every film student as well as every film music devotee but will also be invaluable to music students everywhere! EXCELLENT!
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