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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!
This is a fascinating blend of archive and movie footage and a modern
day recording session where the eminently qualified John Mauceri
explores the importance of the music of the great film music composers
Max Steiner, Erich Korngold, Franz Waxman, Dimitri Tiomkin and Alfred
To me this was sheer delight, simply to hear someone voicing sentiments that I had always known and propounded myself. This presentation goes to the very roots of classical Hollywood movie scoring, its links with the scoring for silent movies and the developing technology which came as a result including, before music was added as an actual soundtrack on the movie itself, having the projectionist play records that were synchronized to the images on the screen.
Mauceri also conducts the orchestra in front of the cinema screen showing scenes from the various movies and analyses what the music was actually doing in and for the scene, something you are usually, and rightly, unaware of when watching the movie, notable examples featured are the late night scene between Bogart and Bergman in CASABLANCA, and the famous and fabulous final swordfight between Rathbone and Flynn in THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD, both of which cut back and forth from the screen to the musicians and their instruments.
Other films featured are BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN, GONE WITH THE WIND, THE SONG OF BERNADETTE, THE INFORMER, THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME, JOHNNY BELINDA, HOW GREEN WAS MY VALLEY, RED RIVER, and LAURA.
Interviews include veteran Fred Steiner and notably a large contribution from David Raksin, composer of LAURA, and who also restores his own music of 50 years ago and takes part in the recording session.
With so many scores of the American west being written by the Russian Dimitri Tiomkin, and the Viennese Erich Korngold practically inventing the swashbuckling hero for Hollywood, a style which persists to this day, and American born but descended from Ukrainian-Jewish émigrés Alfred Newman utilizing an Irish melody in a movie set in Wales (the list goes on), as John Mauceri states, if anything can be called 'World Music', it is the music of Hollywood.
Speaking of Korngold, David Raksin also comments that 'Without such music I don't think that he (Errol Flynn) would have been quite so brave.' This is all wonderful stuff and a marvelous insight into the Hollywood industry of the 30s and 40s, the composers, their music, their legacy and their influence on the film music composers that would follow.
Director Joshua Waletzky's Music for the Movies documentary on Bernard Herrmann was nominated for an Oscar in 1993.
Very highly recommended and a must for any self respecting cinephile.
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