Sunday, November 27, 2016

Delaware Symphony Celebrates the Silver Screen

DSO guest soloist, Jinjoo Cho.
By Christine Facciolo
Hollywood has given us more than just great motion pictures. It’s given us a lot of remarkable music as well. Sometimes industry moguls would engage a world-renowned composer to craft an original score to accompany a film. At other times, they’d graft a well-known piece onto a particular scene.

The Delaware Symphony Orchestra gave concertgoers a sampling of both approaches on Friday, November 19, 2016 at The Grand Opera House in Wilmington. The program “Music from the Silver Screen” swelled with emotion and crackled with energy in works by Wagner, Korngold, Bernstein and Ravel.

Music and drama have shared a close relationship for ages, but it was Richard Wagner’s later musical style with its new ideas in harmony, melodic processes and operatic structure that had a major impact on modern film scores. So it was only fitting to open a program on movie music with a performance of the 
Prelude and Liebestod from Tristan und Isolde which is heard as incidental music in several films, the most recent being Lars von Trier’s Melancholia (2011).

The Prelude and Liebestod is about as romantic as music gets. Maestro David Amado led the orchestra in a performance that was swelling and strong yet never sentimental. One did not need to know the story to experience the trajectory of emotions: the yearning, the sadness and the hope.

The slow motion of the 
Prelude and Liebestod soon gave way to the electrifying energy of Erich Korngold’s technically demanding Violin Concerto in D Major. Korngold was an Austrian-born prodigy who, like other European composers fleeing the turmoil of the interwar years, found himself in Hollywood at a time when the industry was beginning to realize just how important a score could be to the success of a film. He would go on to win two Academy Awards, earning him the title of the founder of modern film music.

The concerto, which was composed in 1945, marked Korngold’s return to serious composition, even though the work “borrows” themes from his movie music in each of its three movements. Guest soloist was Jinjoo Cho, Gold Medalist of the 2014 Ninth Quadrennial International Violin Competition of Indianapolis.

One might be tempted to equate Korngold’s thoroughly romantic style with schmaltz, but Cho’s no-nonsense approach to his music quickly dispelled those notions. Her searing tone, high-octane delivery and splendidly taut rhythms showed she had a feel for the style his music demands. The audience responded by offering applause between each movement, rising to its feet at the conclusion.

Like Korngold, Leonard Bernstein was a serious composer who felt every bit as comfortable with musical theatre and film as evidenced by his Symphonic Dances from West Side Story. Amado and the musicians of the DSO spun over the jazzy Latin rhythms of the dance music just as they soared through the romantic lyricism of Tonight and Maria, all the while delivering the streetwise edge that gives the score its energy.

Like the Prelude and Liebestod, Maurice Ravel’s Bolero served as incidental music in several films, probably most famously in 1979’s 10. This driving, seductive piece never fails to delight audiences and tonight’s was no exception. The piece proceeded with understated elegance and flair, as several instruments took turns presenting the sinuous solo that goes through 18 repetitions. But special honors must go to Principal Percussionist William Kerrigan, whose snare drum maintained rhythm and tempo with utmost precision.

It is said that Ravel would became angry if he felt a conductor was losing control of the work. He would have been justifiably proud of this performance.

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