Two giants in their respective fields, Hans Zimmer and Zubin Mehta, held court Wednesday night at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, where Zimmer was bestowed a lifetime achievement award by the American Friends of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, for which Mehta is co-chairman and holds the post of music director for life.
But it was Zimmer — perhaps the closest thing to a mogul in the scoring realm — who was clearly humbled by the honor. “I was a little nervous about a world-class orchestra playing Schubert (Symphonia N° 8, Unfinished) and Zimmer, and Schubert is a real composer,” Zimmer told Variety. “And just seeing how they really knew my stuff and they loved it. There was this bond.”
The lavish, black-tie affair — consisting of a concert by the orchestra of mostly Zimmer movie compositions, and a Wolfgang Puck-catered supper in the Center’s courtyard afterward — raised approximately $1.2 million for the Israel Philharmonic, according to David Hirsch, president of the AFIPO. “We exceeded our goal, which was originally $1 million, minus the cost to produce the event,” said Hirsch. Other guests included Armie Hammer, WB’s Sue Kroll, Josh Malina, Eli Broad, Steve Kofsky, Rob Schneider, George Schlatter and Jolene Brand, Matti Leshem and Lynn Harris.
The event was neither insignificant for Mehta, with whom Zimmer enjoys “a strange friendship,” according to the Oscar-winning composer, whose mother, an opera lover, was granted a box by Mehta when he was music director of the Bavarian State Opera in Munich. But it was Mehta’s 16-year stint as music director of the L.A. Philharmonic beginning in 1962 that prompted him to address the Beverly Hills audience like a prodigal son.
“As you know I’ve been in this city for quite a bit of time,” he said from the stage, “and you can imagine how many people have asked me to conduct movie scores. And I’ve always shied away from it because it’s not my profession. So today is kind of a debut for me, and I’m very glad that Hans was at the rehearsals to help me out a little bit.”
The crowd-pleasing program featured compositions from “The Da Vinci Code,” with a gorgeous assist from operatic soprano Angel Blue, as well as a percussive ode to “The Dark Knight Rises” villain Bane, resulting in thundering applause, and segments of the “Sherlock Holmes” and “Pirates of the Caribbean” scores.
“I snuck in quietly so nobody would notice during the rehearsal,” said Zimmer when asked if he might work with the ensemble in the foreseeable future, “and I heard the French horns start playing and I thought, ‘Ooh, they’re pretty good. I’ll have a bit of that for future scores I make.’ Because orchestras, musicians, they’re all individuals at the end of the day. And the strength of these players is so phenomenal.”
The non-profit institution definitely relies on the comfort of strangers to keep afloat, and Zimmer, one of a handful of Hollywood musicmakers whose name is as recognizable as Spielberg, is capable of convincing donors to pony up.
“One of the things film composers can do is make sure that orchestras have new music,” he told Variety. “I was just in London where they were doing ‘Gladiator’ for four nights at the Royal Albert Hall. So Hollywood is actually capable of keeping something which is so important in the arts going, because if we lose the orchestras, we lose a huge chunk of our humanity.”
(Pictured: Hans Zimmer and Zubin Mehta at the Wallis Annenberg Center)