Bernard Herrmann’s screeching shower of strings from “Psycho,” Max Steiner’s gargantuan overture to “King Kong,” a rainbow suite from “The Wizard of Oz” and an upbeat set of songs by Maureen McGovern were all part of Friday’s “Hollywood Dreams II” concert by the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra with John Mauceri conducting. The subtitle was “Myths, Magic and Monsters,” because this was music from the dark side.
Throughout the evening it was clear that film music and the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra are as simpatico as Hitchcock and Herrmann, or Spielberg and Williams.
It’s logical, since these musicians spend a large portion of their musical lives recording film scores. You might say pulsing excitement, mounting suspense and thrilling effects are their stock in trade. But live, they’re even better than THX.
John Williams’ “Devils Dance” from “The Witches of Eastwick” seemed even more dynamic and demonic in a live setting.
Herrmann’s suite from “Vertigo” (set off by stylish lighting effects) emerged as an exceptionally stylish, self-contained composition. On the other hand, his 40 seconds of music from the shower scene in “Psycho,” lost nearly all its impact without the accompanying power of the visuals.
A common reality of film music is that composers rarely get an opportunity to create long pieces (except to cover titles and credits), hence, the necessity to create orchestral suites, or expanded arrangements of a popular theme.
In this category, the orchestra played a wonderful scene-by-scene arrangement of music from “The Wizard of Oz” by Stothart/Arlen and Harburg; a romantically phrased rendition of David Raksin’s main theme from “Laura.”
Incorporating music from “Fantasia” into the program may have stretched the point, since Paul Dukas wrote “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” before the age of cinema. But it didn’t matter. Everyone was envisioning Mickey Mouse and marching brooms anyway.
A vivacious Maureen McGovern dominated concert’s second half, a-glitter in blue sequins. Throughout her set of six songs she was perky, amiable and bright of voice.
Gifted with an extended vocal range, she showed she could belt a number like “Blow Gabriel Blow,” deliver a respectable coloratura in “By Strauss,” or enhance a medley from “West Side Story” with poetic high notes.
At one point, feeling the need to substantiate her credentials for being part of a program of musical nightmares, she cited her song work for “The Poseidon Adventure” and “Towering Inferno.””They used to call me ‘The Disaster Singer,’ ” she explained.
Predictably (and pleasantly), she ended with a performance of her signature tune, “The Morning After,” from “Poseidon.”