The bald and portly fellow with the unmistakable profile might have been surprised by the attention paid to his film music Wednesday night at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. Alfred Hitchcock was shrewd enough to employ some of the finest composers in Hollywood history, and 10 of their most memorable works were collected on a single program for the first time.
Evening was doubly unusual with the presence of the Bowl Orchestra in an indoor venue (reportedly only the second time at the Music Center). Mauceri followed his usual Bowl practice, however, introducing each piece with a bit of historical and musical background.
Seven composers were represented, although the audience’s clear and predictable favorite was Hitch’s longtime collaborator Bernard Herrmann. Highlight was the American concert premiere of Herrmann’s definitive “Psycho: A Narrative for String Orchestra,” assembled in 1968 from his famous music for the 1960 classic.
Herrmann always said he scored “Psycho” solely for strings to create “a black-and-white sound” for the black-and-white film. Yet his 15-minute suite not only demonstrated a wide range of colors, it revealed his mastery of both musical and cinematic mediums, creating moods that ranged from urgency to suspense to terror.
The superb Bowl Orchestra string section, led by concertmaster Bruce Dukov, was far more easily appreciated in the bright sounding, recently reconfigured room than in the noisy outdoor amphitheater.
Herrmann’s powerful music from 1958’s “Vertigo,” including the Wagner-inspired “Scene d’amour,” invoked memories of Saul Bass’ hypnotic title sequence and the climactic embrace of James Stewart and Kim Novak.
The composer’s fandango from 1959’s “North by Northwest,” played at thrillingly breakneck speed, and his dramatic prelude from 1956’s “The Man Who Knew Too Much,” were also featured.
Stylistically, program was quite varied, from German composer Franz Waxman’s romantic 1940 “Rebecca” and his urban-jazz riffs from 1954’s “Rear Window” to unexpectedly minimalist moments in Russian Dimitri Tiomkin’s 1954 “Dial M for Murder” (the composer of “High Noon” anticipating Philip Glass?).
Pianist Scott Dunn soloed in Miklos Rozsa’s “Spellbound” concerto, reworked from his Oscar-winning 1945 score (with an electronic sample standing in for the virtually extinct theremin).
The L.A. Master Chorale joined the orchestra for Arthur Benjamin’s tumultuous “Storm Clouds” cantata, the piece that Herrmann conducted on-screen in “The Man Who Knew Too Much” (in which a massive cymbal crash was to mask a concert-hall assassination).
Encore was Ron Goodwin’s regal London theme from 1972’s “Frenzy” (not, surprisingly, Gounod’s “Funeral March of a Marionette,” Hitchcock’s signature tune and familiar TV theme).