×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Movie Maestros Invade the Concert Hall

But it's no longer about playing their film scores but music for music's sake

Is the stigma finally disappearing?

Next month, the Pacific Symphony in Costa Mesa, Calif., will present three nights of classical music showcasing concert works by composers better known for their movie scores: John Williams, James Horner, Elliot Goldenthal and Howard Shore.

All told, they have 11 Academy Awards, but you won’t hear any “E.T.,” “Titanic,” “Frida” or “The Lord of the Rings” May 8-10. Instead, Carl St. Clair will conduct the premiere of a Goldenthal symphony, the West Coast premiere of Shore’s cello concerto, the concert debut of a Horner piece and a rarely heard Williams opener.

“These are people that I know and care about,” says St. Clair. These composers, he adds, are possessed of “extraordinary musical language” that extends well beyond their movie work. “It’s a rich trove of musical experiences.”

The nation’s symphony orchestras rarely play the concert work of film and TV composers. They’re happy to make bundles of money playing their film music at summertime “pops” concerts, but their “art music” — written for its own sake — has always been regarded with suspicion.

Richard Guerin, the concert’s curator, thinks the bias continues but that “it doesn’t matter. Audiences in general don’t consider themselves pawns in some ideological war about what art is. The only thing they care about is music they love being performed by artists and performers that they’re interested in.”

Adds St. Clair: “It all has to do with marketing and branding and music being pigeonholed. Programming in general is very different than it used to be.”

Goldenthal, the New York-based composer behind “Frida” and “Batman Forever,” is no stranger to the concert hall. His opera “Grendel” was premiered in 2006 by the L.A. Opera, his ballet “Othello” in 1998 by the American Ballet Theater.

He’s spent the past year preparing and recording several concert works for CD, including a string quartet and a symphonic version of “Othello,” and has just finished the symphony, a 22-minute work in the unusual key of G-sharp minor.

Goldenthal thinks the prejudice against film composers is still there, but “eventually it will wear off. In the 19th century, there was the same sort of bias when it came to composers who wrote for the ballet. Even the great ones.” Dmitri Shostakovich, one of the 20th century’s great symphonists, wrote nearly three dozen film scores, he points out.

Horner, absent from the screen for nearly two years, is now busy with concert commissions. Due in November is Horner’s double concerto for violin and cello, to be debuted by the Liverpool Philharmonic with up-and-coming Norwegian sibling soloists Mari and Hakon Samuelsen. March 2015 will see the debut of a piece for four French horns and orchestra played by the London Philharmonic.

The Pacific Symphony will perform Horner’s 13-minute “Flight,” a 2010 piece written for the Horsemen, a trio of pilots who perform aerobatic stunts in World War II-era P-51 fighter planes. Horner, a pilot for many years, has flown with them.

“You can close your eyes, listen to the music, and imagine what flying is like,” he says. “In this day and age, to be asked to write serious music is like a throwback, something from a different time.”

Popular on Variety

More Music

  • Born to Be Live: 'Easy Rider'

    Born to Be Live: 'Easy Rider' Gets a Concert/Screening Premiere at Radio City

    In a year full of major 50th anniversary commemorations — from Woodstock to the moon landing — why not one for “Easy Rider,” Dennis Hopper’s hippie-biker flick that was released on July 14, 1969? That was the idea when a rep for Peter Fonda, who starred in the film as the laid-back Captain America, reached out [...]

  • Rob Thomas Sammy Hagar

    Sammy Hagar Joins Rob Thomas for 'Smooth' Performance (Watch)

    Who do you call when your pal Carlos Santana has plans on a Friday night? If you’re Rob Thomas, you recruit another famous friend, rocker Sammy Hagar, who turned up to help the singer close out the latest show of his Chip Tooth Smile tour with a performance of “Smooth” at the Fox Performing Arts [...]

  • US record producer The-Dream arrives for

    Top Music Publishers Come Together for Songs of Hope Honors

    The 15th annual Songs of Hope honors united songwriters, music industry insiders and more than a few preeminent doctors at producer Alex Da Kid’s Sherman Oaks compound on Thursday night. Jimmy Jam returned to host the event, which served as a fundraiser for the ever-vital City of Hope medical treatment center as well as a [...]

  • Monkees/Badfinger/Nazz Supergroup Takes Beatles' 'White Album'

    Monkees/Badfinger/Nazz Supergroup Gets Back to '68 by Touring Beatles' 'White Album'

    The 50th anniversary re-release of 1969’s “Abbey Road” may be just days away, but that doesn’t mean Beatles fans have been there and done that when it comes to celebrating ’68. Todd Rundgren, the Monkees’ Mickey Dolenz, Badfinger’s Joey Molland and several other name musicians of a certain vintage are teaming up to go out [...]

  • Rob Cowan, Greg Silverman'The Conjuring 2'

    Greg Silverman’s Stampede, School of Rock Team for Unscripted Series (EXCLUSIVE)

    Former president of Warner Bros. Pictures Greg Silverman is partnering with School of Rock through his content creation company Stampede. The collaboration with the music school will create exclusive content, starting with the development of an unscripted series.  School of Rock operates a network of performance-based education franchises that offer students of all ages guidance [...]

  • 'Downton Abbey' Music Gets 'Bigger, Better,

    As 'Downton Abbey' Hits the Silver Screen, the Music, Too, Gets 'Bigger, Better, Grander'

    When “Downton Abbey” fans hear that familiar strings-and-piano theme, a Pavlovian response ensues: Get to the television immediately, because you don’t want to miss a minute of the addictive Crawley family melodrama to follow. This week, with the “Downton Abbey” movie reaching theaters on Friday, fans can’t wait for their fix of Lady Mary and [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content