Music for Heroes and Monsters of Big and Small Screens

18/02/2018

Various composers: Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra / Pete Harrison (conductor). The Lighthouse, Poole, 17.2.2018. (IL)

Pete Harrison

Pete Harrison

Bernard Herrmann – Psycho
John WilliamsJurassic Park and The Lost World; Dracula; Jaws; Harry Potter Medley: Prisoner of Azkaban (Aunt Marge’s Waltz and A Bridge to the Past); Sorcerers’ Stone (Harry’s Wondrous World); Tin Tin (The Duel); Raiders of the Lost Ark March
Jerry GoldsmithGremlins; The Mummy
Hans ZimmerThe Ring (This is Going to Hurt)
Alan SilvestriThe Abyss
James Newton HowardKing Kong
Howard ShoreThe Lord of the Rings (The Fellowship)
Michael GiacchinoSuper8
Richard Jacques – Bond Bloodstone (video game)
David BuckleyShrek (video game).

Pete Harrison draws in full-capacity audiences for his film music programmes. This one was no exception and, gratifyingly, many young people attended. As last year, I was disappointed that the great composers of Hollywood’s Golden Age were largely ignored. No Korngold, no Max Steiner, no Waxman, no Tiomkin et al. This absence was pronounced in the choice of James Newton Howard’s score for King Kong which, for me, was very inferior to Max Steiner’s pioneering score for the original 1933 film. (I should say in passing that I have great respect for James Newton Howard’s film music and I have enjoyed his scores for such films as The Fugitive and The Prince of Tides.)

The programme commenced with a wonderfully edge-of-seat ride through John Williams’s thrilling, exotic music for two Spielberg films: Jurassic Park and The Lost World: Jurassic Park. At the other end of the evening, an equally exotic but deliciously humorous as well as exciting score ended the concert—Jerry Goldsmith’s Gremlins. John Williams was also represented by a number of his scores including that scary, biting Jaws music, the atmospheric, eerie, sexy Dracula, the popular Harry Potter music and, as an encore, The Raiders of the Lost Ark March.

Bernard Herrmann was the sole representative of the ‘old school’ of Hollywood composers. He was represented by the screeching violins for the Psycho murders and that wonderful music that sets the dread mood as Janet Leigh drives towards her doom at the Bates Motel. Herrmann’s music graphically anticipates the horrors to come. As one commentator observed turn that music right down and all you have is an image of a girl driving a car.

Pete Harrison, very learned about films and film music, made a welcome host, contributing many interesting anecdotes including stories behind the production of James Cameron’s The Abyss. For me, Alan Silvestri’s music for this film was one of the highlights of the evening. Thrilling, with a mystical edge, this was film music to rival John Williams at his best and written in the tradition of the Hollywood greats. It clearly found favour with the audience too, for it received some of the warmest applause of the evening.

Hans Zimmer’s ‘This is Going to Hurt’ music for The Ring was very interesting and remarkable in that it was set for the lowest registers of the string section, principally the cellos and double basses, creating a palpable sense of foreboding that must have really shaken the film’s audiences. A contrastingly mild and homely item was Howard Shore’s whimsical Gaelic-sounding ‘The Fellowship’ theme from his The Lord of The Rings scores.

As before, Harrison included some music for video games. The best of these was Richard Adrian Jacques’s ‘Athens Harbour Chase’ for the James Bond 007: Bloodstone game; it would not have disgraced any of the composers who wrote for the Bond cinematic films. The score was exciting and original, yet sufficiently within the recognisable idiom of the Bond franchise. Mention should be made of Michael Giacchino’s atmospheric score that added so much to J. J. Abrams science-fiction horror movie Super 8—about the filming, by a group of youngsters, of a train crash the consequences of which would shake a community.

An enjoyable concert despite my reservations voiced above.

Ian Lace

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