by Dan Goldwasser
Here in Los Angeles the summer has been ushered in with its first film music concert this past weekend: "Soundstage L.A." at the Walt Disney Music Hall. Conducted by David Newman, the evening's theme was film scores from movies that took place in and around Los Angeles. Of course, that meant most of them were noir, dark, and gritty.
Before the concert, film music historian and journalist Jon Burlingame held court at a pre-show panel discussion. Burlingame also wrote the program notes for the evening's concert. Starting with a lengthy suite from Waxman's Sunset Boulevard, we then moved into Elmer Berstein's The Grifters. The synths used were pretty much dead-on to Bernstein's original patches. After that we heard music from Rebel Without a Cause by Leonard Rosenman. The knife-fight sequence hadn't ever been performed live before, and made excellent use of the themes played leading up to it. It's not a musical piece that is easy for an audience to digest, but it was really cool to hear. The first half ended with a newly written suite of music from Alan Silvestri's score to Who Framed Roger Rabbit, which was filled with energy and excitement. Hearing Silvestri's jazzy score mixed with his trademarked action music was definitely a great way to take us into intermission.
When the audience came back after a short break, the stage had been transformed: four pianos with the tops off, four harps, the string section, and a solo trumpet. The piece: Jerry Goldsmith's Chinatown. The trumpet soloist was amazing, and seeing the four pianists strumming the exposed strings was enough to give me chills. After that, there was a small break as they reconfigured the stage once more. David Newman spoke a little bit at this point, talking about the music he picked, and a little about his experience in Hollywood. He then introduced the next cue, a fugue from Bronislau Kaper's Them!, which was a fun musical moment.
From there, music from David Raksin's The Bad and the Beautiful was performed in all of it's lushfulness. Ending the concert was Miklos Rozsa's classic noir Double Indemnity. It was one of those things where the score works better in the film, and the concert ended on a rather somber and slow note.
More film music related concerts are planned this summer, including the annual John Williams concert at the Hollywood Bowl, a concert of computer game music, and the AFI Best 100 Scores Top 25 concert. For more information, check out the official Los Angeles Philharmonic website.
Special thanks to Matt Velasco at the Los Angeles Philharmonic