by Dan Goldwasser
Name: Stephen Erdody
Profession: Cello Player
Education: Linden, N.J. public school system; the Juilliard School: B.M. 1975; M.M. 1977
Recent films worked on: Munich, Memoirs of a Geisha, The Chronicles of Narnia, King Kong, War of the Worlds
Biggest films worked on: Spiderman I and II; Titanic; the early Batman movies; all of PIXAR's movies except The Incredibles
What is your musical background: I played trumpet in Jr. and Sr. High School. After my parents won $5,000 in the New York State Lottery (1969) I went to a music camp where I had my first private lessons. I was about to enter my junior year in High School, and the people at the music camp (Amherst Summer Music Center) arranged for me to study with Harvey Shapiro in NYC. Two years later I was accepted into the Juilliard School, where I continued my studies with Shapiro. I was principal cello of the Juilliard Orchestra for two years, and while there I formed the New York String Quartet with three of my Juilliard colleagues. The NYSQ took a position at UC Irvine upon graduation from Juilliard. The Quartet broke up in 1982. I continued teaching and conducting at UC Irvine until 1992. During those years I was principal cello of the Pacific Symphony, Opera Pacific, and for many of the ballet companies which came through LA and Orange Counties.
In 1984, violinist Endre Granat heard me during a run of the American Ballet Theater at the Music Center, and he introduced me to the Recording Industry in Los Angeles. I was doing many things (teaching, performing concerts, and some - but not too much studio work) at that time in my life, including forming a new string quartet, the Angeles Quartet in 1988. The Quartet disbanded in 2002, but not before winning the Grammy Award for Best Chamber Music Performance for their Philips recording of the complete Haydn String Quartets (21 -discs, 23 hours long, and 68 string quartets).
What was the best experience you've had? Any recording session with John Williams (playing the cello solos for Angela's Ashes was a dream come true!), any recording session with John Williams and Steven Spielberg (playing the cello solos for Munich and having Steven Spielberg filming me during the recording process was extremely memorable!), having John Williams write a duet for me with Yo-Yo Ma for Memoirs of a Geisha was another thrill, and finally, I would have to say almost everyday having an opportunity to work with some amazingly talented film composers, and play their music with some of the greatest musicians in the world - my cello section could rival any cello section in any major orchestra in the world! When I was recording the main cello solo for Munich, the great cellist, Lynn Harrell, came to Sony (his wife is violinist Helen Nightingale, who plays in the studios, as well) and he could not get over the sound of the cello section - he had never heard a section like ours!
Another great experience was hearing Emily Bernstein play the clarinet solos for Williams' The Terminal, knowing that she knew that she had a few months to live, having just had surgeries, in the middle of chemotherapy, and still playing better than any clarinetist anywhere. I don't know if John knew how gravely ill she was, but I do know he wrote the solos knowing that she was suffering from liver cancer. To this day, I am amazed that anyone could have been going through what she was going through, and yet make those virtuoso clarinet solos seem completely effortless, despite her painful and debilitating illness.
Without naming names or titles, what is the worst situation you've ever had at a session, and why? Quite a few years ago now, probably in the mid to late 80's, I was doing a Disney TV date (quite possibly my first session for Disney) at the "old" Evergreen Studios, which was still a popular studio for TV and records at that time. Todd-AO, where we record quite a lot these days, used to be known as CBS Radford, and before that, Evergreen-Radford. I wasn't working very much at that time (just getting started in the "biz"), so I left for Evergreen two hours early for a 2 p.m. single (I thought I'd have lunch and have some time to warm-up). I got to Evergreen-Magnolia at around 1:30 p.m. and noticed there were no vehicles any where at the studio parking lot - I had a very bad feeling at that point. I called my answering service, Arlyn's and found out I was supposed to be at Evergreen-Radford. As I've said I was new at this, and I wasn't quite sure how to get to the other studio in less than a half-hour (even though it's only about 4 miles!). I had my Thomas Guide, and my 1980 Saab non-turbo and I found the studio at 1:55 p.m. after about 3 wrong turns, raced onto the lot, and got pulled over by one of the security guards in his golf cart, who proceeded to not let me park and go on my merry way. He detained me and threatened to not let me park on the lot that day, and all future dates that I was at Radford. He also notified me that Disney would be told of my "speeding" on the lot. At this point, I was sure "I would never work again". I finally got him to allow me to get to the scoring stage, but at this point I had no idea what to say to Reg Hall, the contractor at Disney. I didn't want to make a bad impression, but I did go to the wrong studio, got reprimanded for speeding on the lot, had been threatened that I would not be allowed to park on the lot ever again, Disney was to be notified of my "behavior", and this was one of my first sessions ever for Disney! I went over to speak with Reg, and before I could say anything he said, "How are you? You look a little frazzled! We're 'on a ten' - there are about fifteen players who are going to be late from another studio date. So, get some coffee and relax!"
What are you working on now? I am working on Jasper Randall's score for Intellectual Property, a beautiful score featuring solo cello and orchestra. Also, I am working on a film with Mark Mancina called August Rush, also featuring solo cello. It is the story of a concert cellist (starring Robin Williams, not as the cellist!) and her young son, who is a composer prodigy. It is a complicated "fairy tale" - the cellist thinks her son has died, but he is living in an orphanage run by Robin Williams. The music plays an integral part in the movie. Mark has written an enormous amount of fantastic music for the movie. They don't start filming until next month, but it has been fun playing some original music of Mark's as pre-records, as well as playing some of the Elgar Cello Concerto and some Bach.
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