ORANGE COUNTY, Calif.—This season, Pacific Symphony's 2009 American Composers Festival (ACF) celebrates the art of film music past and present, exploring the differences between composing for concerts and composing for film, and how the two styles have evolved into what we hear today.
The festival kicks off with a unique event presented in partnership with the Newport Beach Film Festival: "Behind the Score," a special screening of the James Newton Howard-scored, Academy-Award nominated movie Blood Diamond on Thursday, Feb. 19, at 7 p.m., at the Regency Lido Theatre in Newport Beach. The event will feature a live discussion with Howard (pictured) and the film's director-producer Edward Zwick (who also directed Glory and The Last Samurai). Admission to this event is free; advance reservations are required.
ACF continues on Thursday-Saturday, Feb. 26-28, at the Renee and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall, with "Hollywood's Golden Age" – a concert led by Pacific Symphony music director and conductor Carl St.Clair, featuring music by Bernard Herrmann, Miklós Rózsa, Erich Wolfgang Korngold and James Newton Howard, and spotlighting performances by Concertmaster Raymond Kobler and Principal Cellist Timothy Landauer. The program examines the difference between the two genres: composing for film and composing for classical music in the concert hall. There will be a pre-concert discussion by Horowitz and Howard.
The program includes I Would Plant a Tree, a world premiere by Howard that is also his first major concert work for orchestra; a suite from Howard's current Oscar nominated score for Defiance; the West Coast premiere of Herrmann's The City of Brass, melodrama for radio (with narrator), and Herrmann's suite from the Hitchcock film Vertigo; Korngold's "Theme and Variations" from the film Kings Row; the scherzo from Korngold's Symphony in F-sharp; Rózsa's Theme and Variations for Violin, Cello and Orchestra; and Rózsa's "Parade of the Charioteers" from Ben-Hur.
On Sunday, March 1, at 3 p.m., "Classical Connections: Hollywood Haven," led by St.Clair (also at the Segerstrom Concert Hall), features Kobler and Landauer returning to perform music selected from repertoire by Herrmann, Howard, and Rózsa featured in "Hollywood's Golden Age." For this afternoon event, Maestro St.Clair probes beneath the surface and offers insight into the composers and the music.
And on Monday, March 2 at 8 p.m. in the Samueli Theater, the festival concludes with "Cinema to Symphony: How Movies Become Music," spotlighting composer Paul Chihara. This multimedia performance includes film clips and discussion by Horowitz and Chihara. The program includes Korngold's Songs for Baritone and Piano; Chihara's 1996 chamber work "Minidoka," adapted from his 1974 television film Farewell to Manzanar, Herrmann's Souvenirs du Voyage for clarinet and string quartet and Rozsa's Toccata Capricciosa for solo cello, a rarely heard showpiece with Hungarian flair.
Howard and Chihara, the two living composers represented on the program, are also the festival's composers-in-residence. Howard, who recently won a Grammy for his score (with Hans Zimmer) for The Dark Knight, is an eight-time Oscar nominee and composer of such film scores as The Sixth Sense, The Village, My Best Friend's Wedding and King Kong.
"Howard's scores are among the most remarkable currently being composed in Hollywood," says St.Clair. "I was thrilled to discover how excited he is about composing his first symphonic work. He has obviously taken his commission very seriously."
Chihara, who is head of the visual media program at UCLA, is known both as a composer of concert music and of film/television music. He was recently named Composer of the Year by the Classical Recording Foundation (CRF), and he has written scores for more than 100 motion pictures (including The Morning After) as well as for television. He is also a prolific concert composer. Chihara's "Minidoka" from Farewell to Manzanar reflects the film's true story of a Japanese-American family who are forced to spend World War II in an internment camp – something he knows about personally.
"I was 4 years old when our family was relocated in the spring of 1942," says Chihara. "My father was taken first, and sent to some camp– My remembrances of the succeeding three years were the reverse of my parents – to whom it was heartache, terror, rage and humiliation. For us kids it was an adventure."
This ACF is particularly relevant, considering that film music has been an integral part of Southern California culture since the inception of the movie industry, and with strong connections to the world of "classical" concert music.