Friday, February 27, 2009

JN Howard's I Would Plant A Tree Rooted in Film Music

Last Thursday, the Pacific Symphony performed a concert honoring "Hollywood's Golden Age." While there were pieces by Bernard Herrmann, Erich Wolfgang Korngold and Miklós Rósza, the concert also branched out into the music of today, giving a World Premiere of a piece written specifically for the occasion by James Newton Howard, I would plant a tree. Timothy Magnan, of the Orange County Register, gave this review of the new work:

"Tree" sounds like movie music. It is tonal and melodic and athletically rhythmic and highly decorative (the orchestration is for a large orchestra, including cimbasso, Wagner tubas and lots of trumpets and percussion, especially bells.) It sparkles and scintillates. At 20 minutes, it is also formally secure, describing an arch of beauteous simplicity and wonder through strenuous upheaval and back again. On the other hand, "Tree" sounds so much like other music that it is predictable and lacks a strong identity of its own. Still, the confidence and polish here is undeniable.

To be fair, Mr Magnan was not overly impressed with the concert as a whole. While he enjoys film music, he considers film music "function(s) as accompaniment to visual images (not to mention sound effects and dialogue), movie music, as an art form, is a supporting actor." He was pleasant about the performance of the orchestra, but in the end gave the feeling this sort of ncert doesn't really serve to belie the opinion that film music is somehow a lesser art form - not really enough bark on it's own to stand against the wind without the images of the film to support it.

Pacific Symphony * With: Timothy Landauer, cello; Raymond Kobler, cello; John-David Keller, narrator * Where: Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall * When: Feb. 26 * Next: 8 p.m. Feb. 27-28; 3 p.m. (partial program) March 1 * How much: $39-$185 * Online: www.pacificsymphony.org

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