Concert Review

Jerry Goldsmith: Film Music Concerts, London Symphony Orchestra, Barbican 22 & 23 May 2000


It was once said that if Mozart or Beethoven were alive today they might be composing music for films. It is certainly the case that some composers, such as Korngold and Rózsa (both of whom wrote violin concertos for Heifetz), stretched their talents into both the classical and film mediums. Bernard Herrmann, one of the very finest film composers, wrote a remarkable symphony and Richard Rodney Bennett has successfully spanned both as well. Today's big name film composers, however, have resolutely stuck to the big screen - and in many ways the limitations that imposes on their writing is all too evident.

Jerry Goldsmith's two concerts with the LSO were largely a showcase for his own music, but other film composers such as Waxman, Rózsa and Newman were also represented. In otherwords, Hollywood and more Hollywood. The irony of this programming is that it somehow contradicted one of Goldsmith's many observations between the pieces: that the conservatism of today's film music is in part due to the conservatism of today's film makers. Has he not heard of Wojciech Kilar, or Howard Shore, or Pino Donaggio? And what about Claudio Simonetti, whose score for Dario Argento's Tenebrae is one of the most forward looking of any horror film? This narrow, Hollywood-embraced arrogance was the main reason these concerts disappointed so much.

They also disappointed because they failed to showcase Goldsmith's best scores. The epic grandeur of the Star War's music is all very well if you are into that type of thing (and many are), but it has been better and more memorably done elsewhere. The Star War's exhibition at the Barbican, with its lego Darth Vader, reminds one not only of the monumental stone building that lies behind this music but that John Williams just does it better than anyone else. I did enjoy the sexiness of Goldsmith's Basic Instinct score although understandably had my mind focused on something (or someone) else. With the exception of The Boy's From Brazil, a magnificent Straussian-Wagnerian affair, with a blistering and disfigured waltz, Goldsmith's music did not stand up to the competition. Rózsa's Ben Hur, all opulence and thrill, was wonderfully played (as was all the music, to be fair) but harks back to the days when epic, biblical extravaganzas were all the rage and you felt you were listening to a great composer. Had Goldsmith played his suite from Tora! Tora! Tora! it would have put an entirely different sheen on the evening.

He mentioned his many Oscar nominations as often as he could, but did not play the one score he won an Oscar for: The Omen. True, this would have required the LSO chorus (and given the amount of percussion on stage I admit to finding it difficult to work out where they might have been placed), but who wouldn't have paid many times the ticket price to hear this music and that of it's sequels? To have been sent home after an evening of that would have been much more up my street.

As it was, bleeding chunks of film music do not make for an ideal concert experience. Many there were easily satisfied, giving Goldsmith a standing ovation - and earning an encore. But I just can't help but wonder - what would Mozart have made of Star Wars?

Marc Bridle


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