There’s a long history of classical composers writing music for films. Shostakovich and even Saint-Saens did it, and so did Prokofiev, Aaron Copland and Philip Glass, together with hundreds more. So in putting together a program of Classical Music in Movies, the HBSO directors must have been spoilt for choice.
They were clearly confident of the program’s popular appeal as they mounted two performances, at the City Opera House last Saturday and Sunday. I attended the second, and was impressed by how educative the experience could be. If you wanted a lesson in orchestral colors, many of the items selected, brash though they may have sounded to classical connoisseurs, would have provided perfect examples.
So vivid was the orchestral sound that the slow movement from Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto (soloist Dao Nhat Quang), featured in the film Out of Africa, seemed strangely muted. It had all the sadness of Mozart’s late work, however, while managing at the same time to display the character of what was then a relatively new instrument.
But for the most part it was full-blooded orchestral effects we were treated to, with suites from films such as Pirates of the Caribbean, The Lion King, Beauty and the Beast, The Phantom of the Opera and The Sound of Music.
One highlight was the love theme from Cinema Paradiso (violin soloist Duong Minh Chinh). Ennio Morricone, the melodic and often heart-breaking composer responsible, was of course someone who couldn’t possibly be omitted from a program such as this.
Of course there can’t have been anyone in the audience who didn’t have his or her own list of movies they wished had been included. Mine included Fitzcarraldo (a fine opportunity for an operatic duet there) and Lawrence of Arabia, not to mention, going back even further, Jules et Jim and Jeux Interdits.
It’s arguable that film music has been unjustly neglected by programmers worldwide over the years. The bulk of the classical-style music most people hear is in movies, though I often think, too, while watching a TV documentary, that the accompanying music was startlingly original and interesting. It has invariably been composed especially for the occasion, and won’t be heard again.
Altogether this was, if not one of HBSO’s top-ranking occasions, a pleasant change from the usual fare. Lim Jun Oh conducted. But it’s back to pure classical with a vengeance next week with Dvorak’s massive and somewhat demanding 8th Symphony on April 19.
After that comes a revival of one of the HBSO Ballet’s most outstanding productions, Prokofiev’s Cinderella. This will be given over the holiday weekend, on April 28 and 29. I’ve already seen it twice, and I can assure readers that it would be hard to find anything so fine anywhere in Asia, and perhaps even in the world. This is a truly stunning production, and anyone still in Saigon over the holiday should do everything they can to see it. If I was going to be here I’d certainly see it another two times. It would quite simply be impossible to see it too often.