Miami Symphony pays musical homage to Hollywood

By Dorothy Hindman

Music from several John Williams film scores were performed by the Miami Symphony Orchestra Saturday night at FIU.

Music from several John Williams film scores were performed by the Miami Symphony Orchestra Saturday night at FIU.

‘Tis the season for family fun, and the Miami Symphony Orchestra’s fifth annual “Golden Sounds from Hollywood” concert Saturday night drew an all-ages capacity crowd to FIU’s Wertheim Performing Arts Center Saturday night. A giant screen dominated the low-lit stage, with video montages from each movie accompanied by their respective music led by music director Eduardo Marturet.

“Golden Sounds” cleverly divides the program between music composed specifically for films, and pre-existing classical works appropriated by filmmakers.

The first half was devoted to the latter, including the “Sunrise” opening from Richard Strauss’ Also sprach Zarathustra, used iconically by Stanley Kubrick in 2001: A Space Odyssey, and Paul Dukas’ Sorcerer’s Apprentice, eternally linked to Mickey Mouse and Disney’s Fantasia. Excellent horn passages led by Hector Rodriguez, and sparkling passagework from the orchestra characterized the expertly executed Dukas.

Concertmaster Daniel Andai, a treasure for MISO, offered a sweetly intoned, tasteful solo that Titanic fans recognized, from Jules Massenet’s Meditation from Thaïs. The understated support from the orchestra made this the strongest performance of the half.

Gustav Mahler’s Adagietto from the Fifth Symphony, used in Luchino Visconti’s Death in Venice, and Pietro Mascagni’s Intermezzo from Cavalleria Rusticana, used by Francis Ford Coppola in The Godfather III, were expressive and heart-wrenching. Unfortunately, during exposed passages, both were fraught with string intonation and rhythmic unity issues. Conductor Eduardo Marturet, facing the added challenge of coordinating the orchestra with the video, generated high passion but not enough metric direction to unify the ensemble during these critical moments.

The second half of the program featured original film scores, including Hans Zimmer’s Gladiator, James Horner’s Apollo 13, James Newton Howard’s King Kong, and five of John Williams’ signature works. Movie music is typically heavy on brass and percussion, and MISO’s brass consistently performed impressively despite constant demands on their endurance, underlined by thick percussion.

Movie music isn’t meant to stand alone, and in general the works on the second half were much simpler arrangements. Most possessed the same attributes: strongly delineated unison melodies; languid string lines; heroic brass; ominous bass lines; delicate harp; and sparkling percussion. These were all delivered reliably, clearly, and expressively by the conductor and orchestra.

Several works demonstrated more sophisticated harmonies and orchestration, requiring greater nuance of interpretation. Daniel Andai’s libertine solo on Williams’ tango from Scent of a Woman brought panache to an otherwise rather banal piece.

Andai’s pitch-perfect, refined solo for Williams’ music from Schindler’s List brought well-earned bravos. Countermelodies in solo viola and English horn added to the poignancy.

Williams’ music for E.T. by Stephen Spielberg verges on greatness, going well beyond beloved tunes and movie accompaniment. MISO’s musicians illuminated the subtle details, expertly rendering Williams’ extended string techniques and imaginative wind instrumentation.

An overly fast tempo on Williams’ music from Star Wars brought the crowd to their feet. Despite ending well past ten, the children in the audience stayed riveted, and the encore from Pirates of the Caribbean received a spirited performance and reception.

MISO repeats “Golden Sounds from Hollywood” 8 p.m. Sunday at New World Center in Miami Beach. The show is sold-out.

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Sun Dec 15, 2013
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