The exceptionality of the two concerts at the Hollywood In Vienna Festival 2013 is widely recognized. Back in February we had detailed the elements that would make the two evenings at the prestigious Wiener Konzerthaus events not to be missed (see our article). The main argument was the coming of James Horner. At that time it was even announced that he would conduct the orchestra with David Newman.
But finally on October 3 and 4, only Alfred Newman's son conducted the Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra (Radio-Symphonieorchester Wien). Why this withdrawal of James Horner? As he explained during the Symposium, James Horner prefers not to look back to his past scores: he composes, conducts and then forgets them, focusing on the following projects. He is an artist of a rare sensibility, who has his mind oriented towards the future, living fully the present moment and refusing to go into the past with nostalgia. This way of thinking prevents him from returning to former scores to conduct in concert. The only time he had to do so was in April 2012 for the world premiere of Titanic 3D.
The admirers of the composer, who came in numbers, probably dreamed of witnessing him conduct his music in Vienna. That was not for this time. This was a slight disappointment, which probably added up to the almost permanent impossibility to approach him for a photo or an autograph; two elements that certainly spoiled the party for some but which did not prevent from having high quality performances during the two concerts. Below is our detailed review.
James Horner's work gave the organizers for this year the idea of a theme focused on new terrestrial and extraterrestrial worlds. The first part of the concert thus offered a wide range of pieces written for science-fiction films with the following program:
Metropolis – Prelude – Gottfried Huppertz
Space Mountain – From the Earth to the Moon – Steve Bramson
Star Trek – Suite – Alexander Courage, Jerry Goldsmith, Leonard Rosenman, Cliff Eidelman, Michael Giacchino.
Gattaca – The Departure – Michael Nyman – Piano : Stephanie Timoscheh
A.I. – Where Dreams Are Made –Vocalist: Ildikó Raimondi
Independence Day – Suite – David Arnold
After the traditional "Hollywood In Vienna" Fanfare composed by Bruce Broughton from a theme by Max Steiner, the presentation of the On To New Worlds thematic was made at the end of the solemn elevation of the brief Prelude from Metropolis. What struck during these introductions was the orchestra's ability to deploy a wide range of musical intensity and the superb idea to project images of the films on four large vertical white sections positioned between each column of the back scene of the Großer Saal. Compared to the previous years, the projection surface was thus multiplied and offered optimal immersion. The gradual emergence of the futuristic city invented by Austrian director Fritz Lang during Gottfried Huppertz' piece was thus stunning.
The performance of Steve Bramson's work for the Walt Disney Parks attraction Space Mountain confirmed these first good impressions. The flawless play of the horn section was promising for the second part devoted to James Horner's music, which usually generously involves this instrument. The fact that Steve Bramson went on the stage at the end of the cue proved that Hollywood was definitely in Vienna!
The suite devoted to the television and film series Star Trek, arranged by Ehich Hofmann, an expert in film music, offered a significant range of composers. So with the iconic themes composed by Alexander Courage, Jerry Goldsmith and Michael Giacchino, we could enjoy the melodic qualities of Leonard Rosenman's work and the epic virtuosity developed by Cliff Eidelman for the intergalactic adventures of the USS Enterprise. Two composers whose participation in the musical adventure of the series is lesser known but who fully deserved to be represented in this suite.
The cue from Gattaca brought a welcome gentleness. Stephanie Timoscheh, the pianist, accompanied by melancholic strings, brilliantly performed Michael Nyman's melody. The images projected in adequacy with the music added a touch of undeniable poetry.
Then comes the emotional highlight of the first part. The graceful soprano Ildikó Raimondi made his first appearance on stage to give us a wonderful performance of a piece written by John Williams for Steven Spielberg's film A.I. This was also the first time that this piece Where Dreams Are Made was performed in concert. The fact that few images were projected instigated the public to focus on the soprano, who deeply moved the audience with the power of his wonderful voice at the end of the piece.
The orchestral fury of Independence Day concluded the first part of the concert. What a difficult challenge to summarize David Arnold's rich score in a few minutes. However, this suite had the merit of evenly encapsulating all aspects of it, while managing to faithfully reproduce the original performance – an achievement as the conclusion of a very enjoyable first part.
THE WORLD OF JAMES HORNER
The long-awaited part began with a nice surprise: the Universal Fanfare composed by James Horner for the 75th anniversary of the studio. A wise choice as those fifteen enchanting seconds are a perfect introduction to the magical world of the composer's music. The program of the festivities was then the following:
Star Trek II – End Titles (excerpt)
Braveheart – End Titles (excerpt) – Uilleann pipes: Geza Frank
Horner Medley – Willow / A Beautiful Mind / Apollo 13 / Aliens / The Mask of Zorro / The Rocketeer
An American Tail – Somewhere Out There – Piano: Jeremy Schonfeld – Singers: Deborah Cox & Jeremey Schonfeld – Arrangements: Werner Stranka & Martin Gellner/Beat4feet
Avatar – Suite – Arrangements: Victor Pesavento
Legends of The Fall – The Ludlows
Titanic – Suite – Vocals: Ildikó Raimondi – Uilleann pipes: Geza Frank – Arrangements: James Horner
The Amazing Spider-Man – End Titles
The Land Before Time – If We Hold On Together – Singers: Deborah Cox & Jeremy Schonfeld – Arrangements: Werner Stranka & Martin Gellner/Beat4feet
The End Titles from Star Trek II in a shortened version were remarkably played. The images of interstellar universes, which accompanied the music were splendid. They preceded an anti-chronological scrolling of the movie titles that James Horner scored, to accompany the end of the cue. The animation was prepared before the summer, which explains the presence of Romeo and Juliet in the list (see our article).
The young player of uileann pipes Geza Frank then went on stage to perform the moving End Titles from Braveheart in a version shortened to four minutes, so obviously too short. The faithful and careful execution left no more doubt about the quality of the orchestra. This impression was enhanced by the angelic choir's intervention.
The "Horner Medley" as it was called in the program did not fail to bring the major drawback of such exercise, i.e. proposing too short extracts. Willow was reduced to one simple execution of Madmartigan's theme, Aliens, Apollo 13 and The Mask Of Zorro to a brief evocation of their main themes. The excerpt from A Beautiful Mind was curiously deprived of its choral part while The Rocketeer, favored by its final position in the medley, had the chance to be the most developed with Jenny's Theme followed by a concluding fanfare.
Then singer Jeremey Schonfeld sat at the piano to perform with Canadian R'n'B singer Deborah Cox the hit song Somewhere Out There. Werner Stranka & Martin Gellner's arrangements highlighted James Horner's melody for the animated film An American Tail, directed by Don Bluth.
Then comes the time of the Avatar suite, a complex score to reproduce in concert because of its rich orchestration, just like it is extremely difficult for example to integrate the piano in the orchestra in Bioluminiscence of The Night. Arranger Victor Pesavento, conductor David Newman, the musicians and the choir did a creditable job as their performance in this suite was great, especially the last minute of War, simply stunning. During Thursday's first concert the drums, however, were too loud, but this was adjusted for the Gala evening of the next day.
The Ludlows from the bucolic masterwork Legends of the Fall, fascinated the audience with its pastoral beauty and poignant romance. The piano, the violin solo, the strings and the landscape images, everything was perfect.
Finally, the orchestra performed the composer's most famous piece, Titanic. Soprano Ildikó Raimondi and uilleann pipes player Geza Frank returned for this moment much awaited by the audience. A part of Titanic Suite arranged by James Horner was played. Ildikó Raimondi seemed less comfortable than on John Williams's piece, but this may be because the voice of Norwegian singer Sissel is definitely an integral part of the music. The most achieved passages were the juvenile Southampton thanks to the enthusiasm of the Neue Wiener Stimmen choir, and the finale, a divine musical impulse uniting all the musicians in one of the most beautiful expressions of eternal love.
The vivid End Titles from The Amazing Spider-Man accompanied the arrival of James Horner on stage for his speech in both concerts.
The song If You Hold On Together (The Land Before Time) got the same treatment as Somewhere Out There with a very neat pop arrangement. The emotion was high when Deborah Cox came close to James Horner by singing the first verses of the song. This was a perfect choice to nostalgically close the window opened for one hour on the world of James Horner.
Gone with the Wind served as closing credits of the two evenings. Max Steiner's melody has always been associated with Hollywood's film music and it was an ideal conclusion for these concerts.
As for the atmosphere, the magnificent concert hall was beautifully illuminated by Norbert Wofsberger, the musical accompaniment from small cells of the pieces performed was brilliantly done. Magical.
The humor was not left with very the pleasant presentation by actor Gedeon Burkhard. The voice-over, unfortunately in German, just before the Star Trek suite also had some success with the Austrian audience, just like the shadow which gradually covered the city of Vienna during Independence Day.
The majority of the pictures and videos was well chosen and very often in harmony with the music. The beautiful images accompanying The Mask Of Zorro, Aliens and Legend of The Fall were noticeable. However it is unfortunate that the musicians were not showed on screen instead of long still images, and that no images from the battles scenes of Avatar covered the passage of War.
To conclude the shows presented on Thursday 3 and Friday 4 October at the Wiener Konzerthaus were generally of high quality thanks to the combined talents of musicians, arrangers, singers and conductor . The musical choices supervised by Ehich Hofmann, Sandra Tomek and Natalia Villanueva Garcia ensured a variety of enjoyable musical ambiances while covering the most accessible (maybe too much?) part of James Horner's popular work.
In any case, if you enjoy the honored composer, Hollywood In Vienna was worth the trip.