(Revised) OVERNIGHT REVIEW: Marvin Hamlisch and Pasadena Pops conclude season at the Rose Bowl

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

Pasadena Star-News/San Gabriel Valley Tribune/Whittier Daily
News

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Pasadena Pops
Orchestra; Marvin Hamlisch, conductor

Saturday, August 27, 2011 The Lawn Adjacent to the Rose
Bowl

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Marvin Hamlisch and the Pasadena Pops Orchestra concluded
their 2012 season last night, Hamlisch’s first with the orchestra and the
ensemble’s second and last at The Lawn Adjacent to the Rose Bowl (they move to
the Los Angeles County Arboretum in Arcadia next season). What appeared to be
the largest crowd of the season came out on a balmy evening to hear music from
the movies.

 

Hamlisch spent somewhat more time regaling the audience with
funny stories than he did in his last concert and the musical selections were
longer than has occurred this summer; the evening included, among other things,
multi-work pastiches from composers George and Ira Gershwin and Max Steiner.
One of the evening’s highlights was a tribute to dancer-director-actor Gene
Kelly, which featured a “tap-dancing” display by percussionist Jason Goodman who
had the shoes (and argyle socks) on his hands so that the audience could see, as
well as hear.

 

Vocalist Susan Egan was a sparkling soloist in pieces by
Judy Garland (ending, of course, with Over
the Rainbow)
and from the musical Cabaret
(Egan played the role of Sally Bowles in Cabaret on Broadway in the 1988 revival).

 

As has become standard for Hamlisch concerts with the
Pasadena Pops, he offered a “special unannounced guest,” in this case, Melissa
Manchester, who sang Through the Eyes of
Love
(the theme song written by Hamlisch for the movie Ice Castles) and the title song from The Way We Were, for which Hamlisch won an Academy Award in 1973.

 

The second half opened with the music written by John
Williams for Star Wars, which was
supposed to be accompanied by space images from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory
but they never appeared.

 

The evening’s “official” program closed with George
Gershwin’s An American in Paris, the
most extensive piece Hamlisch has conducted so far with the Pops. Hamlisch
alternated between catching the jazz influences of this important piece and
dutifully beating time. However, the orchestra, which played splendidly
throughout the evening, shone in Gershwin’s famous 1928 piece, which was
subsequently used in the 1951 MGM musical that starred Gene Kelley and Leslie
Caron.

 

Along the way were spiffy solo offerings by orchestra’s
principals: Trumpeter Melissa Benedict, Flutist Louise DiTullio, Clarinetist
Donald Foster, Oboist Leanne Becknell and Concertmaster Amy Hirshberger.

_______________________

 

Hemidemisemiquavers:

Before the concert, CEO Paul Jan Zdunek reported that
ticket sales for next season have already exceeded 500% of the recently completed
season. Since he didn’t provide hard numbers, it’s a little hard to judge that increase
effectively but it does appear that the move to the Arcadia facility seems to
be popular with many people.

Helicopter are a nuisance at all outdoor concerts but the
low-flying and circling aerial intruder last night wins the year’s award as the
summer’s most obnoxious distraction, so far.

The video camera work continues to be very spotty, batting
about .333 in landing on the correct soloist at any orchestral point in the
program. In an area that makes a gazillion movies, TV shows, TV commercials,
et. al, one would think that the direction and camera work could be better.

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(c) Copyright 2011, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved.
Portions may be quoted with attribution.

PREVIEW AND LINK: Camerata Pacifica opens 22nd season in September

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

Pasadena Star-News/San Gabriel Valley Tribune/Whittier Daily
News

 

For more than two decades, Camerata Pacifica has achieved an
enviable reputation both for the quality of its performances and the mileage it
puts on its cars. The chamber-music group performs five concerts in four
locales from Santa Barbara to Pasadena each month from September through May
(except for December).

 

Its 22nd season will begin next month (including recitals
on Sept. 20 at The Huntington Library in San Marino and Sept. 22 at The Colburn
School’s Zipper Hall) with a program that features Joanne Pearce Martin,
principal keyboardist of the Los Angeles Philharmonic who was a Camerata
Pacifica member for 10 years.

 

Martin will join with another acclaimed local pianist, Vicki
Ray, CP Artistic Director Adrian Spence on flute, cellist Ani Aznavoorian, and
percussionists Ji Hye Jung, Doug Perkins, Michael Zell and Svet Stoyanov for
music by Rachmaninoff, Crumb, De Mey and Reich.

 

The October concerts (including Oct. 18 at The Huntington
and Oct. 20 at Zipper Hall) will celebrate the bicentennial of the birth of
Franz Liszt (on Oct. 22) with pianist Adam Neiman discussing and playing the
composer’s Transcendental Etudes.

 

For information on the season’s other six concerts and
details on the opening program, click HERE.

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(c) Copyright 2011, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved.
Portions may be quoted with attribution.

PREVIEW AND LINK: Pasadena Pops adds “special guest” to Saturday’s program

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

Pasadena Star-News/San Gabriel Valley Tribune/Whittier Daily
News

 

In each of his first two concerts as principal conductor of
the Pasadena Pops Orchestra, Marvin Hamlisch has slipped a “special guest” onto
the program. Apparently that’s going to happen again Saturday night as the Pops
makes its final appearance at The Lawn Adjacent to the Rose Bowl before moving
to the Los Angeles County Arboretum next season.

 

And who might this special guest be? “Without giving it
completely away,” says CEO Paul Jan Zdunek, “as Marvin wants it to be a
surprise, here’s a hint: this singer started as the back-up artist for Bette
Midler, went on to win a Grammy for Best Female Vocalist and was the first artist
in the history of the Academy Awards to have two nominated movie themes in a
given year, making Oscar history by performing both on the telecast.”

 

Actually, the program, “Marvin Does Marvin” (which begins at
7:30 p.m.), which includes vocalist Susan Egan (her Broadway credits include
Belle in Beauty and the Beast, Sally
Bowles in Cabaret and Millie in Thoroughly Modern Millie as soloist, is
worth seeing on its own, but a little icing on the cake never hurts. The program
is scheduled to include selections from Star
Wars, Cabaret, Gigi, An American in Paris, Casablanca, Gone With the Wind,
and
Hamlisch’s own score for The Informant. LINK

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(c) Copyright 2011, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved.
Portions may be quoted with attribution.

PREVIEW AND LINKS: Simon Rattle and Berlin Philharmonic to open season Friday with digital broadcast

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

Pasadena Star-News/San Gabriel Valley Tribune/Whittier Daily
News

 

The Berlin Philharmonic will begin its 2011-2012 season
Friday at the Berlin Philharmonie with Sir Simon Rattle conducting Mahler’s
Symphony No. 7 and Deutsche Bank is offering an opportunity to hear the opening
concert for free via the orchestra’s Digital Concert Hall. You click on this
LINK, sign up and tune in at 10 a.m. Friday (7 p.m. Berlin time). A high-speed
broadband Internet connection is virtually (sorry) essential and a good pair of
headphones works best for the sound, IMHO.

 

BTW: Rattle will conduct the Los Angeles Philharmonic May 3,
4, 5 and 6 at Walt Disney Concert Hall in a program of music by Ligeti, Wagner,
Mahler and Bruckner (Symphony No. 9). Magdalena Koen will be the soloist in
Mahler’s Rckert-Lieder (LINK)

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(c) Copyright 2011, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved.
Portions may be quoted with attribution.

PREVIEW AND LINK: Southwest Chamber Music announces silver anniversary season

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

Pasadena Star-News/San Gabriel Valley Tribune/Whittier Daily
News

 

Southwest Chamber Music’s 25th anniversary will be
a typically eclectic meld of contemporary music: the world premiere of Ten Freedom Summers by trumpeter and
composer Wadada Lee Smith; the continuation of the group’s tribute to American
composer John Cage; and a festival of new works commissioned for the silver
anniversary of the ensemble, which is based in Pasadena.

 

The season begins with Smith’s three-part work that was
inspired by the Civil Rights Movement. It will play Oct. 28, 29 and 30 at
REDCAT (Roy and Edna Disney/Cal Arts Theater); this marks the first time that Southwest Chamber Music will perform in the experimental theater located
at Walt Disney Concert Hall. 
Smith’s Golden Quartet will be joined by SWCM musicians during the three
evenings.

 

The Cage Festival is a continuation of SWCM’s multi-year tribute
to the composer who was born Sept. 5, 1912 in Los Angeles. “Cage 2012″ will
have performances March 3 and 4 at the Japanese American National Museum in
Little Tokyo; March 10 at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena; March 11 at
Pasadena’s Pacific Art Museum; and March 24 at The Colburn School, across Grand
Ave. from Walt Disney Concert Hall.

 

The Colburn School will also be the site of SWCM’s New Music
Festival May 9-24 with exact dates and programs to be announced next January.
Commissions from Charles Wuroinen, Unsuk Chin, Anne LeBaron, Lei Liang, Vu Nhat
Tan, Tn Tht Tit, Gabriela Lena Frank, Gabriela Ortiz, Hyo-shin Na and Kurt
Rohde are on the projected schedule.

 

Detailed information is HERE.

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(c) Copyright 2011, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved.
Portions may be quoted with attribution.

AROUND TOWN/MUSIC: “The Little Orange Dress” … and other items

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

Pasadena Star-News/San Gabriel Valley Tribune/Whittier Daily
News

A shorter version of this
article was first published today in the above papers. See the end of the post
for several additions to the printed piece.

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Summertime often becomes silly season, even in the
supposedly serious realm of classical music. Consider, for example, the case of
“The Little Orange Dress” (aka, “The Little Red Dress” — some have called the
dress red but I think it was orange).

 

Last month, Yuja Wang walked onto the stage of Hollywood
Bowl to perform as soloist in Rachmaninoff’s third piano concerto with the Los
Angeles Philharmonic. The 24-year-old native of Bejing is an electrifying
talent who can blaze through octaves and runs with breathtaking speed, as she
amply demonstrated during her Bowl performance (her hands were moving so fast
that they appeared to be a blur on the Bowl’s video screens). My review is
HERE).

 

However, what caused a great deal of notoriety wasn’t how
she played but what she wore: what has now become known as “The Little Orange
Dress.” Ms. Wang is a slender, attractive woman and her attire wouldn’t be
unusual on any street in any American city these days, but when she walked
onstage at the Bowl, she created quite a stir from those in the audience.

 

What led to the most commotion on the Internet wasn’t so
much the dress but that two professional critics in attendance commented on it
in their reviews. In my review I wrote, “It also may (or may not) be worth
mentioning that she came on stage last night wearing the shortest dress I’ve
ever seen a female pianist wear, an orange sheath that elicited gasps from the
audience.”

 

My colleague, Mark Swed in the Los Angeles Times, devoted four paragraphs of his review to Ms.
Wang’s attire (LINK — which includes a photo). The line
most frequently quoted was: “Her dress Tuesday was so short and tight that had
there been any less of it, the Bowl might have been forced to restrict
admission to any music lover under 18 not accompanied by an adult.” It should
also be noted Mark devoted the next few paragraphs to her performance, which he
called “downright magical.”

 

The debate in the classical music blogosphere has centered
around whether it’s appropriate for a music critic to comment on “non-musical”
things, such as attire (Lisa Hirsch, a San Francisco-based Blogger who writes
under the nom d’computer of “Iron
Tongue of Midnight,” offers a listing of several of the Bloggers/reviewers
comments HERE).

 

One she listed was Anne Midgette, the well-respected music
critic of the Washington Post, who
wrote a lengthy post on the issue (LINK). The others,
including the comment threads of responders, make for interesting reading. My
attitude (as expressed in several comments to posts) is that attending a
concert is both an aural and visual experience and something like “The Little
Orange Dress” was worth at least a mention — my guess is that many in the
audience can’t remember today how well she played but they certainly remember
the dress. If you agree or disagree with my stance, feel free to post a comment
below.

 

Late adds:

Mark Swed
weighs in on the issue HERE and the L.A. Times has a separate article on
concert dress that includes an interview with organist Cameron Carpenter HERE,
along with three photos of “The Little Orange Dress.” Carpenter’s sequined tee
shirts and jeans are undeniably part of his total concert package and are often
mentioned in stories and reviews.

 

Timothy Mangan,
music critic of the Orange County
Register
(who didin’t attend the concert), offers his comments HERE.

 

MORE FROM THE WEB:

Anne Midgette offers
a good basic primer on contemporary music for those who wonder how to get into
this genre. There’s nothing earth-shaking in her assessments and you may not
agree with all of them but I found it well worth reading. MORE

 

CK Dexter Haven
has begun a new Blog entitled “All is Yar” and he has an interesting post on
the subject of guest conductors HERE.

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(c) Copyright 2011, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved.
Portions may be quoted with attribution.

OVERNIGHT REVIEW: Walt Disney’s “Fantasia” at Hollywood Bowl

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

Pasadena Star-News/San Gabriel Valley Tribune/Whittier Daily
News

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Walt Disney’s Fantasia

Hollywood Bowl
Orchestra, John Mauceri, conductor

Friday, August 19 Hollywood Bowl

Next performances: Tonight at 8:30; tomorrow at 7:30 p.m.

Info: www.hollywoodbowl.com

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John Mauceri returned to Hollywood Bowl last night leading
the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra — the ensemble he founded 20 years ago — in the
same program with which he left the HBO five years ago to become Chancellor of
the University of North Carolina School of the Arts: Walt Disney’s Fantasia.

 

Technically that’s not correct. Last night wasn’t Fantasia, nor was it what we saw five
years ago. Rather, it was an evening that used portions of segments from the
1940 movie that was originally a financial failure but is now considered a
landmark, along with other elements. They coalesced into a program that absolutely
honored Walt’s spirit, since Disney had envisioned Fantasia as a movie that, as Mauceri said last night, would always
be something new with segments being added and replaced each time it was shown.

 

One reason this program works so well is Mauceri, who
received a standing ovation when he came onstage from many of the 13,580 in
attendance. The 66-year-old New York native remains the platinum standard in
conductors who converse with the audience, delivering important information
with erudite wit. Throughout the evening his comments enlightened the audience
as to the movie’s importance in a multitude of areas (e.g., the fusion of music
and animation, the film’s technical achievements, and its history). He also offered
several interesting tidbits about conductor Leopold Stokowski, who was a major
contributor to the film and with whom Mauceri studied when he was 27 and
Stokowski was 90.

 

The most interesting parts of the evening were four segments
that didn’t make it into the 1940 movie.

 

Debussy’s Claire de
Lune
had been completed in 1942 and eventually appeared in a 1946 Disney
feature entitled Make Mine Music. The
original animation was discovered 50 years later and animators’ use of two
egrets in moonlit water combined with Debussy’s ethereal music proved to be
magical, although to these ears it might have been even more effective using
the composer’s original piano score rather than Stokowski’s orchestral
arrangement.

 

The animation for Sibelius’ The Swan of Tuonela was never completed but the chalk and pastel
storyboards, shown while the orchestra (with Cathy Del Russo on English horn)
played Sibelius’ tone poem with touching tenderness, were gorgeous and, as
Mauceri pointed out, demonstrated part of the pains-taking, hand-drawn
animation process employed in the era before computers.

 

The backstory to Destino
is even more convoluted. In 1946, Disney, Spanish surrealist painter Salvador
Dali and Disney artist John Hench collaborated on this project, using the music
of Mexican songwriter Armando Dominguez. The piece lay forgotten until Roy E.
Disney resurrected it and produced a six-minute film in 2003 that was nominated
for an Academy Award for “Best Animated Short Film.” As might be expected with
a Dali project, the art was, indeed, surreal but the music — which used the
soundtrack singing of Dora Luz while the orchestra played the accompaniment –
proved to be haunting.

 

The fourth segment came in the form of an encore: Rimsky-Korsakov’s Flight of the Bumblee, another of the shelved segments that was later
adapted into the Bumble Boogie
segment of the 1948 cartoon Melody Time.

 

To no one’s great surprise, Dukas’ The Sorcerer’s Apprentice and Ponchielli’s Dance of the Hours seemed to be the most popular with the audience;
Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony and
Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring were
truncated even more than the original film segments. The opening, Stokowski’s
bloated arrangement of Bach’s Toccata and
Fugue in D Minor,
appeared to be the hardest for Mauceri and the orchestra
to synch with the film; overall, however, they held together amazingly well
throughout the evening.

 

The printed program ended with Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite, with the final
segments accompanied (or, in the case of Waltz
of the Flowers)
overpowered by fireworks. I yield to no one in my
admiration for the Souza Group’s pyrotechnic wizardry, fireworks do sell
tickets, and much of the audience seemed to enjoy the aerial display thoroughly
but if you were interested in the music (and the animation), forget it. On the
other hand, there really isn’t a section that lends itself to fireworks with
the possible exception of Stravinsky’s Firebird
Suite
from Fantasia 2000. Even
Walt couldn’t envision Fantasia being
accompanied by fireworks at the Bowl in 1940.

 _______________________

 

Hemidemisemiquaver:

When I first saw this program’s Sunday start time listed
at 7:30 p.m. start time, I wondered if it would be dark enough at the Bowl to
make it work. The answer is yes.

The often-changing hues of the Bowl’s iconic shell offered
a colorful backdrop to the program although, ironically, they made me think more of
Warner Bros. Looney Tunes, rather
than Disney.

_______________________

 

(c) Copyright 2011, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved.
Portions may be quoted with attribution.

NEWS AND LINKS: Pasadena Pops announces 2012 season at Los Angeles County Arboretum

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

Pasadena Star-News/San Gabriel Valley Tribune/Whittier Daily
News

 

54720-MichaelFeinstein.jpg

Michael Feinstein will
perform with the Pasadena Pops on July 21, 2012 at the Los Angeles County
Arboretum in Arcadia.

________________________

 

When the Pasadena Pops shifts its summer season to the Los
Angeles County Arboretum next year, it will do so with a boost in soloist star
power. Marvin Hamlisch, who took over this summer as the Pops principal
conductor, will lead three of the four programs in the Arcadia facility next
summer (Hamlisch and the Pops conclude their 2011 season on Aug. 27 at The Lawn
Adjacent to the Rose Bowl with a program devoted to movie music — LINK).

 

The 2012 schedule:

 

JUNE 16

Lucie Arnaz and Robert Klein will perform together in a
concert version of Hamlisch’s They’re
Playing Our Song,
part of a program that will include a tribute to Arnaz’s
parents, Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz.

 

JULY 21

Singer and pianist Michael Feinstein, one of the forces
behind The Great American Songbook, will
join with Hamlisch and the Pops. The 54-year-old Feinstein has five Grammy nominations to
his credit along with several platinum-selling recordings.

 

AUGUST 18

Michael Krajewski, who opened this summer’s Pops season,
returns to lead the orchestra in a program that will feature the singing group
Poperazi, a trio whose numbers range from (to quote the media release) “Pavarotti
to Jersey Boys, Sinatra to the Rolling Stones.” Krajewski, who proved to be a
stylish, witty host and conductor last June, is principal pops conductor for
the Houston, Jacksonville and Atlanta Symphonies.

 

SEPTEMBER 8

Hamlisch will return to lead the Pops in a program of music
entitled “Gershwin on the Green.” American
pianist Kevin Cole will be the evening’s soloist.

 

All concert will begin at 7:30 p.m. Single tickets are
priced from $90-$25 (unchanged from this summer). Subscription packages will include
discounted prices and free onsite parking.


Information:
626/793-7172, ext. 16; www.pasadenasymphony-pops.org

_______________________

 

(c) Copyright 2011, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved.
Portions may be quoted with attribution.

NEWS AND LINKS: Second “LA Phil Live” season to debut Oct. 9

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

Pasadena Star-News/San Gabriel Valley Tribune/Whittier Daily
News

 

The Los Angeles Philharmonic will present a second season of
its “LA Phil LIVE” movie-theater telecasts with three programs, including one
from Caracas, Venezuela. Tickets go on sale tomorrow ONLINE and at some participating
theater outlets.

 

All three concerts will be telecast at 2 p.m. (Pacific
Time). The 2011-2012 series will begin on Sun., Oct. 9, with Music Director
Gustavo Dudamel leading an all-Mendelssohn program: Hebrides Overture, Symphony No. 3 (Scottish), and the Violin Concerto, with acclaimed Dutch violinist
Janine Jansen as soloist.

 

The most intriguing offering will be a telecast of Mahler’s
Symphony No. 8 on Sat., Feb. 18 from Caracas when Dudamel will lead the
combined forces of the L.A. Phil and the Simn Bolivr Symphony Orchestra of
Venezuela, along with eight soloists and enough choristers to make the
sprawling work live up to its moniker, Symphony
of a Thousand.

 

(On Feb. 4, the Phil and SBOV will join with Southland choral
forces for a performance of this piece at the Shrine Auditorium (LINK) as part
of the LAPO’s “Mahler Project,” which will see Dudamel conducting all nine
completed Mahler symphonies plus other works using both orchestras.)

 

The third telecast is simply listed as “Spring 2012″ with
details TBA. If it is going have Dudamel conducting at Walt Disney Concert Hall
on a Sunday afternoon, the options would appear to be the scheduled
presentation of Mozart’s Don Giovanni on
May 20, a Grieg/Tchaikovsky/Sibelius
concert on May 27 (with as yet-unnamed soloist in the Tchaikovsky Violin
Concerto), or John Adams’ new oratorio, The
Gospel According to the Other Mary,
on June 3. This is one time to take
seriously the disclaimer that artists and programs are subject to change.

 

As was the case last year, the telecasts will feature
interviews with Dudamel, soloists and other “backstage” features. Hosts for
each program will be announced in the future. The programs are broadcast in
high definition with 5.1 digital surround sound; the two I attended last year
were quite compelling and certainly offer a cost-effective way to experience the
Phil in concert.

 

Although the Phil termed the inaugural season of this
pioneering venture a success, no details on attendance or income were offered
(in a Los Angeles Times article, LAPO
President Deborah Borda was quoted as saying that the contractual agreement
with NCM Fathom — one of the Phil’s partners in the project — prohibited
disclosing ticket sales).

 

The media release indicated 430 theater outlets in the U.S.
for the upcoming season, down slightly from last season’s reported number of
450 (a list of theaters by city is HERE).

 

At this point there are 415 U.S. outlets listed on Fathom’s
Web site for the Mendelssohn telecast but theaters tend to be added as the date
nears. There are only 256 theaters currently listed for the Mahler telecast, but
a spokesperson for NCM Fathom said that it’s too early for some theaters to
commit for a February date and many more would undoubtedly climb on board as
the date approaches. She also said that NCM Fathom’s suggested ticket prices
are the same as the first season, although individual theater outlets can
adjust those as they wish.

 

View the “LA Phil LIVE” Web site HERE.

_______________________

 

(c) Copyright 2011, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved.
Portions may be quoted with attribution.

PREVIEW: “Fantasia” — sort of — to play at Hollywood Bowl this weekend

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

Pasadena Star-News/San Gabriel Valley Tribune/Whittier Daily
News

______________________

 

Walt Disney’s Fantasia

Hollywood Bowl
Orchestra, John Mauceri, conductor

Friday, August 19 and Saturday, August 20 at 8:30 p.m.

Sunday, August 21 at 7:30 p.m.

Hollywood Bowl

Info: www.hollywoodbowl.com

 

54669-Mickey-Sorcerer.jpg

Mickey Mouse as The
Sorcerer’s Apprentice
in Walt Disney’s 1940 landmark Fantasia.

______________________

 

Year in and year out some of the best Hollywood Bowl
programs involve motion pictures being projected on the Bowl’s large screens
(including one suspended over the orchestra), often while an orchestra plays
the movie’s musical scores. This weekend offers what may be one of the more unique
uses of that format with a program based on the 1940 Walt Disney movie Fantasia.

 

John Mauceri returns to conduct the Hollywood Bowl
Orchestra, an ensemble he founded 20 years ago, playing selections from the
score of a movie that Walt Disney at one point considered a failure but today
is considered a landmark for its daring blend of classical music and animation
and for its innovative melding of art and technology.

 

For those who have never seen Fantasia, the movie is a series of animated segments set to
classical music. However, what you’ll see this weekend is not the entire work
and not in order. Six of the seven segments will be screened: Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor, the first
movement of Beethoven’s Pastoral
Symphony,
an extract from Stravinsky’s The
Rite of Spring,
Dukas’ The Sorcerer’s
Apprentice,
and Ponchielli’s Dance of
the Hours.
A suite from Tchaikovsky’s The
Nutcracker
will conclude the evening, accompanied by fireworks. What’s
missing are the Night on Bald
Mountain/Ave Maria
sequence, the Meet
the Soundtrack
intermission section, and the narration by Deems Taylor.

 

However, the evening will include two segments — Sibelius’ The Swan of Tuonela and Debussy’s Claire de Lune — that had been prepared
in 1940-41 for an update of Fantasia (in
fact, Walt Disney originally envisioned that the movie would be updated
frequently but financial problems from the movie’s opening, along with World
War II, torpedoed that idea during Walt’s lifetime).

 

The program will also offer Destino, a six-minute animated short made by the Walt Disney
Company in 2003 but originally conceived in 1946 as a collaboration using art
by Spanish surrealist painter Salvador Dali and Disney artist John Hench set to
music by Mexican songwriter Armando Dominguez (Bette Midler refers to this
section in her narration sequence in Fantasia
2000). Destino
was nominated in 2003 for an Academy Award for Best Animated
Short Film.

 

Fantasia was
groundbreaking when it opened in 1940 (Bosley Crowther, in his New York Times review, wrote, “motion
picture history was made last night”). 
Not everyone was enthralled; classical music purists often object to the
cartoon sequences and, indeed, it is hard to hear The Sorcerer’s Apprentice without seeing Mickey Mouse (pictured at
the top of this post) in your mind.

 

Part of Fantasia’s importance
was in its use of technology. Disney had already developed the multiplane
camera and used it for Snow White and the
Seven Dwarfs,
but Fantasia gave it
an even more extensive test.  Fantasia was also the first motion
picture to employ multi-point stereophonic sound to give the moviegoer a sense
of being surrounded by a live symphony orchestra.

 

When the movie was originally released in 1940 and 1941 it
played in just 13 cities with limited showings using a specially designed
system called “Fantasound.” Ultimately, World War II and the cost of erecting a
“Fantasound” system in any given theater or playhouse made the original release
of Fantasia a financial loser.

 

However, the movie was re-released in several versions as
new technologies in both projection and sound were able to improve the viewing
experience and ultimately, it became a moneymaker for Disney.

_______________________

 

(c) Copyright 2011, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved.
Portions may be quoted with attribution.