Film music

Shostakovich
Shostakovich

After a short agm, the meeting was presented by Alan Forshaw with a programme of #filmmusic.  He discussed various film compositions of Shostakovich, Hans Zimmer and Korngold who composed primarily ‘serious’ music but who, for different reasons (political, financial, etc.) produced film scores throughout their careers.  This was the first time the society has listened to an evening devoted to this genre.

Film music is a little unregarded as a part of the music scene, indeed, a quick look in Groves for Shostakovich for example, reveals only a single passing reference to his compositions for the cinema and none in the list of works.  Yet for modern composers, writing for the cinema or composing advertising jingles provides them with valuable income before fame beckons (if it ever does).

Shostakovich wrote in the time of ‘Soviet Realism’ and falling foul of the censors could have dire consequences for any artist.  The films are long forgotten and include Alone (1930); The Great Citizen (1938); and Piragov (1947).  Alan also played extracts from wonderfully named film The Counterplan (1932) which included extracts called ‘The Workers Gather’ and ‘Song of the Counterplan’.  It would be hard to imagine queuing round the block for a film of that title today.  One could hear echoes of his later works in some of these pieces and it was interesting to hear them with the benefit of great symphonies such as the Leningrad in one’s mind.

By way of contrast, Alan played extracts from the award winning film composer Hans Zimmer.  He has written for over a 150 films including the Gladiator; The Thin Red Line; and Rain Man and has won many awards.  Extracts included The Last Samurai (2003) and The Da Vinci Code (2006).  Zimmer worked briefly with a pop group known as the Buggles, famous for their No 1 hit Video Killed the Radio Star.

Finally, Korngold who was born in Brno in 1897.  He was recognised early as a prodigy and had early successes with a ballet and two operas.  He then moved to Hollywood and composed much film music and we heard extracts from The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) and The Sea Wolf (1941).   

It is interesting to note the difference between an opera and a film music composer.  Name an opera and most people interested in music will know the composer.  Name a film and few would know who wrote the music.  The other problem is the music may die with the film if it wasn’t a box office success.  But the music we heard tonight was worthy of a wider audience in its own right.

New site

This is the site for the Salisbury Recorded Music Society. Welcome. You’ll find more about us in the ‘About’ tab at the top of the site. To see where we meet, look in the ‘Find us’ tab. We’ll be publishing more material here as time goes on but we have just held our last meeting of the season so it will be quiet for a while.

We are affiliated to the Federation of Music Societies.

Last meeting of the season

The Society’s current season ended in fine style with a double bill: one part on Puccini’s Tosca and the other on the English composer, Gerald Finzi. Tosca is of course a very well known opera but what is less well appreciated is how broadly similar most productions are. Vic Riches explained that this was because Puccini left detailed instructions on how it should be performed and most productions followed them. It received its premier in January 1900 at a time of unrest in Italy and the violent nature of the plot – with torture and a firing squad graphically depicted – meant a troubled start. However, it is now a much loved part of the operatic repertoire.

Gerald Finzi
Gerald Finzi
The English composer, Gerald Finzi, is by contrast less well known and yet deserves to be heard more. He is perhaps best known for his songs and we heard ‘In years defaced’ and ‘Let us garlands bring’ the latter performed by Bryn Terfel. The second movement from his Cello Concerto opus 40, performed by Raphael Wallfisch under the baton of Vernon Handley, was played together with Romance for String Orchestra opus 11. Both are fine works and worth listening to if there is an opportunity.

Ed Tinline, joint chair of the Society, said it had been a successful year ‘fulfilling the Society’s purpose of bringing generally lesser known pieces and composers to a wider public’. Members heard music by Bartok, a variety of Scandinavian composers and the French composer Dutilleux as well as more well known names such as Wagner, Ravel and Schumann. Numbers attending had increased slightly on previous years following the change to Monday evenings which is encouraging he added.