a series of one-hour radio programs produced, written, hosted, and edited by Fred Flaxman
©2003 by Fred Flaxman
MUSIC: Theme from "The Cornish Rhapsody" by Hubert Bath from Love Story [Élan Recordings CD 82268, track 4] under
FLAXMAN: There are lots of concertos for piano and orchestra, of course. But there are also a number of mini-concertos written for piano, orchestra and the movies! Most of these come from the 1940s, and most of them are written in the same romantic, Rachmaninov-like style. We'll here the most famous of these during the next hour.
FLAXMAN: Hello and welcome to Compact Discoveries. I'm your guide, Fred Flaxman, and I call this program "Movie Concertos."
Music composed or adapted to accompany the action in motion pictures became a major art form in the 20th Century and a new expressive outlet for composers. Music was a part of movies even in the early days of silent films, when it was played by a pianist, organist or even a small orchestra to accompany the film.
By the 1930s and 40s, when pictures had soundtracks, important composers were attracted to the medium such as Prokofiev, Shostakovich and Kabalevsky in Russia; Milhaud, Auric and Honegger in France; Bliss, Walton, Bax and Vaughan Williams in England; and Korngold, Newman and Copland in America.
In addition to serving as background music, almost subliminally heightening the emotional reaction to the scene, film music occasionally spawned foreground solo instrumental and orchestral music, including mini piano concertos which went on to become popular in the concert hall.
One of the earliest and most popular of the movie concertos was Richard Addinsell's Warsaw Concerto, which was an integral part of the English film, Dangerous Moonlight, made in 1941. The wartime plot deals with the problems of a Polish pianist who, after escaping from the Nazis, loses his memory while flying in the Battle of Britain. Addinsell was educated at Oxford and wrote many works for the stage and screen, but today he appears to be a one-hit composer, and the Warsaw Concerto was that hit.
MUSIC: Addinsell: Warsaw Concerto, from "Dangerous Moonlight," performed by Santiago Rodriguez, piano, with the Fairfax Symphony Orchestra conducted by William Hudson [Élan CD 82268, track 1] [7:55]
FLAXMAN: Richard Addinsell's Warsaw Concerto, performed by pianist Santiago Rodriguez with the Fairfax Symphony Orchestra conducted by William Hudson. This was my first selection on this Compact Discoveries program devoted to "Movie Concertos."
All of my selections in this hour come from the same compact discovery. It is an Élan Recording made in 1995 in the concert hall of the George Mason University Center for the Arts in Fairfax, Virginia. It is called "Piano in Hollywood: The Classic Movie Concertos." The Fairfax Symphony Orchestra, Santiago Rodriguez and William Hudson are the performers throughout the CD.
The Fairfax Symphony Orchestra was celebrating its 39th season when this recording was made, and William Hudson was in his 25th season as its music director.
Santiago Rodriguez made his concert debut at the age of 10 with the New Orleans Philharmonic, following his immigration to the United States from Cuba. His international career was launched in 1981 when he won the Silver Medal at the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition. Since then he has performed with leading orchestras and in solo recitals throughout the world, made several recordings for Élan, and appeared on CBS, ABC, NBC, PBS, CNN and the CBC television networks.
The 1951 Swedish-French movie, "Gypsy Fury," includes
Charles Wildman's Swedish Rhapsody. The film tells the
tale of a nobleman who forsakes his royal life to marry a beautiful
gypsy, played by Viveca Lindfors, in whose memory this compact
disc is dedicated.
FLAXMAN: Charles Wildman's Swedish Rhapsody, performed by Santiago Rodriguez, piano, with the Fairfax Symphony Orchestra conducted by William Hudson.
You are listening to Compact Discoveries. I'm your guide, Fred Flaxman, and this hour is devoted to mini piano concertos written especially for the movies, mostly in the 1940s.
Our next example is from 1945. It is from the movie "Spellbound," which was directed by Alfred Hitchcock and produced by David O. Selznick. The music is by Miklos Rozsa [MEE-klohsh ROH-zhah], and is called, logically enough, the Spellbound Concerto.
The movie was nominated for Academy Awards for best picture, best director, best photography, best supporting actor, and best film score. The only winner was Miklos Rozsa for best film score.
MUSIC: Rozsa: Spellbound Concerto, performed by Santiago Rodriguez, piano, with the Fairfax Symphony Orchestra conducted by William Hudson [Élan CD 82268, track 3] [11:41]
FLAXMAN: Miklos Rozsa's Spellbound Concerto, performed by Santiago Rodriguez at the piano with the Fairfax Symphony Orchestra conducted by William Hudson.
In case you just joined us, we are listening to mini piano concertos written especially for the movies, mostly during the 1940s when the romantic piano concerto medium was the perfect accompaniment to the romantic movies of the period.
A perfect case in point is the 1944 film, "Love Story," set in Cornwall, England during World War II. It is about a half-blind airman who falls in love with a pianist with heart problems. The movie enjoyed an extended life beyond its initial tear-jerker period because of the Cornish Rhapsody by Hubert Bath, who was a product of the Royal Academy of Music in London.
MUSIC: Bath: Cornish Rhapsody, performed by Santiago Rodriguez, piano, with the Fairfax Symphony Orchestra conducted by William Hudson [Élan CD 82268, track 4] [5:50]
FLAXMAN: Hubert Bath's Cornish Rhapsody from the 1944 movie, "Love Story." This performance was by Santiago Rodriguez at the piano, with the Fairfax Symphony Orchestra conducted by William Hudson.
I'm Fred Flaxman and you are listening to Compact Discoveries. Our particular discovery today is an Élan CD which is called 'Piano in Hollywood: The Classic Movie Concertos." It contains all the music you'll hear in this hour, and then some. Most of my comments about the music are based on the informative program notes by Sam DiBonaventura which accompany the CD.
Next we'll listen to an excerpt from the Piano Concerto from the 1947 film, "Night Song," by Leith Stevens. The movie stars Dana Andrews and Merle Oberon. The musical high point is the appearance on screen of Arthur Rubinstein and Eugene Ormandy performing a piano concerto by the fictitious composer, played by Andrews, while his secret benefactress, played by Oberon, sits teary-eyed in the audience.
The main melody of this concerto is also heard in the song Memory of Love, with music by Leith Stevens and lyrics by Jack Brooks.
After the release of the film, Stevens made sketches for an expanded version of the concerto. Among these sketches - marked "A" and "B" by the composer - is a haunting piano solo which was intended for the central section of the new longer version of the concerto.
Santiago Rodriguez, the pianist in this recording, incorporated this solo into this recording of the original film version of the work, since, in his view, it helps introduce the musical material of the section which immediately follows.
MUSIC: excerpt from Leith Stevens: Piano Concerto, performed by Santiago Rodriguez, piano, with the Fairfax Symphony Orchestra conducted by William Hudson [Élan CD 82268, track 6] [excerpt]
FLAXMAN: An excerpt from the Leith Stevens Piano Concerto from the 1947 film "Night Song." It was performed by pianist Santiago Rodriguez with the Fairfax Symphony Orchestra conducted by William Hudson.
We are listening to made-for-movies mini piano concertos on this hour of Compact Discoveries. I'm your guide, Fred Flaxman. The next one is by Edward Ward and it's from the 1943 version of "Phantom of the Opera." The film starred Claude Rains as Erique Claudin - the Phantom - a violinist-composer who writes a piano concerto.
Ironically, this concerto proves to be the cause of his facial disfigurement. During a struggle with a dishonest publisher to whom he had given the manuscript of the concerto, Claudin gets sprayed in the face with acid. He runs away in pain and accidentally falls into the surging waters of a canal, eventually surfacing in the catacomb-like Parisian underground.
In the climactic scene of the movie, none other than Franz Liszt is coaxed by the authorities into performing the concerto to draw the Phantom out of his hideaway. The Phantom, hearing his music, gives himself away by pounding out the piano part of his immaculately tuned concert grand which he, somehow, has managed to procure and transport to his cozy hideaway.
Christine, played by Susanna Foster, who has been forced by then to set up house in the Phantom cave, impolitely interrupts the ecstasy of the concerto performance by removing the Phantom's mask. Anatole, played by Nelson Eddy, her love interest, comes to the rescue as ceilings and walls begin to crumble around the Phantom.
Unfortunately for the music-loving public, it also brings this beautiful piano concerto to an abrupt end in the film! Santiago Rodriguez, the pianist in this recording, reconstructed the score of the concerto as far as it is heard in the film and then he took the phantom-like liberty of composing the ending you don't hear in the movie.
MUSIC: Edward Ward: Piano Concerto, performed by Santiago Rodriguez, piano, with the Fairfax Symphony Orchestra conducted by William Hudson [Élan CD 82268, track 7] [5:34]
FLAXMAN: The Piano Concerto by Edward Ward written for the 1943 film version of "The Phantom of the Opera." Once again we heard Santiago Rodriguez with the Fairfax Symphony Orchestra conducted by William Hudson.
MUSIC: George Gershwin: New York Rhapsody from "Delicious" performed by Santiago Rodriguez, piano, with the Fairfax Symphony Orchestra conducted by William Hudson [Élan CD 82268, track 5] under [excerpt]
FLAXMAN: There is one other mini piano concerto on this CD. The piece is from a now forgotten movie called "Delicious," which was made in 1931. The composer, however, will never be forgotten: George Gershwin.
The script was unusual in that, in addition to songs, it called for an extended orchestral sequence depicting New York City life. For this Gershwin composed what was at first called the New York Rhapsody, but which was also known as the Rhapsody of Rivets, because of the opening motive which portrays riveters working on skyscrapers.
Later Gershwin decided to expand the piece into a full-scale composition for orchestra with solo piano. After a privately funded performance in 1931, the Second Rhapsody - its final title - was premiered in Boston in January of the next year by Sergei Koussevitsky.
MUSIC: fades out
FLAXMAN: The final cut on this CD is labeled as an encore because, although it contains a piano and was written for the movies, there is no orchestra. In addition, in the 1978 movie, "The Deer Hunter," this piece was played at the very end of the film by John Williams on a guitar, not a piano. So it doesn't exactly fit my "Movie Concertos" theme, but it is so pretty, I'm going to play it for you anyway. The music is called Cavatina and it is by Stanley Myers.
MUSIC: Stanley Myers: Cavatina from "The Deer Hunter" performed by Santiago Rodriguez, piano, with the Fairfax Symphony Orchestra conducted by William Hudson [Élan CD 82268, track 8] [4:28]
FLAXMAN: Cavatina from 1978 film, "The Deer
Hunter." The music is by Stanley Myers. It was performed
by the Cuban-American pianist Santiago Rodriguez.
FLAXMAN: This is Fred Flaxman thanking you for joining me for this Compact Discoveries program. I hope you'll be with me again next time and that you'll check out the Compact Discoveries website at www.fredflaxman.com. There you will find a series of Compact Discoveries articles and other material which you might find of interest.
Your reaction to this program and to this series in general would be greatly appreciated. You may write me in care of this station or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Compact Discoveries is produced and presented by Fred Flaxman, and is a production of WXEL-FM, West Palm Beach, Florida.
MUSIC: fades out at 58:00
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