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Classical Music Used In the Movies

Who can forget the stirring rendition of Rachmaninoff's Third Piano Concerto played in Shine? Or the somber reflection provided by Barber's Adagio for Strings in Platoon? Here's a look at some classical compositions that have found their way onto the silver screen.
Samuel Barber's Adagio for Strings
Heard in Platoon and The Elephant Man, this gripping, soul-stirring work is arguably the masterpiece of American Composer Samuel Barber (1910-1981). Brooding, elegiac, and thoroughly beautiful, Barber's short symphonic work is one of the most popular 20th-century compositions ever written. The work has been used at memorials for Presidents Roosevelt and Kennedy, but this recording led by Thomas Schippers is the very best. If you want to hear this piece in several fascinating interpreted variations, check out a disc simply titled Barber's Adagio.

Immortal Beloved includes Beethoven's Symphony No. 5, Fur Elise, Symphony No. 3 "Eroica", Moonlight Sonata, Symphony No. 6 "Pastoral", Piano Trio No. 4 "Ghost", Violin Concerto, Pathetique Sonata, Piano Concerto No. 5 "Emperor", Missa Solemnis, Symphony No. 7, Kreutzer Sonata and Symphony No. 9.

John Corigliano's score for The Red Violin
The Red Violin - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack Composer: John Corigliano
Conductor: Esa-Pekka Salonen
Performer: Joshua Bell, Nicholas Bucknall, et al.
Orchestra: Philharmonia Orchestra, Shanghai Film Studio Children's Chorus

And the Winner Is...     Corigliano's score for The Red Violin won an Oscar, Seventy-Second Annual Awards

Normally we think of a musical instrument as a passive object in the service of a performing artist. But what if that instrument is itself a work of art, containing the secrets of the various owners through whose hands it has passed over the centuries? That's the premise behind this intriguing film by François Girard (director of 32 Short Films About Glenn Gould). It traces the story of a legendary violin (thought to be possessed by an immortal soul) from its birth in 17th-century Italy through Mozart's Vienna, Victorian England, and revolutionary China to its present-day fate on the auction block. The score, in suggesting the violin's unique aura, therefore carries much of the burden of the story, and it brings together some of the most outstanding talents in contemporary classical music. Composer John Corigliano's richly eclectic and poetic score--encompassing classical elegance, gypsy passion, and angst-ridden harmonies--etches vivid portraits of the film's various epochs but also gives an overarching sense of unity to the episodic character of the script. It's essentially a set of remarkably imaginative variations for violin and orchestra on a theme of haunting pathos and is a substantial work of music in its own right. As the soloist, Joshua Bell saturates the eponymous instrument with personality. His combination of virtuoso bravura and soulful phrasing almost seems to lead the violin to the brink of human speech. Conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen shapes the exchange between orchestra and violin into tautly dramatic dialogue. The disc also includes a powerful related work on the theme used in the score, the Chaconne for Violin and Orchestra, which confirms Corigliano's status as one of today's leading and most personally communicative American composers.
--Thomas May

This CD has listening samples.

Fantasia 2000
Fantasia 2000: An Original Walt Disney Records Soundtrack
Amazon.com review
Without the gorgeous visuals, the soundtrack to Fantasia 2000 is nothing more than a collection of some of classical music's greatest moments. But what moments they are! Conductor James Levine and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra provide new (though hardly groundbreaking) arrangements for these classical music warhorses. Piano virtuoso Yefim Bronfman joins in to record the Allegro section of Shostakovich's Piano Concerto No. 2 (if you like this track, check out Bronfman playing the entire piece on his 1999 disc with the Los Angeles Philharmonic), and soprano Kathleen Battle lends a high note to the climax of Elgar's Pomp and Circumstance (MKO Note: This was arranged by Peter Schickele. We also get the classic Sorcerer's Apprentice from the original (and now out-of-print) Fantasia soundtrack. Performed by Philharmonia Orchestra, the Paul Dukas composition still steals the show. The original movie may have been a flop, but with any luck Fantasia 2000 will turn some young minds on to classical music, especially with such inspired choices as Respighi's Pines of Rome. Like what you hear? Remember, these are just excerpts and you really owe it to yourself to hear the works in their entirety--slow movements and all. That said, whether you're a Disney fan, an IMAX aficionado, or just a classical-lover-to-be, you can't go wrong with this disc.
--Jason Verlinde

MKO Note: The version of Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue" is wonderful!

This CD has listening samples.

Gilbert and Sullivan
Topsy-TurvyTopsy-Turvy - The Music of Gilbert & Sullivan

by Gilbert and Sullivan, Carl Davis

Editorial Reviews
The producers of Mike Leigh's vibrant Topsy-Turvy took many big studio meetings seeking financing for their film. Word has it all went swimmingly until time for the pitch came--there are apparently no two words as unsettling to Hollywood film execs as "Gilbert & Sullivan." But the studio system's loss turned out to be the indie film's--and our--gain. Leigh's film brought the composers' late-19th-century mounting of their breakthrough The Mikado to an all-too-familiar life, filled with as many neuroses, foibles, and fragile egos as any modern Broadway musical. The film's score, an inviting pastiche adapted from Mikado (and other G&S staples) by veteran Carl Davis, may upset purists with its time-conscious liberties. But then, it might just win over a receptive yet unexposed new audience for whom this music may seem strangely familiar, as well it should: this is where modern musical theater began.
--Jerry McCulley

Information about Topsy-Turvey Screenplay

This CD has listening samples.

Phillip Glass

Composer: Philip Glass
Orchestra: Kronos Quartet

It's no surprise that some of Philip Glass's most inspiring projects have been multimedia. The composer's minimalist tendencies lend themselves to the accompaniment of vast landscapes, silent films, and--now--Tod Browning's 1931 horror classic, Dracula. With longstanding collaborators the Kronos Quartet performing the score, Glass has created a soundtrack that moves with rapid-fire momentum and a timeless chamber-music feel. Dracula never sounds sinister or ironic, just ominous--the perfect companion to a film with plenty of dialogue but no pre-existing score. So what if we've already heard Glass's stylistic trademarks--striking arpeggios, repeated motifs, and the like--on any number of albums (for example, the Kronos/Glass soundtrack to Mishima or Uakti's 1999 release, Aguas de Amazonia)? Unlike the epic three and a half hours of Music in Twelve Parts, this enjoyable disc takes just over an hour and it's well worth hearing. In the new video release of Dracula, accompanied by Glass's score, you'll never see Bela Lugosi's mug the same way again.
--Jason Verlinde

This CD has listening samples.

Music In Film

Includes Alexander Nevsky, Opus 78, composed by Sergei Prokofiev; Red Pony: Morning on the Ranch, composed by Aaron Copland; A Place in the Sun: Suite, composed by Franz Waxman; High Noon: High Noon, composed by Dmitri Tiomkin; On the Waterfront: Main Theme, composed by Leonard Bernstein; East of Eden: Prelude; composed by Leonard Rosenman; Bridge on the River Kwai: Working On The Bridge, composed by Malcolm Arnold; Ben Hur: Parade of the charioteers, composed by Miklós Rózsa; The Magnificent Seven: Main Theme, composed by Elmer Bernstein and more.

Amadeus includes Mozart's Symphony No, 25, Stabat Mater, his only concerto for two pianos, Mass in C Minor and Marriage of Figaro.

Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 21 dominates the musical theme in Elvira Madigan.

Musichound Books
Musichound SoundtracksMusichound Soundtracks: The Essential Album Guide to Film, Television and Stage Music
by Didier C. Deutsch (Editor)

Editorial Reviews

The publisher, Visible Ink Press , January 13, 2000 "If you're interested in diving further into the realm of soundtracks and don't know where to start, look no further. It's all here with brief yet educating passages about the flicks, the year they were made and their music and composers. This is something you should not be without ... this book is so fat with information, it may just break your arm when you're trying to pick it up!"

-- The Aquarian Weekly

The publisher, Visible Ink Press , November 16, 1999 IN A "SOUNDTRACK-CRAZY" WORLD, HOW DO YOU CHOOSE?
Where once soundtracks were primarily sought out by collectors of the genre, today they are marketed to and purchased by a complete cross-spectrum of consumers. Nearly every film, and more and more television shows, are producing and heavily promoting soundtrack CDs. Add these to the tremendous number of releases from the last several years, as well as countless reissues or re-creations of vintage scores (covering more than 70 years of film, stage and television music) and the choices are staggering. Advice on what to buy has never been needed more.

Fortunately, the folks at MusicHound® have recognized this need and have created MusicHound® Soundtracks: The Essential Album Guide to Film, Television and Stage Music which rates and reviews 3,000 soundtrack recordings available on CD. The CDs are reviewed in an A to Z format with each being identified as either a film, television or stage soundtrack. Each entry provides complete production information and a review that takes into consideration production quality, musical quality, and the degree to which the music relates to the dramatic work that it supports. Finally, each entry is awarded a traditional MusicHound "bone" rating, from "5 Bones" (superb) to "Woof!" (a real dog). Five indexes make for easy cross-referencing.

Following the A to Z entries, MusicHound Soundtracks provides two sections on compilation albums. The first covers compilations based on themes ("Great Epic Film Scores"), sub-genres ("British Film Music") and actors or directors ("Music from the Films of Astaire & Rogers"). The second reviews composer compilations (Sondheim: Putting It Together"), of which there are many. Also of interest are the book's two forewords, which offer insight into the two different approaches to soundtracks. The first, by Lukas Kendall, editor of Film Score Monthly, explains why "traditional" film music (music scored expressly for a film) is so unique and satisfying. The second foreword, by Julia Michaels, former Director of Soundtracks at Capitol Records, takes us on a "tour" of how a "pop song compilation" soundtrack (also referred to as a "songtrack") is created. MusicHound Soundtracks was published in an earlier edition in 1997 under the VideoHound® banner. This new edition is completely revised and expanded with 1,000 new entries and the addition of 100 photographs. It has also been re-designed for easier use. Once again, the compiling of this massive undertaking was brilliantly commandeered by Didier C. Deutsch, one of the few practitioners in the business qualified to pull it off. Deutsh has no less than 65 soundtrack production credits to his name including West Side Story, The Bridge on the River Kwai, and My Fair Lady. Deutsch wrote the bulk of the reviews in MusicHound's Soundtracks himself, but compiled an impressive group of more than 15 other contributors to complete the task.

So whether your idea of a great soundtrack is the symphonic lushness of "Star Wars: The Phantom Menace" or the collection of great songs that accompanied "City of Angels," MusicHound Soundtracks will help you find what you want and will let you know if it is a worthwhile investment.

Carl Orff's Carmina Burana
Carmina Burana is heard everywhere (2001: A Space Odyssey, Glory, Natural Born Killers, The Doors), and with good reason. This choral setting of Latin lyrics by Composer Carl Orff (1895-1982) is infectious, not to mention powerful. Though Orff wrote many other compositions, this is the best, and the recording conducted by Eugen Jochum is nearly perfect. And, though you may not realize it, many of these short songs are quite funny ("When We Are in the Tavern," "Once I Lived on Lakes").

Sergei Rachmaninoff's
Third Piano Concerto

Contrary to the deference it was given in Shine, there are actually many more difficult piano pieces than Rachmaninoff's Third Piano Concerto. That said, it's still a work of exceptionally tough and energized piano playing, demanding both power and finger dexterity from the musician and a supportive symphony. the hands of Martha Argerich (one of the world's great living pianists), the composition takes on even greater intensity.

The Film Album

Film music by Dmitri Shostakovich.

Richard Strauss's
Also sprach Zarathustra

Richard Strauss (1864-1949) spent most of his life creating some of the greatest operas of all time (Elektra, Salome, Der Rosenkavalier), but this orchestral tone poem, used to perfection in Stanley Kubrick's sci-fi masterpiece 2001: A Space Odyssey, is just as unforgettable. Strauss wrote this epic work in homage to philosopher Friederich Nietzsche (who wrote a book of the same name), and the atmospheric scope of this work sounds like a perfect contemplation of man's place in the universe.

A line of music

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