Back to the Future Indeed!

Opinion – Lindsay Perigo

Back to the Future Indeed!
Submitted by Lindsay Perigo

Summer Pops: Music from the Movies
New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Hamish McKeich
Michael Fowler Centre, February 9

The NZSO seemed a few players short of an orchestra last Friday night. Maybe some of the musicians were still on summer break; maybe it was felt that the relatively light fare didn’t require a full muster. The enthusiastic, if not full, house didn’t seem to mind in the least. They were out for a good time, and a good time they had, revisiting blockbuster movies that came out within the living memories of most of them.

Me, I would have gone further back in time. When serious music fell foul of fashionably malevolent monsters in the early twentieth century, it was (eventually) to Hollywood—and operetta and musical comedy and Broadway and popular music—that humans had to repair for tonality and tunes. That fact has left us with rich pickings indeed for any programme ever entitled “Music from the Movies”—much richer, in fact, than the inevitable and seemingly inescapable John Williams, whose scores dominated Friday night’s proceedings.

Tellingly, some of the loudest cheers of the evening were for 19th century “Waltz King” Johann Strauss’s majestic warhorse, The Blue Danube (featured in 2001: A Space Odyssey). There’s nothing complicated about this piece—I’ve often thought it should be called Variations on an Arpeggio—but the irresistible lilt of its unstoppable melodies has guaranteed it immortality.

More of that sort of thing would not have gone amiss. Yes, there was some Max Steiner (Casablanca)—why not Gone with the Wind while we were about it? Could we not have resurrected the fabulous Richard Addinsell’s Warsaw Concerto (Dangerous Moonlight)? Miklos Rozsa’s Ben-Hur? Nino Rota’s Godfather or Romeo and Juliet? Could not the Joan Crawford melodrama Humoresque have been used as a pretext for Wagner’s glorious Liebestod?! Where were George Gershwin, Jerome Kern, Sigmund Romberg, Richard Rodgers (Carousel, South Pacific, Sound of Music …), Leonard Bernstein, and on and on? Or, to cite someone still in our midst, Ennio Morricone?

Nag, nag, nag. These are the harrumphings of a dinosaur, of course, and I wouldn’t want to discourage anyone from attending the programme that is actually on offer: it has yet to play in Tauranga (Wed Feb 14), Hamilton (Fri Feb 16) and Auckland (Sat Feb 17); it is festive and fun, with conductor McKeich doubling as a drolly convivial Master of Ceremonies. And it’s great to see Chariots of Fire get another outing.

It’s just that this anachronism would prefer that next time the blockbusters pre-date Star Wars by decades and be within the living memories of very few! That was when they made movies (and wrote music for them) about which we can and do say, “They just don’t make ’em like that any more!”
Back to the future indeed!

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