Review: Symphony at the Movies with the KPO at Chatswood Concourse

Review by Charlotte Leamon

The Ku-ring-gai Philharmonic Orchestra (KPO) celebrates the significance of film music in a performance titled Symphony at the Movies, conducted by Paul Terracini. Celebrating the KPO’s second final performance of the year and marking the 50-year anniversary of the orchestra, the genre of film music is popular and appeals to many. The concert hall was filled with people of all ages, and therefore made the task of choosing the soundtracks an onerous and difficult one. With many members of the audience to appease, acting KPO President Wendy Vardouniotis mentions that the orchestra wished to show a wide range of emotions as to ‘see the orchestra in full flight.’

As Terracini enters the stage, the 20th Century Fox Fanfare composed by Alfred Newman sounded in a triumphant, royal welcome to the Artistic Director and Chief Conductor of KPO. Throughout the concert Terracini educates the audience with information on the composers, their scores and the films themselves. As he introduces the orchestra and welcomes the audience, he begins to describe the opening score which is none other than his own theme for a television series named Classical Destinations. As Terracini conducts the orchestra, the violin melodies soar and the rhythmic wind and percussion section add richness to this ‘classic’ and beautiful theme. The acoustics of the Chatswood Concourse concert hall are in favour of the orchestra as the dynamic levels are well supported and timbral differences between the sections definitive. The subtle, mellow sections of this score are presented wonderfully in the space and the heroic sections of brass and full orchestra assisted with the sweeping strings create a fantastic opening.

Following this, Monty Norman’s James Bond Medley, arranged by Victor Lopez is performed featuring; For Your Eyes Only, Goldfinger, Live and Let Die, and Nobody Does it Better. Featuring many well known songs, the audience was mouthing the words and enjoying themselves along with the orchestra and Terracini. ‘Gabriel’s Oboe’ from The Mission, a touching and heartfelt score which is famously known and the reason many non-musicians recognise and love the sound of the oboe was performed next. This solo is shared between oboe and flute, and the gentle and delicate playing of the soloists was lyrical and served Ennio Morricone justice as one of Italy’s most well-known composers. The Godfather theme by Nino Rota and Casablanca by Max Steiner added a romantic flare amongst other serious and emotive scores. The folk Italian melodies of The Godfather were performed well and the appreciation of the gangster genre of film added diversity in this programme. Before interval, the Superman March was the first feature of John Williams for the afternoon concert, and the first superhero theme too. The brass are notoriously featured in this theme, the horns supporting the rich undertones and build before the trumpets take the melody. This was a charming piece to end the first half of the concert on.

As the audience returned, we were welcomed first with Danny Elfman’s Batman theme, and then Hans Zimmer’s reimagined theme for The Dark Knight Rises which is arguably more well-known and appreciated. Whilst Elfman’s theme is a march, accentuating scalic motions and orchestral writing from the 1990s, Zimmer’s theme shows the turning point for film music where unconventional keys and scales are used as well as the addition of electronics which is excused in this piece. The ‘hero’ however, is perceived as dark and menacing in this theme which is portrayed well by the orchestra as a whole. Terracini’s gestural body movements in his conducting assists majorly in unveiling the character of this score.

Violin and viola performed the duet, meant for solo violin from Schindler’s List. The violinist performed this well, however a few flat notes for this renowned theme was a shame. Overall, the piece was performed gently and with delicacy. Cinema Paradiso features an enchanting clarinet melody also played by flute, and nods at the noir genre once more with elements of romance and drama identifiable in the music which (composed by Ennio Morricone), was highly praised. Lastly, the KPO ended with a suite for orchestra of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone featuring Hedwig’s Theme, The Sorcerer’s Stone, Nimbus 2000 and Harry’s Wondrous World. This virtuosic tour de force showcases the orchestras talents. Michelle Chueng opens Hedwig’s Theme on the celeste in a very exposed manner as everyone waits on the edge of their seat for the orchestra to enter and intense scalic passages and flurries to begin, which is musically very challenging for all sections of the orchestra. The multiple themes, all highly acclaimed rolled into one another and created a magical and miraculous finale.

Overall, Terracini selected a programme which displayed the KPO’s talents through dynamic range, virtuosic solos from different sections of the orchestra and sonority. The audience thoroughly enjoyed the selection and Terracini’s conducting was entertaining, passionate and his notes on the pieces and composers were informative and insightful.

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