Classical Music Round-Up: Star Wars Edition

Classical Conditioning presents this week’s worthwhile reads… in a galaxy far, far away…

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An ‘awestruck’ J.J. Abrams sits in on a ‘momentous’ scoring session led by John Williams, linked below. (image via)

Harrison Ford shares what it was like to hear John Williams’ music for the first time, while the composer himself discusses the “renewed energy” behind his score to The Force Awakens.

60 Minutes takes us behind the scenes at a Force Awakens scoring session, and the incomparable Gustavo Dudamel played a surprise role in bringing the score to life.

May the cute be with you: From the Top shows us what happens when a Jedi, a princess, and Darth Vader sit down at a piano, and the Boston Pops #throwback to that one time C-3PO conducted the Star Wars theme.

Suggested Listening: Suite from “Kings Row” by Erich Korngold

Today’s SUGGESTED LISTENING for the CLASSICAL MUSIC SKEPTIC takes us on a trip to the movies!  Check out Erich Korngold’s Kings Row, performed below by the National Philharmonic Orchestra (U.K.), Charles Gerhardt conducting.

About the Composer:

Erich Korngold (1897-1957) was an Oscar-winning, Austrian-born child prodigy whose life was saved by Robin Hood — for real!  He was conducting an opera in his homeland when Warner Bros. asked him to come to Hollywood to write the score for The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938); right after he arrived in the U.S., Hitler’s armies began their occupation of Austria.  As a child, Korngold was called a “musical genius” by Gustav Mahler and had his first ballet — which he composed at the age of 11 — performed for the Austro-Hungarian Emperor Franz Josef.  In 1934, Korngold began a collaboration with actor/director Max Reinhardt that would sweep him into the rapidly-growing field of Hollywood film scoring, a field where he would prove to stand out as an exceptional talent.  He became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1943 and shortly thereafter, disillusioned with the false glamour of Hollywood life, he turned his attention away from film scores and worked almost exclusively on orchestral concert music.  His compositions use a colorful, operatic, late-Romantic style, full of personality and storytelling and emotion — perfectly suited for the drama of the silver screen.

About the Piece:

Kings Row (1942) is a book-turned-movie about five children coming of age in turn-of-the-century, small-town America.  The film stars a young Ronald Reagan alongside Ann Sheridan and Robert Cummings — but the true star of the film is the music.  Korngold’s biographer Brendan G. Carroll wrote that Korngold treated each of his films “as an ‘opera without singing'” — each character has his or her own unique melodic theme, and as the plot progresses these melodies intertwine and transform just as the characters do.  These character-driven melodies are called leitmotive (plural for leitmotif), and are what allow Korngold’s scores to stand freely as orchestral works full of story and drama without the context of the film they were meant to accompany.  The suite embedded above is a much-abridged version of the score, featuring the main theme and other highlights, compiled in 1968.  Does the music sound familiar to you?  Maybe that’s because George Lucas, after using the Kings Row score as a temp track during Star Wars post-production, fell in love with the music and requested that John Williams draw inspiration for his score from Korngold’s.  Check out a side-by-side comparison of the scores here.

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