We continue with the fourth of the articles dedicated to the cultural activities of the Princess of Asturias Awards 2020, where legendary composers Ennio Morricone and John Williams are being honored tonight with a special concert performed by the Orquesta Sinfónica del Principado de Asturias (OSPA), conducted by Óliver Díaz & Andrea Morricone (read more).
Here you have the special article written by the composer Pablo Laspra, Director of the “Oviedo FilmMusic Live!” festival, for the Asturian newspaper La Nueva España, that one more time, he shares with all of us, together with a brief interview with Andrea Morricone, carried on during the rehearsals.
This afternoon we will have the opportunity to enjoy the mastery and good musical work of two of the greatest geniuses of our century: John Williams and the recently deceased Ennio Morricone. The creativity that they have demonstrated over the years is not only comparable to that of great classical composers, but their musical quality is not unworthy.
There have been many unfounded wars between contemporary “classical” composers and film music composers: the one considered “little sister” of contemporary composition by many (although it is a good heir to the great symphonism and symphonic poems of the early 20th century), which has come to stay, to be multi-generational, and, consequently, to bring all kinds of audiences to the concert halls.
In the words of several musicians from the Principality of Asturias Symphony Orchestra, film music is something we all have internalized; for the orchestra it is not just another musical program to be played, since many of these melodies remain in our memory since we unconsciously watch the film (and there you can see the good work of the film music composer). “The change in the type of repertoire from the most classical to this type of piece of soundtrack, pop and even children’s auditions, is very positive for both the orchestra and the audience that attends the concerts: you bring the music closer to many more people,” said Rafael Casanova, percussionist of the OSPA. Also in the words of Pedro Ordieres, violin of the orchestra, “from the lectern we enjoy playing this type of music, and reliving those moments we have lived as spectators of the film”.
It is curious how well this type of piece works as “concert music”, far from the images for which it was designed: music is a universal language, and just as other composers did before with the symphonic poems, such is the descriptive quality of the musical themes that it is perfectly possible to separate them from the image without them being musically unworthy. Obviously this does not happen with all composers of music for film, but in the case that concerns us it is more than fulfilled.
Also the teacher Andrea Morricone, in a brief conversation in one of the breaks of the rehearsals, commented how grateful and honored he is to have the opportunity to collect personally the award of the Princess of Asturias Awards, being able to conduct in Oviedo the music of his father, to which he professes so much affection. Morricone’s music performed in this concert is perhaps much more linear than the pieces chosen from the American master: in Williams there are multiple “musical conversations” that tell many stories in each piece; however, in Morricone’s pieces there is a more “long journey”, the stories are perhaps just as interesting, but narrated in a more extended way and with a single thematic focus, as if observing a global soundscape.
The limitations of space and time due to the COVID protocol mean that the concert does not have a break as usual, and that the program is condensed into approximately one hour in length. The violinist from Malaga, Jesús Reina, will also participate, showing his art in the scores of “Schindler’s List” and “Fiddler on the Roof” by Williams. His family and educational roots have played in his favor in the interpretation of these themes: he began interpreting verdiales and malagueñas with a profound folkloric character, which undoubtedly helps to bring out that very personal interpretative vein, necessary in both themes.
In the words of Óliver Díaz, who will direct the orchestra in the part dedicated to John Williams in the concert, “good film music is descriptive even in its writing, since what we see in the film scene is represented in the score: for example, in the theme of Hedwig from Harry Potter, the violins and celesta interpret figures up and down, evoking and imitating the flight of the owl. And in addition, a truly epic theme of great musical quality is achieved”. Díaz also praised the good work and tremendous quality of the orchestra in the face of a complex program.
We cannot deny the musical quality of both composers, but perhaps in Williams’ case he has been one of the pillars of the resurgence (and perhaps adaptation) of the great orchestral symphonism. His contributions, along with other greats such as Jerry Goldsmith, Elmer Bernstein, James Horner or Alan Silvestri, have enriched an art that needed that musical quality, those recognizable leitmotifs, and in short, a sound characteristic of the films of the 70-80-90 that still survives and continues to sound today.
It is also anecdotal how Williams has brought about some change in the film music industry. One of the best known anecdotes is the one about the recording of “E.T.” where Williams was unable to match the orchestra’s blows with the changes of shot in the editing of the film, which was projected at the same time he recorded the soundtrack. So Spielberg decided to turn off the projection in the orchestra recording room, and let the maestro’s music take on its own inertia, adapting the final editing of that scene to the speed and changes of the music. The result was masterful. Another example is the one related to the main theme of “Indiana Jones” which is made up of two sketches of a theme that Spielberg liked so much that in the end Williams decided to join them in the “Raiders March” that we all know. Or that news that kept the lovers of the seventh art on tenterhooks, in which John Williams announced his retirement after composing “Schindler’s List” due to the wear and tear that composing this colossal work entailed: fortunately, shortly afterwards he realized that it was only a momentary withdrawal, but from that moment on the master would select much more the works in which he would be involved, accepting only those coming from filmmakers with whom he already had some connection.
It is a pity that this year we could not have had the choir of the Fundación Princesa de Asturias accompanying the orchestra: the program would have been highly enriched with symphonic-choral pieces and with the quality that they have shown us on previous occasions.
This afternoon’s concert promises to be a perfect cherry on top of the careful organization of activities that the Fundación Princesa has designed and that, despite arriving at a difficult time for any cultural event of these dimensions, promises to be a total success both for the care of all those who have brought it to a successful conclusion and for the interest it has aroused in the Asturian population. Bravo, teachers!
BRIEF INTERVIEW WITH ANDREA MORRICONE
What is your feeling you have when you are in Oviedo, picking up the last award given to your father for his great contribution to film music?
I am very happy to be in Oviedo, in this great city and in this beautiful auditorium, receiving this award given to my father for his life’s work. It is a real honor to receive the award, and above all, the recognition that it represents on the part of the Princess of Asturias Foundation.
What do you think of the OSPA (Orquesta Sinfónica del Principado de Asturias) both in terms of performance and under your baton?
The OSPA – Orchestra of the Principality of Asturias is doing a great job, because of its great interpretative quality and its involvement. The sonority is perfect. You will have to see in the concert facilities.
The city is delighted to have so many musical events related to the music of his father.
The honor is mine, and I am grateful for the affection and the close treatment that they are offering me, both the population of Oviedo and the organization of the Princess of Asturias Awards, to whom I am fully grateful for all their efforts.
Years ago we had the opportunity to attend the wonderful concert that your father gave at La Scala in Milan. The experience was very enriching and emotional. What awaits us at this concert?
I am very honored that you have such admiration for my father’s figure and for his music, and I am very grateful for these signs of affection (he gestures a bow). I hope you can enjoy this Thursday’s concert as much as I did, in which I put all my passion into it. Thank you very much.
Thanks to you, maestro.
Article, interview, and pictures by Pablo Laspra Ferrero
Composer and director of FilmMusic Live!