In January 2022, the Franz Schubert Filharmonia orchestra under the baton of Marc Timón has performed five concerts dedicated to the music of Disney films (read more).
Our colleague and collaborator Coque Cano attended the concert held on Sunday, January 16 at the Palau de la Música Catalana in Barcelona, Spain, and brings us this exclusive article for SoundTrackFest.
On the weekend of January 15 and 16, 2022 we were lucky enough to start the year with a new concert of film music at the Palau de la Música in Barcelona. Once again the alma mater was Marc Timón, who on this occasion not only prepared, presented, and conducted it with his usual fluency, but, due to unforeseen circumstances, even ended up performing as a singer, more than satisfactorily.
At his orders, the Franz Schubert Filharmonia (formerly known as the Orquestra Simfònica Camera Musicae), a simply perfect bet, since it is one of the most promising and youngest orchestras in the country, with an average age of 38 years. The orchestra performed at a very high level throughout the evening, in total harmony with the conductor, and both of them with the audience, who on several occasions “participated” with spontaneous clapping in the style of what happens with the Radetzsky march in the Vienna New Year’s concert.
Obviously it was a concert that lent itself to this, given the repertoire and the abundant presence of children in the hall (I myself went with my kids and nephews), but even so the atmosphere is not created alone and in that Marc Timón has given ample evidence of charisma at the lectern and ease of connecting with the public throughout his already prolific career as a conductor.
The title of this chronicle sums up in part what this concert represented. First of all, it was dedicated to Disney (it was sold with the title “Disney’s greatest OSTs“), although with surprises, and in my point of view the program was difficult to improve if what we were looking for were more current productions and therefore easy to recognize by the younger audience. Secondly, it was conditioned by the pandemic in such a way that if it was not cancelled was because of the enthusiasm and involvement of the orchestra, conductor, and singers.
To prepare a concert like this when the orchestra’s performers are falling out of COVID, and consequently being replaced almost daily, is little short of a miracle. As if that were not enough, the day before the first concert (Saturday, January 15) no less than two of the four regular singers tested positive, finding in extremis two substitutes who learned the repertoire in record time.
This happened on Saturday, because on Sunday, one of the two male singers also had to leave, being replaced by… Marc Timón, in a decision that honors him for saving the show and also demonstrating vocal talents that allow us to understand why he is preparing his first album as a singer. A total demonstration of “the show must go on”.
The evening opened with the fanfare with which Disney accompanies its logo at the beginning of its films, the now famous symphonic version of “When you wish upon a star” that the maestro Leigh Harline composed for the mythical Pinocchio, a song for which both he and lyricist Ned Washington won the Academy Award in 1948. It was like a welcome to the musical world of the company. No other introduction would have been more appropriate, so Marc Timón‘s first appearance as speaker was aptly delayed.
By the way, this introduction did not appear in the downloadable digital program, which began with the piece “For the first time in forever” from the movie Frozen, wonderfully interpreted by singer Berta Gratacòs, precisely one of those who worked overtime to prepare her interventions as a last-minute substitute, and who was splendid throughout the concert.
This theme began the repertoire of songs, which were punctually intermingled with instrumental pieces well-known as Paul Dukas’ Sorcerer’s Apprentice, present in Disney’s masterpiece Fantasia, or the “Scherzo for motorcycle and orchestra” that John Williams composed for Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, included as a token of the affection that Marc Timón has for the maestro (there would be more in the encores), and in turn representative of the inclusion of titles from other production companies recently acquired by the entertainment giant, as in this case Lucasfilm, or as would happen throughout the concert with 20th Century Fox, from which a theme from Anastasia was performed. Pixar, which was also very present, is a different case because, in one way or another, it has always been linked to Disney.
Precisely the instrumental themes were the only ones in the program that were preceded by the identification of the composer, something that I think could have been improved, doing the same with the songs, with names of such relevance as Alan Menken, Elton John, Lin-Manuel Miranda, the couple formed by Kristen-Anderson and Robert Lopez, or the lyricists Howard Ashman, Tim Rice, and Stephen Schwartz.
In any case, and after starting with this first song composed by Kristen and Robert López for the blockbuster “Frozen” (the film that opened and closed the program), it was the turn of “A whole new world “, written by Alan Menken together with Tim Rice, who had to replace the sadly deceased Howard Ashman in the lyrics of this emblematic song from “Aladdin“, winner of the ’92 Oscar. Marc Timón performed the male part with great skill and complicity with his female partner.
It is worth mentioning that it was sung in its Spanish version, unlike the previous one, which was in English. In fact, one of the successes of the concert was precisely to alternate versions in English, Spanish, and Catalan, achieving a greater dynamism.
It was followed by another Menken’s song, this time for the real image version of “Aladdin“. Despite its quality, this song entitled “Speechless” was not even nominated by the Academy, so it had a point of vindication to have included it in the repertoire.
Next on the program was “L’apprenti sorcier / The Sorcerer’s Apprentice”, a symphonic poem composed by Paul Dukas in 1897, based on a play by Goethe about a sorcerer’s apprentice who uses a bewitched broom to carry buckets of water. It is a classic work that reached its peak of popularity with the film Fantasia, one of the greatest artistic challenges and a milestone in Walt Disney’s career. The Franz Schubert Philharmonia embroidered the piece under the enthusiastic baton of Marc Timón. Despite the profusion of very popular songs, it was one of the moments that most excited the audience.
Time for the Lion King, with two of its most significant songs in a row. First of all, “The Circle of Life” was performed in Spanish, obviously with the limitation of not having African choirs, but thanks to some very appropriate arrangements, they were not missed. This fantastic version was followed by a beautiful interpretation of the ballad “Can you feel the love tonight”, another of the gems that Elton John composed with Tim Rice for this classic with Shakespearean echoes. On a curious note, Marc Timon did the repartee between the characters of Timon (ahem) and Pumba.
And from ballad to ballad, passing again to the mestro Alan Menken, with one of the least known but most delicate songs he has composed. The inclusion of “I see the light” song from the movie “Tangled“, showed the care and taste when programming a concert dedicated to Disney, quite actual, where the only nod to his old productions was Fantasia. A moment full of magic that closed this romantic double entry and gave way to the premiere of the concert.
According to the digital program, commissioned by the Franz Schubert Filharmonia, Marc Timón composed a piece based on the musical technique initially used in animated films to narratively punctuate the actions seen on screen by imitating the same rhythm of the images. This technique is called “Mickey mousing” because it is considered to have been initiated by Carl Stalling in the short film “Steamboat Willie”, currently the logo of Walt Disney Animation Studios where a black and white scene with Mickey Mouse at the helm of a ship can be seen, and which is still in use thanks to composers such as Bruce Broughton, Alan Silvestri, or Danny Elfman.
Precisely the piece composed by Marc Timón entitled, of course, “Mickeymousing”, although it has of course the imprint of its author, at the same time it is clearly imbued with the spirit of Stalling and Elfman (especially that of “Beetlejuice”), in an inspired combination that opens with a simple and delicate melody for flute and then strings, which soon goes wild with a very Elfmanian frenetic motif repeated throughout a theme that lasts just under 6 minutes, and which of course offers us the usual moments of the technique described above, which seem to illustrate or duplicate the funny movements that, above all, were seen in the classic Disney short films.
A delight that was perfect in its execution and that the audience enjoyed and applauded unanimously. It would be fantastic if one day it could be edited together with the other works that Marc Timón has been premiering at the Palau de la Música during the last year, such as the piece dedicated to John Williams “The beacon” that was premiered in the concert entitled “John Williams forever” on June 21 (read more), and the masterful choral work “Magnificat”, composed for the inauguration of the Torre de la Mare de Déu of the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, which was performed at the Palau in the Sant Esteve concert of 2021 in two movements, with a different accompaniment to the one offered in the basilica and performed by the Cor Jove, the Cor de Noies, the Orfeó, and the Cor de Cambra.
After this premiere was performed the wonderful song composed by Lin-Manuel Miranda for the film “Vaiana” entitled, in its Catalan version, “On aniré” (“How far I’ll go” in its original version), which was sung, again impeccably, by Berta Gratacòs.
It was followed by one of the last gems of Alan Menken‘s career, which despite the tremendous success of the film seems to have been somewhat forgotten. I’m talking about “Evermore”, one of the new songs that triumphed in the live-action remake of Beauty and the Beast, and that the singer Germán de la Riva practically copied in the version sung by Dan Stevens (the actor who gave life to the Beast), rather than in Josh Groban‘s version. A masterpiece interpreted in an equally masterful way, in what was perhaps the best performance of the evening.
Without leaving this undisputed classic of the company, but in its original animated version (incidentally, the first animated film to be nominated for an Oscar for Best Film, before the special award for Best Animated Film was created), came the iconic and Oscar-winning song that incorporates the same title of the film, and did so in its Spanish version. Both the singer Nerea Rodríguez (popular after her time on the Operación Triunfo TV program) and the aforementioned Germán de la Riva, again in the role of Beast, were at the height of the myth, backed by a very intoned orchestra.
And since Disney is now something more than what Disney always was, the program then gave us two titles from production companies recently acquired by Disney.
First it was the turn of “Anastasia“, a successful production with which 20th Century Fox wanted to compete for Disney’s reign in the animation genre, and which, given the quality of its music, has ended up being another success as a Broadway musical, following the work as composer of Stephen Flaherty and the lyrics of Lynn Ahrens. In particular, the delicate “Once in December” was performed almost mimetically.
Secondly, the turn was for Lucasfilm through Indiana Jones, but not with the usual “Raiders march”, but with the memorable “Scherzo for motorcycle and Orchestra” composed by John Williams for the third part of the saga, and also in the version that the maestro himself conducted in the historic concerts in Berlin in October last year (read more). It can only be said that it was impressive, demonstrating once again that Marc Timón knows Williams’ music and style as if they were his own, offering the best possible interpretation of a complex and boisterous work.
The piece that returned the concert to the path of the songs was “Volarè”, the Catalan version of “Touch the Sky”, from the Pixar film “Brave”, with music by Alex Mandel, and lyrics by Mandel himself and the film’s director Mark Andrews. Perhaps because of the importance of the Celtic touch, it was one of the pieces that were less perfect, with an excessive use of drums, which at some point even overshadowed the voice of singer Nerea. In any case a minor detail.
The same performer had her finest moment of the evening with the next song, which she introduced by explaining that the middle name her parents gave her is Ariel, an anecdote that the audience applauded and which gave way to a sublime interpretation (undoubtedly her best and one of the best of the concert) of “Part of your world” in its Spanish version (“Parte de tu mundo”) from The Little Mermaid. Alan Menken and Howard Ashman would have smiled.
Continuing with the eight time Oscar-winning composer Alan Menken, but this time with Stephen Schwartz as lyricist, it was the turn of the also award-winning “Colors of the wind” from “Pocahontas”, a score somewhat forgotten by now, but of unquestionable quality, which was evident in the hall.
The final part of the generous program prepared by Marc Timón, was composed of two pairs of songs, one dedicated to “Coco” (with “Remember me” and “Un poco loco“) and the other with two more songs from “Frozen” (“Do you want to build a snowman” and the hit “Let it go”). In short, a festival of the Kristen-Anderson/Robert Lopez duo.
“Coco”, a Pixar production set in the Mexican holiday of the Dia de los Muertos is a point and apart in terms of Disney songs because of the Latin and mostly festive character of its music and lyrics, and it was undoubtedly the most fun moment of the concert.
Due to the last-minute sick leave of the second male performer who had performed on Saturday (Alex Dee, according to the program), on Sunday it was the turn of Marc Timón, who formed a duo with Germán de la Riva. Both not only sang in a very funny way, especially “Un poco loco”, but also made a previous performance that was a real comedy show, questioning each other with a Mexican accent and even starting afterwards with a clearly improvised dance that delighted the audience, especially the younger ones.
And to finish with the official part of the concert, the two most popular songs of “Frozen” were sung, in which the female interpreters gave their best, despite the technical difficulty, especially in “Let it go”, which Nerea controlled very well. Needless to say, the audience appreciated the effort and spared no applause for what was to be the end of the evening’s festivities.
But the desire for more made it possible to extend the concert with up to two encores that, of course, were already planned, although Marc Timón graciously sold them as rewards for the insistence of a standing Palau.
The first encore was again for a work by John Williams, once again in a Lucasfilm production. The main theme of “Star Wars”, a gift for a neophyte audience that had the opportunity to listen live and with an extraordinary quality to one of the great works of film music that, generation after generation, maintains its validity. There is no doubt that both adults and kids enjoyed an important part of their childhood.
The applause led Marc to “agree” with a second encore, this time with all the singers on stage to say goodbye with the orchestra and sing in unison the famous “You’ve got a friend in me” composed by the great Randy Newman for “Toy Story”, the film that began the era of 3D animation that, with few exceptions, has marked the cinema of this genre since then. A song that with its first bars already started an “ohh” from the audience and that was the perfect culmination to a great concert.
The magic of Disney was able to overcome the pandemic!
Article by Coque Cano
Pictures by Coque Cano + Marta & Jordi