Just over a week ago, the unstoppable Film Symphony Orchestra led by the tireless Constantino Martínez Orts, performed at the Euskalduna Palace in Bilbao on the occasion of their concert tour ‘Kyrpton – Heroes and Superheroes’. A tour that already has few concerts left and is coming to an end (read more).
Our colleagues & collaborators Felipe Múgica and Carmen Ruiz attended the concert, and below they bring us two very interesting and complementary summary articles, telling us how they lived the experience.
On June 4, the Film Symphony Orchestra held a concert at the Euskalduna Palace in Bilbao as part of its Krypton tour. The program consisted of a varied selection of themes from superheroic movies, both Marvel and DC, plus several themes from heroes of the past, such as Braveheart or Robin Hood. A concert of almost 3 hours, including intermission, where the interpretations of the orchestra were combined with elaborate games of lights in synchrony with the music and enthusiastic presentations by its conductor, Constantino Martínez-Orts. A very enjoyable concert, with winks to the audience and even a contest at the beginning of the second half.
But before we get into the matter, let’s start by taking a look back…. After several years of prolonged absence in the capital of Bizkaia (partly due to the pandemic), in 2022 the Film Symphony Orchestra returned to offer a concert in Bilbao. A little more than a year later, the FSO is back, which suggests that its formula of film music concerts for a mainstream audience has worked for the audience. And that is, to the chagrin of the most recalcitrant film music purists, the approach chosen for this type of concert: a performance with an orchestra, accompanied by light effects that move in sync with the music and with enthusiastic introductions by its conductor and alma mater Constantino Martínez-Orts.
In this year’s tour, which has been given the name of “Krypton”, they have chosen a selection of musical themes belonging to superhero movies mostly (both Marvel and DC) in addition to some themes of historical heroes (such as Braveheart or Lawrence of Arabia) or fantasy heroes (such as Conan the Barbarian). A rabidly commercial selection as can be appreciated, although it must be admitted that, as with any artist, the goal is always to fill theaters and even more so in a musical genre, a priori, as minor as we know that film music is.
That is why I find the introductions by Martínez-Orts before each piece to be very welcome. Although his discourse can be somewhat excessive and rushed, I consider his previous explanation of each composer and/or film to be of great interest, giving details of their authors and their careers or anecdotes about how they came to compose this or that soundtrack. The director’s enthusiasm for this type of music is noticeable and his effort to make it known to the general public, most of whom are not familiar with it, seems to me to be praiseworthy.
In the search for a greater tuning with the audience (in comparison with any other academic concert of film music or classical music), it was sought on occasion that the audience clapped to the rhythm of the music or a game of “Recognize the OSTs in record time”, with the promise of a raffle for a trip to Hollywood, as happened at the beginning of the second half of the program.
And as for the interpretations or the musical selection, was the proposal worthwhile? Regarding the former, the FSO’s experience in this kind of concerts is noticeable and the interpretations were beyond reproach, although I would like to highlight the heartfelt presentation of Braveheart, in which one could perceive the conductor’s weakness for the work, and the unexpectedly successful Black Panther, with the inclusion of African percussions and voices (very interesting the previous explanation regarding the types of percussive instruments introduced). The musical selection, being mostly epic-adventurous themes, could suffer from consisting of an accumulation of high points that would cancel each other out. But, fortunately, the alternation of softer themes such as the aforementioned Braveheart (For the love of a princess) or the suite from Man of Steel partially alleviated the risk of accumulating just “highlights”.
In total, including the intermission, it was approximately 2:45 hours of extensive concert. The first half ended with Brian Tyler’s Iron Man 3 (and the version of the central theme from Can You Dig It) and Michael Giacchino’s Incredits from The Incredibles, two very moving pieces that would have been a great way to close the concert. However, Hans Zimmer’s Man of Steel, more emotional than epic, was chosen instead. Nevertheless, the real closing came in the encore (SPOILER WARNING IN CASE ANYONE WOULD PREFER NOT TO KNOW), to the surprise of few, with John Williams’ Superman (which had already kicked off the concert with the Krypton theme). To which was added the Star Wars cantina theme, the orchestra’s trademark, according to its conductor (END OF SPOILER).
In short, a concert that left everyone satisfied, for its length, for its musical selection, with which it is easy to please the majority of the audience, for its stage presentation full of attractive light effects (I would dare to say that in greater quantity than last year) and for its search for connection with the audience. The venue, the Euskalduna Palace, was practically full, so I risk to predict that they will be back in Bilbao and Bizkaia in their next tour.
Welcome to Krypton.
On the darkened stage there are green lights. Kryptonite lights. But the musicians enter armed with their instruments to face it with their superpower: music.
The concert begins with an environmentalist prologue accompanied by the perfect theme: “Planet Krypton” by John Williams because, like Krypton, our planet is approaching its destruction. But the heroes and superheroes arrive. The vigilantes and all those who are going to make our world a better place.
The first of all is Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar. El Cid. Miklós Rózsa’s overture opens the repertoire in all its splendor with a brass opening followed by imposing percussion and “pasodoble” hints. Solemn, adventurous, and full of impetus. You will even hear the horses riding across the stage.
The recital continues with the main theme of Batman, by Danny Elfman, which opens with mysterious overtones to discover in a musical maelstrom the knight of the night.
The main theme of Ant-Man, by Christophe Beck, shows that there is no small hero in a lighthearted theme that promises fun without leaving aside the musical strength in the presentation of the character.
The next hero presented is William Wallace, romanticized to some extent by the cinema, but a real hero. The piece is James Horner’s “For the Love of a Princess.” A sweet and enveloping harmony and a string sound that touches you deep inside. One of those themes with which you let yourself be carried away by its beautiful melody. And why a love theme instead of something more epic, more heroic? Why not a battle theme? Because love is part of every hero.
From the romanticism of Scotland, we return to Marvel with the main theme of “Thor: The Dark World”, by Brian Tyler. Grandiose music as befits a god and interpreted sublimely in an epic and sonorous theme that does not give a minute of respite.
We continue in the darkness with a suite from “The Dark Knight”, by Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard. The percussion takes you into Gotham. Darkness and mystery in an imposing suite in which there is no lack of more intimate enveloping melodies with a haunting halo.
We reach the end credits of Alan Silvestri’s “Captain America: The First Avenger”. Heroism in all its splendor in a magnificent march at the height of the character. Pure spectacle.
We move on to “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves”, by Michael Kamen. A suite of what is already a classic adventure film. And if you are attentive, you will hear a small part of the theme to which Bryan Adams put his voice: “Everything I do”.
It is followed by a suite from Iron Man, again with Brian Tyler. A quiet beginning gives way to a powerful percussion that presents a superb piece full of intensity.
And ends the spectacular first part with the only theme of the animated film. A suite of “The Incredibles” by Michael Giacchino gives the jazz point to the show. Marching and fun.
We come back from the break wanting more. The second part of the concert begins with another classic: “Lawrence of Arabia”, by Maurice Jarre. A well-known theme that takes you on adventures through the desert in a succession of captivating sounds.
Next, the orchestra delights us with the most intimate theme of the evening: the main titles of “Spiderman”, by Danny Elfman, a piece that does not have the spectacular sound or the power of other superheroic compositions, but that creates complicity with the listener and speaks of the wall-crawler, of his story. Great in its apparent simplicity.
Then comes a sad story and a music that makes your skin crawl: “The Last of the Mohicans”, by Trevor Jones, with which it is impossible not to be moved. The sound of the strings takes the audience inside a story as sad as it is beautiful.
Enter “Conan the Barbarian” by Basil Poledouris. The forceful percussion predominates, accompanied by brass, recalling the rawness of the time that takes place. A tough theme with an exquisite part of strings that softens it creating a magnificent contrast. Barbaric as Conan himself.
Spanish music takes the stage. Palmas and castanets present “The Mask of Zorro”, in a rapturous suite by James Horner, which includes the theme interpreted by Mark Anthony and Tina Arena: “I want to spend my lifetime loving you”. A delight for the ears. Wonderful.
If in the first part there was Captain America, in this second part comes Captain Marvel. Pinar Toprak’s music captivates the audience with a simply spectacular and energetic piece. The unique woman composer of the repertoire and theme dedicated to all women who, like Pinar Toprak, struggle to make their way.
The main theme of Alan Silvestri’s “The Avengers” is a must. Epic and adventure in a brief but highly enjoyable theme.
The exotic point of the evening is provided by Ludwig Göransson with a suite from “Black Panther”, with rhythms and sounds of various African instruments, as well as a chorus that leaves no one indifferent.
The concert ends with a splendid suite from Hans Zimmer’s “Man of Steel,” which includes emblematic themes such as “The Flight” and “What are you going to do when you’re not saving the world?” A score that in addition to presenting Superman’s heroics, delves into his inner self and reveals that, even with his superpowers, he is as human as any of us. Magnificent piece and no less magnificent interpretation.
Of course, this cannot end like this. The whole audience is on its feet applauding and wants more. We always want more because we never get tired of listening to them, because they not only interpret the different pieces: they make you live them and make you be part of them. And there is a bonus track, which could not be other than “Superman: The movie”, by the incombustible John Williams. A hymn that needs no introduction.
And finally -until the next concert- the party farewell that is already a trademark of the house: “The Cantina Band” by John Williams for Star Wars.
It is difficult to describe the good work of this orchestra because they reach excellence and any phrase, any adjective falls short and cannot express what you feel in one of their concerts. They make you become part of the music, they make you mingle with the notes that will catch you without remedy. Because they are music.
Special mention for its conductor: Constantino Martínez-Orts, who presents each piece with overwhelming enthusiasm and you can’t help but get carried away and soak in the knowledge he transmits like no one else.
On that day, we are all heroes. Thank you, FSO.
Articles by Felipe Múgica & Carmen Ruíz
Pictures by Felipe Múgica, Carmen Ruíz & FSO
Official FSO Album (link)