‘Lalo Schifrin – Mission, Impossible’ in Paris – Concert Summary
The Auditorium of Radio France in Paris hosted last Friday, February 3, a special symphonic concert dedicated to the music of composer Lalo Schifrin, entitled ‘Lalo Schifrin – Mission, Impossible’, performed by the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France conducted by Victor Jacob and with Jean-Michel Bernard at the piano (read more).
The concert was broadcast live and its video has been recorded and can be viewed at the following link until 1/8/2023: (see video).
Benoit Daldin, director of the Ciné-Notes festival and friend of SoundTrackFest, leaves us this detailed summary of the concert in Spanish (then translated into English), which he has prepared especially for us.
There are composers whose music is all too often a great success, a kind of tree that hides a forest full of treasures. This is the case of Lalo Schifrin, whose famous theme from the “Mission: Impossible” series is well known, but sometimes we tend to forget the incredible richness of a repertoire that mixes jazz, Latin American and symphonic music.
Born in Buenos Aires in 1932, first trained in piano by Ernesto Barenboïm (Daniel’s father), jazz lover (as a teenager, in Perón’s Argentina, he bought Thelonious Monk and Charlie Parker records under the table) and then trained in Paris in the classes of Olivier Messiaen and Charles Koechlin, Lalo Schifrin knew how to digest all these influences to synthesize them in a unique work, a model of genre blending. He was soon called to Hollywood and signed such memorable soundtracks as Bullit, Mannix, Dirty Harry, Cold Hand, and many others. Schifrin’s jazzier, funkier idiom corresponded with the arrival in Hollywood of a new era of film music composers (among them Quincy Jones, Henry Mancini, etc.) who, much to their regret, buried the great “symphonic” composers of the Golden Age. But Lalo Schifrin never forgot his classical training, especially in his concert arrangements.
There has not been a major concert of his music in Paris since a memorable evening in 2007 at the Grand Rex conducted by the Maestro himself: Radio France has just corrected this shortcoming with an emblematic concert at the Auditorium of the Maison de la Radio on February 3. Stéphane Lerouge put together an ideal program for the occasion, allowing to navigate between Schifrin’s film career and his concert music.
As for the performers, Radio France had the excellent idea of inviting some of Lalo Schifrin’s former colleagues: first of all, Jean-Michel Bernard, close friend of Lalo Schifrin, formidable pianist and also composer of film music, who a few years ago signed a sublime album with Schifrin (the latter even wrote him a sonata whose premiere is eagerly awaited), the excellent bassist Pierre Boussaguet, a great regular of this repertoire, and the drummer François Laizeau. They were accompanied by the excellent Sylvain Gontard (trumpet), Denis Leloup (trombone), Mathilde Calderini (flute soloist of the Radio France Philharmonic) and the bandoneonist Juanjo Mosalini. This team was magnificently accompanied by the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France conducted by Victor Jacob, totally at ease in this repertoire of contrasts.
The program was as follows:
Jean Michel Bernard opens the dance with Mannix’s theme at the piano: all Lalo Schifrin is already there, the ideal melody, the syncopated rhythms, the jazz but also the classical form: Jean-Michel Bernard definitely knows his Schifrin. The orchestra immediately takes over in the symphonic arrangement by Mannix himself, a wave of colors, of influences mixed with genius without one imposing itself on the other.
Next, the brutal music he signed for the Bruce Lee film Operation Dragon (of which we regret the absence of the mythical scream from the original soundtrack!), then the music for René Clément’s Félins, one of his first film scores: the duo Sylvain Gontard (trumpet) / Denis Leloup (trombone) visibly enjoy themselves in this moment of pure jazz, supported by the Bernard-Boussaguet-Laizeau trio. The Fox soundtrack, whose sensual theme is known for having been used in an advertisement for a famous brand of stockings, also works wonderfully in its orchestral version.
La Suite Sinfónica de Dirty Harry/Harry El Sucio de Don Siegel (protagonizada por Clint Eastwood en el papel del duro policía Harry Calahan) vuelve a estar bellamente orquestada. Hay que reconocer que la versión funk de la banda sonora original es insuperable, pero Schifrin es un orquestador genial que sabe extraer de una orquesta sonidos realmente cercanos a la música original. La Filarmónica de Radio France disfruta claramente con esta música y su director, Victor Jacob, sabe evitar la rigidez de los directores poco acostumbrados a este repertorio y le sobra swing. El trío Bernard-Boussaguet-Laizeau está en lo más alto.
We are more circumspect about the creation of the eight students of the class of music to the image of the CNSM of Lyon, written as a tribute to the music of “Mission: Impossible” and which ends the first part of the concert. Some Schifrinian influences are heard but they are sparse and the piece, in potpourri form, stretches a bit and looks for influences elsewhere than the great Lalo. It is well orchestrated, but the architecture is not entirely convincing.
The second part of the concert features music from The Kid from Cincinnati with Steve McQueen, one of Schiffrin’s most beautiful tunes. This is followed by the rare Invisible City, in which Pierre Boussaguet makes his double bass sing like no one else. The Argentinian Schifrin gives us a Tango del Atardecer, which he composed for Carlos Saura’s film Tango and to which Juanjo Mosalini‘s bandoneon gives its ideal color.
The rest of the program features two purely concert works with the world premiere by Jean-Michel Bernard of the 3rd movement of a Jazz Sonata originally written for none other than Bill Evans, who never had time to work on it. Virtuosity, complex construction: here Schifrin once again surprises by the breadth of his inspiration. A success for this pianistic Everest. Next, the sweetness of Mathilde Calderini‘s flute enchanted the audience in the rare Caribbean Concerto: incredible musicality from the young flutist in a piece that undoubtedly requires her to step out of her comfort zone as a classically trained musician. Superb!
And, of course, what would a Lalo Schifrin concert be without “Mission: Impossible”, which unleashes hysteria among the audience thanks to a galvanized Radio France Philharmonic?
An ideal encore: Bullit, arguably Schifrin’s most perfect soundtrack, a masterpiece from beginning to end that can be heard on its own, and Jean-Michel Bernard will end this concert as he started it, alone at the piano, with a soft and subtle version of Cold Hand Luke.
An evening of rare, moving, and sparkling film music, such as we would like to see more of in France.
Article Benoit Daldin
Pictures Benoit Daldin & Guy Chapellier