‘Marvel vs DC in Concert’ with the FSF & Gerard Pastor – Concert Summary

In October last year the Franz Schubert Filharmonia under the baton of composer and conductor Gerard Pastor, held at the Palau de la Música Catalana in Barcelona a concert dedicated to the music of Marvel and DC superheroes (read more).

 

Our collaborator Frederic Torres, author of the book ‘La Música Tras La Máscara: La Era Superheroica (Vol. 1)’ (read more) and expert on the subject, attended the concert, and leaves us this detailed summary of it.

 

NOTE: In the following link you can read a very interview that Frederic Torres had with Gerard Pastor, on the occasion of this concert.

https://soundtrackfest.com/en/articles/interview-with-gerard-pastor/

 

MARVEL vs DC. Franz Schubert Filharmonia. Gerard Pastor. 9 October 2022

It was a bit strange that after two decades of the superheroic era, a concert of these characteristics had not been planned. It is true that in some programs there had been included some well-known themes (Spider-man, by Danny Elfman; The Avengers, by Alan Silvestri; or, of course, Superman, by John Williams, played over and over again since its irruption at the end of that fantastic decade for film music that was the seventies), but until now, nobody had conceived something similar to this Marvel vs DC.

 

And it is curious that, in addition, the event coincided almost at the same time as the FSO’s Krypton tour, with similar programmatic characteristics, although both are very different in concept and presentation, despite being equally legitimate (read the summary article). In any case, the composer Gerard Pastor, with whom we had an extensive interview, was the guest conductor invited to lead the amazing Franz Schubert Filharmonia, which once again performed a concert of film music in such a special and dazzling setting as the Palau de la Música Catalana.

 

Thus, after the concert dedicated to “The Best Soundtracks of John Williams”, conducted in triple session by the principal conductor of the orchestra, Tomàs Grau, in early June 2021 (read summary article), which almost coincides with the so-called “John Williams Forever”, by Marc Timón (who was in this Marvel vs DC concert among the audience), conducting the Orquesta Simfònica del Vallès-OSV, accompanied by none other than Gloria Cheng, also held in June 2021 at the same venue (read summary article), the a priori “fight” between the two major publishers supplying super heroes ended in a technical draw.

 

The truth is that more than a confrontation, a name well brought to make the proposal more attractive to the public, the succession of suites between one and the other made by Pastor himself, derived in a splendid sum of superheroic material, at least, up to where both inspirers/producers (Disney/Marvel and Warner/DC) of filmic superheroes have coincided, since at present they cannot maintain more different positions regarding the musical treatment given to their respective cinematographic universes: some leaning towards the American symphonic tradition (Marvel), and others towards electronics, the usual characteristic sound of the so-called “factory” Zimmer & Co. (which would include acolytes such as Lorne Balfe, Junkie XL, etc.).

 

Pastor, also author of the program, as well as arranger and orchestrator, who went so far as to transcribe some of the themes from the original film (Shazam! by Benjamin Wallfisch, as he confessed in the aforementioned interview we had the opportunity to conduct the morning of the concert), declares himself an absolute admirer of Williams and Elfman, and this was noticeable in the concert due to the large number of works selected from both composers, especially the latter, one of the most influential of the genre and to which in practice he dedicated almost half of the program.

 

So after opening the concert with the first Marvel logo, the one composed by Brian Tyler (which could well have started with the current one by Giacchino), a wonderful fanfare left aside after Tyler’s break with Marvel, it was the turn of the first suite of the evening dedicated to Spider-Man, Sam Raimi’s film, which exploded the box office at the beginning of the new century/millennium and that meant the starting signal of this heroic age that still lasts and of which there is no end in sight, despite the previous release of the pioneer X-Men, in 2000. It was a declaration of principles by Pastor himself, who not only limited himself to the powerful central theme, but also incorporated the love theme (“Alone”), as well as the final fragment (“Farewell”).

‘Marvel vs DC in Concert’ con with the FSF & Gerard Pastor - Concert Summary

 

Without explanation, or any kind of additive or coloring, Pastor treated the suite with the attention that the music deserves (without any kind of frontiers or boundaries), and then continued with Elfman’s introduction for DC (as a presentation), composed for The Justice League (2017), much more unknown than the Marvel logos. He then exposed the vibrant and groundbreaking Batman suite that Elfman presented back in the late 1980s, with its powerful central theme, orchestrated by Shirley Walker, and which marked the composer’s immediate breakthrough in the Hollywood A-series. In the same way he did with the Arachnid suite, Pastor did not limit himself to exposing the powerful theme, but also incorporated the love theme (“Flowers”), to conclude with more vibrant variations of the theme (“The Batman Repirse”).

 

The Elfman festival continued with the unusual Hulk, the first film dedicated to the emerald colossus directed by Ang Lee in 2003, also developed as a suite, as Pastor first arranged an introductory theme (“Gentle Giant”), to then enter at full power (“Main Titles”), seasoning the brass with those characteristic descending scales of the flutes, executed to perfection, which somehow define the scientist Banner, rather than the monstrous Hulk, in this film by Lee.

 

The main composer’s participation did not end there, as two very rare themes were also performed, such as the one dedicated to Selina (“Selina Transforms”), the Catwoman who co-starred in Batman Returns (1992), the sequel devised by Burton after the success of the seminal film, and which Michelle Pfeifer so pleasantly incorporated, as well as the theme of the “Heroes”, for the aforementioned The Justice League, a theme really difficult to hear live until now.

 

In the midst of this development, there was room for some musical pieces unpublished in concert halls, such as the theme by Quebec-born Christophe Beck (“Elektra’s Second Life”), belonging to the Daredevil spin-off Elektra (2004), one of the initial works, in lyrical key, by the renowned composer, nowadays one of the key pieces of the so-called MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe), as well as the overture dedicated to Shazam! by the British composer Benjamin Wallfisch, presented with no little effort on the part of Pastor, who, as mentioned above, was forced to transcribe it from a track in mp3 format.

‘Marvel vs DC in Concert’ con with the FSF & Gerard Pastor - Concert Summary

 

The result was unbeatable, as was the strategy of appropriately balancing the program with the consecutive inclusion of a couple of pieces by two of the most important names in the history of film music, Hans Zimmer and John Williams, who with the recent Wonder Woman 1984 (“Lost and Found”), one of the last installments of DC (2020), the former, and the march dedicated to the Ewoks (“Parade of the Ewoks”), from Return of the Jedi (1983), the latter, brought experience to the program after the performance of the aforementioned themes by Wallfisch and Beck.

 

The inclusion of Williams’ title may have been somewhat striking, given that in his case the score belongs to a title that made up the original trilogy of the galactic saga, which, in turn, gave rise to a series of comics of more childish characteristics such as those dedicated to the Ewoks (bear-like characters, inhabitants of the forest of Endor, who also enjoyed two forgotten film spin-offs in the mid-eighties). However, despite its more or less debatable programmatic inclusion, a theme always enjoyable to which few attendees objected, and which Pastor performed in its original version, and not in the orchestral arrangement made by Williams himself.

 

These two veterans were joined by the name of Basil Poledouris through his mythical overture (“Anvil of Crom”) for Conan the Barbarian (1982), broadening the spectrum of superheroes summoned, going from the heroic fantasy implied in John Millius’ film to the space opera propitiated by George Lucas. The theme sounded powerful (with the percussion and the brass well blended) and lyrical (with a string that sounded in unison, as if it were an instrument).

 

This led to one of the highlights of the evening, the suite that Pastor prepared on the monumental Superman, by John Williams, which began with the march of the villainous protagonists of the film (actually, Lex Luthor -Gene Hackman-, since his acolytes, the ineffable Otis -Ned Beatty- and Miss Teschmacher -Valerie Perrine-, cannot be considered as such), very rarely performed live, which pays homage to the Russian romantic classics (“The March of the Villains”), to then introduce the already popular march of the central theme (“Theme from Superman”), and conclude with the no less famous love theme (“Love Theme from Superman”).

 

Earlier, however, Pastor presented a novel suite from Captain Marvel (2019), by the American composer of Turkish origin, Pinar Toprak, which features a vibrant fanfare (“Captain Marvel”), which also included variations of her score, such as those corresponding to the protagonist’s adaptation to her new terrestrial habitat and the design of her costume (“New Clothes”), before giving way to the resolution of her conflict with the Kree race, who abducted her and erased her childhood memory (“More Problems”). A score that at first passed without glory and that is now being claimed again and again in the concert halls.

‘Marvel vs DC in Concert’ con with the FSF & Gerard Pastor - Concert Summary

 

The final stretch had a name as protagonist, Alan Silvestri, who despite coming from the pop/rock world, became one of John Williams’ best students, and whose career took off in the eighties with the Back to the Future trilogy, to see his name linked to that of director Robert Zemeckis, for whom he did works of the caliber of Who Framed Roger Rabbitt?, Forrest Gump, and Contact. When he seemed on the verge of retirement, Silvestri answered Marvel’s call in 2012 and composed one of the most powerful and recognizable fanfares of the MCU, the vibrant and emotional theme dedicated to Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, The Avengers.

 

After this presentation, Pastor also gave margin to the avenger diptych that so far has been the pinnacle of the Marvel universe, the one formed by Infinity War (2018) and Endgame (2019), in which most of the Marvel superheroes faced the omnipotent Thanos to snatch the so-called “Infinity Gauntlet”.

 

Once again, Silvestri was the composer in charge of this operatic filmic proposal, which culminated a program in which the name of the latter composer shone again with its own light through the first encore offered after the end of the program, as the march composed for Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) was performed, whose epic and catchy chords thrilled the audience.

 

A new performance of the central theme of Elfman’s Batman, Pastor’s favorite piece, and one of those that motivated him to want to be a musician in his childhood, definitively closed the concert between hugs and congratulations from the members of the orchestra and the guest conductor, given the brilliance of the performance despite not being the head of the orchestra and probably having rehearsed with very little time, because it should be noted that this same program was also presented the day before in Tarragona.

‘Marvel vs DC in Concert’ con with the FSF & Gerard Pastor - Concert Summary

 

In short, a very well-executed concert by this young orchestra, in which Pastor put all his efforts and in which he did not be guided by conformism going beyond what could be considered a program-cliché, offering very interesting novelties such as the aforementioned suite from Captain Marvel, and authentic firsts such as Shazam!, as well as expanding the exhibition format of such well-known works as Williams’ Superman, or the diptych of Burton’s Batman.

 

Of course, there were many more works that could have been included (some by Beck, such as his rhythmic Ant-Man, or the current Marvel composer par excellence, Michael Giacchino, author of the vibrant The Incredibles, as well as the current Spider-Man, Doctor Strange, and even Thor, in addition to the aforementioned logo of the “House of Ideas”), but in a concert, you have to know how to limit the terrain. And that is what Pastor wisely did, in addition to achieving a brilliant execution.

 

An evening to recharge the batteries and imbibe epic, but also lyricism and mixed emotions. Next year, in June 2023, more, as these concerts will return.

 

Artículo Frederic Torres

Fotos Frederic Torres & Franz Schubert Filharmonia