- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 14, 2001

National Symphony Orchestra members know the score when it comes to musical expression, so who better to talk about music written for the movies or play it?
The NSO will perform its "Lights, Camera, Symphony" program tonight at Wolf Trap's Filene Center, without any backdrop of visual images. The repertoire includes music from such well-known movies as "Star Wars," "Schindler's List" and "Mr. Holland's Opus." It also features the overture to "The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex," from the early years of American movie-making in the 1930s.
NSO Music Director Leonard Slatkin, who chose the works that he will be conducting, grew up in a Hollywood music family among some of the movie industry's most illustrious names.
"Leonard is a real film fan and gets very passionate about it," says pianist Lambert Orkis, who is among the soloists for the program. Mr. Orkis says this will be his first time playing the Grammy-winning "Mr. Holland's Opus" by Michael Kamen. "[Mr. Slatkin] talks in very familiar terms with the music and has a personal flair for it. Certainly growing up and living with it didn't turn him off."
Mr. Orkis and three other soloists interviewed credit Mr. Slatkin with instigating a varied program that goes beyond a simple pop presentation of a genre sometimes regarded as less than a notable contribution to American culture.
"He can see in these pieces of music things of value, apart from the visual images they support, and communicate directly to an audience," says percussionist Tony Ames, who also will be performing "Mr. Holland's Opus" for the first time. "Some of the most imaginative and surprisingly original and exciting composing is in the movies. Michael Kamen isn't a bad example. And John Williams ["Star Wars" and "Schindler's List"]. Stanley Kubrick's '2001' couldn't have been anything without it, and some of the immortal moments in Steven Spielberg's 'E.T.' and 'Saving Private Ryan.'"
Mr. Ames notes that another selection on the program, Paul Dukas' "The Sorcerer's Apprentice," featured in Disney's "Fantasia" movie, was written separately from the movie plot. This was done to reflect "the wonder, awe, mystery and the magic of a sorcerer, and also the probing and mischievous aspect of a young apprentice who gets his chance and muffs it," he says.
"I find [film music] is a theatrical style that is part and parcel of American contemporary culture that has exerted influence around the world second only to our political and economic power."
He isn't surprised to find the NSO playing more and more popular music. "It's the nature of our culture. We have to respond to the time we are in," he says. "The conceit in 'Mr. Holland's Opus' is that music education in schools is a civilizing spirit. Period. If you get kids early on to enjoy the great works that have identified centuries of human beings, they become lifelong devoted listeners."
The Wolf Trap concert, he says, demonstrates "how much good music you can find in the movies."
"No one has to apologize at all for the combination of craft involved: The complexity of orchestration is well-done," Mr. Ames says of Mr. Williams' "JFK Suite," which also is on the program.
"Williams probably is the dean of it all right now, and he hasn't even begun to hit his stride."
Movie music is "becoming more and more a part of public consciousness," Mr. Orkis adds. "You can't help recognize the 'Titanic' theme."
Mr. Orkis recalls an Oscar-winning European producer of art films telling him he should see "Titanic" and a major writer for a film magazine telling him he should not bother.
"I was on a plane home from Europe when I saw it, and I loved it," he says. "[Singer] Celine Dion was wonderful and very evocative."
He says he tries not to listen as a musician but as an ordinary audience member. "But ['Titanic] just grabbed me. The way the film was put together worked. I don't know if it would have made it without the music."
Mr. Orkis' solo all two minutes and 52 seconds of it in "Mr. Holland's Opus" is "very trucky and very fast."
"I have seen the movie, which was very enjoyable, and I have no memory of the music. I don't know if the music we are playing actually appeared in the movie. We are eager to see which version we play."
Violinist Elizabeth Adkins, who will perform what she calls "a very haunting" solo part from "Schindler's List," says she regards film music as she does most music.
"You judge the quality on its own. Very good music of any genre has a logic of its own and may aim for loftier goals. A well-crafted piece has an integrity of its own," she says.
Movies she especially enjoyed include "Star Wars," which she says "almost never fails to get the blood running. It is a lot of fun for the orchestra to play and is written very well for an orchestra. The strings do lots of shimmering. We are up high a good bit."
English horn player Kathryn Meany, who also has a solo in "Schindler's List," believes that "if the music has quality, it heightens the movie's quality."
"I think we are not always aware when looking at a movie how important the music is. Sometimes when the music isn't that great, you concentrate more on the movie, but you would really miss it if the music wasn't there," she says.
The one time she had an opportunity to see a movie before the music was added "probably a Hollywood film, but I can't remember"she found the movie "not very compelling."
In general, she says, "people don't always realize how important music is, although it is expected. In films where there are moments of silence through whole scenes, you really notice it [music's absence] then because [the film] is very intense."

WHAT: "Lights, Camera, Symphony"
WHERE: Wolf Trap, 1624 Trap Road, Vienna
WHEN: 8:15 tonight
TICKETS: $15 to $32
PHONE: 703/218-6500 or www.wolftrap.org

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