In film it is the actors who drive the plot, but it is the music that drives the film and keeps fans interested.
On November 8 and 9 BPO Pops conductor John Morris Russell led the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra in a musical romp through Hollywood with the “BPO Goes to the Movies”.
After giving everyone a hearty hello, Russell opened the program with the “March from Raiders of the Lost Ark” in a performance that got the program off to a rousing start.
John Morris Russell is a very enthusiastic and energetic conductor who put his whole body into his conducting. It is sometimes a wonder that he doesn’t fall off of the podium with all of his bouncing up and down.
The journey through the great cinematic musical tour of Hollywood continued with the Overture from “Sea Hawk” by Erich Wolfgang Korngold. An Austrian Jew, Korngold was forced to flee his homeland during the Nazi invasion and made his way to Hollywood where he changed the force of cinematic music by creating the symphonic sound to film that we hear today.
Next on the journey of music you recognize but don’t always know the name of the composers, the BPO Performed the Klaus Badett composition “Pirates of the Caribbean”.
Then came “Gabriel’s Oboe” from “The Mission” by Ennio Morricone. Still reeling from the death of long time principal violist Valerie Heywood, Russell dedicated the piece to Heywood.
It’s one of the most iconic television themes in history…the theme from “Mission: Impossible” was written by Lalo Schifrin – a man who was known for compositions in odd meters. The BPO played a rousing rendition of the theme, a piece that is written in 5/4 time.
The saxophone is a rare instrument to find in an orchestra but when the BPO performed the end credit music from “The Right Stuff” by Bill Conti – of “Rocky” fame – clarinet player Sal Andolina got his chance to shine on the sax.
Finishing out the first half of the program was a special presentation of “Voyage” created by award winning composer Michael Giacchino (“Star Trek”). The work was created to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing and the 60th anniversary of NASA. The performance by the BPO was only the third time the work has been performed. A piece in five parts, the listener can clearly hear the rocket as it lifts off and achieves orbit; then later the floating in space and excitement of touching down on the foreign surface of the moon.
After the intermission, John Morris Russell and the BPO return for a series of John Williams compositions including music from “Hook”, “Harry Potter”, “Jurassic Park”, “Superman”, and “Star Wars” But the most moving performance of the program was from principal cellist Roman Mekinulov who gave only the second ever performance of the theme from “Schindler’s List” on the cello.
In the original composition, the solo was performed by violinist Itzaak Perlamn. Cellist Yo Yo Ma also wanted to perform the work, but after the composition was completed unforseen circumstances prevented Ma from playing the piece.
A very passionate player, Roman gave a very moving rendition of the piece.