The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Violinist Daniel Hope explores the music created by composers who emigrated from Nazi Europe to Hollywood and wrote film scores. He performs that music with the Madison Symphony Orchestra this weekend. | March 2, 2015

By Jacob Stockinger

British violinist Daniel Hope (below) is a man on a mission.

Hope wants to foster the public’s appreciation of the composers who had to flee from Nazi Europe during World War II and who ended up exiled in Hollywood, where they composed film scores. They ended up creating the  “Hollywood sound” and often won Oscars or Academy Awards, but recognition as serious concert composers usually eluded them.

Daniel Hope playing

Until recently.

Lately, a rediscovery of their merits has been taking place, and Hope will explore that legacy with the Madison Symphony Orchestra and its longtime music director and conductor John DeMain.

John DeMain and MSO from the stage Greg Anderson

John DeMain full face by Prasad

Performances are in Overture Hall on Friday night at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday at 8 p.m.; and Sunday afternoon at 2:30 p.m.

The program for “Composers in Exile: Creating the Hollywood Sound” includes the Violin Concerto and Suite from “Captain Blood” by Erich Wolfgang Korngold; the Sinfonietta for Strings and Tympani, and the score to “Taras Bulba” by Franz Waxman, who also founded the Los Angeles Music Festival in 1947; and the “Theme, Variations and Finale” as well as “The Parade of the Charioteers” and the “Love Theme” from “Ben-Hur” and the “Love Theme” from Alfred Hitchcock’s “Spellbound” by Miklos Rozsa.

Tickets are $16-$84 plus fees for the Overture Center.

For program, information about tickets and links to audio samples, visit: http://madisonsymphony.org/hope

For more about the music, here are the program notes by MSO trombonist Michael Allsen who also teaches at the UW-Whitewater:

http://facstaff.uww.edu/allsenj/MSO/NOTES/1415/6.Mar15.html

The award-winning Daniel Hope, who is busy touring and recording, graciously took time to answer a Q&A for The Ear:

Daniel Hope full face

How would you compare in seriousness and quality these “exiled in Hollywood” composers and their music to other well-known 20th-century composers and mainstream modern classical music?

I don’t make comparisons in music. The composers who escaped the Nazis found themselves for the most part in a very different set of circumstances than those for which they were trained. They were incredibly talented and had to adapt quickly.

I think the more interesting question is what would have happened to 20th-century music if countless musicians and composers had not been forced to leave Europe. (Below is a photo of Igor Stravinsky, on the left, and Franz Waxman in Los Angeles, where Waxman founded a music festival in 1947.) The world of music would be a very different place indeed.

franz waxman with stravinsky

Why do you think these composers and this music were kept out of the concert hall for so long? What traits most mark each composer’s style?

In those days, even writing one number for a movie would almost certainly have ruined your reputation as a “serious composer.” It was seen as selling out. The fact that many of these composers were trying to survive, to support their families and to get their relatives out of Europe, was often forgotten — especially after World War II.

But they were also phenomenally talented at what they did. As the son of Miklos Rozsa (below) wrote to me recently, one day these composers may actually be forgiven for writing film music.

Miklos Rozsa BW

In the case of Korngold (below), he was one of the first to really introduce a leitmotif, a recurring theme that followed the character throughout the film. Essentially an operatic composer, Korngold described each film for which he scored as “an opera without singing,” his music no longer passively accompanying the images but actively engaging in dialogue, emotion and presentation. I believe both Korngold and Max Steiner totally changed American film music, also by adding a fin-de-siècle European symphonic grandeur.

Erich Wolfgang Korngold BW piano

How much of their current appeal is cultural interest, human interest or personal stories, or the quality of the music itself?

I think it’s all of the above. But if you look at the symphonic works of some of the composers, Korngold’s and Rosza’s Violin Concertos or Waxman’s oratorio “The Song of Terezin,” you will find music of the highest quality. And let’s not forget, it was Mahler and Richard Strauss who forecast a great future for the young Korngold. (You can hear the lovely second movement of Korngold’s Violin Concerto performed by Hilary Hahn in a popular YouTube video at the bottom.)

What factors explain their revival as concert music? How did you rediscover them and become interested in them? Has a loosening of formal definitions of classical genres helped their revival?

I think both the role and the appeal of film music have changed in today’s society. I had long been aware of this group of émigré musicians.

Next to music, I’ve always had a passion for film, most of all for the movies of “vintage Hollywood,” for me the period beginning with the epic cinematic storytelling of the 1930s. As a young violinist, I was struck as much by the sound of the violin in these movies of the ’30s, ’40s and ’50s. I especially took note of the violinists playing this glorious mood music. To a young boy in London, names like Toscha Seidel, Felix Slatkin, Eudice Shapiro and Louis Kaufman sounded as exotic as the films they embellished.

But then writing for the studio musicians of prewar and postwar Hollywood was a group of astonishing composers, many of whom had escaped the Nazis, and who helped shape what was to become the Hollywood Sound. (Below, y0u can hear excerpts from a sampler from the Deutsche Grammophon CD on which Daniel Hope explores the Hollywood Sound.)

Hollywood muisicians with reels of film

You have recorded this music and performed it many times elsewhere. How do audiences typically respond to it?

Audiences are generally extremely enthusiastic about the music. And many of them are moved or intrigued by the stories of these composers.

 

 

 

 

 

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6 Comments »

  1. What a material of un-ambiguity and preserveness
    of valuable familiarity regarding unpredicted feelings.

    Comment by rewards — March 9, 2015 @ 11:39 pm

  2. Thank you Jacob. Dimitri Tiomkin is another composer who might belong in this conversation about immigrant composers. I first learned of him from the movie song “High Noon” (“Do not forsake me oh my darling”), but the more I read about Tiomkin and listened to his compositions the more fascinated I became about his training, performance career and then his Hollywood composing. He “adjusted his sail” through life, as a friend likes to say, and made his mark on our musical heritage.

    Comment by napeta — March 2, 2015 @ 6:49 am

  3. Should read Conductor Alexander SHELLEY (not Shecley). Shelley is the Conductor with whom Daniel Hope recorded “Escape to Paradise, the Hollywood album” on Deutsche Grammophon. Like Hope, Shelley is one of the fast rising stars in classical music; he succeeds P. Zukerman conducting in Ottawa.

    Comment by fflambeau — March 2, 2015 @ 2:00 am

  4. I have listened to a number of performances of the Korngold Violin Concerto at YouTube (what an amazing resource!) and would rate them as: 1) D. Hope, 2) Gil Shaham (Previn and the LSO); and a three-way tie for third with 3) J. Heifitz (who premiered the work, so the recording is old, from 1947), with the New York Philharmonic; and , 3) (tie) B. Schmid with S. Ozawa and the Vienna Philharmonic.

    There is a marvelous Youtube (sound only; no video of the performance) of Hope performing the Korngold at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IHLp7rqXIF0 He’s certainly in the above, highly esteemed company and probably at the head of the pack. He’s accompanied by the Real Filarmónica Orquesta de Estocolmo, Director: Alexander Shecley and although I have not heard of that group before, they play well.

    The opening violin music in the first movement is some of the most lovely music ever written (make that the entire first movement and the second too).

    Comments to all the YouTubes are almost uniformly the same, and highly revealing. They run something like, “amazing music, why haven’t I heard this before?” to “my new favorite violin concerto.” Hope’s violin playing brings an amazing touch and spirit to this work.

    Comment by fflambeau — March 2, 2015 @ 1:44 am

  5. Nice story and good interview.

    It would have been nice to allow Hope to expand on this thought of his: [Without the exodus from Europe of many musicians] “The world of music would be a very different place indeed.” Mr. Hope is a delight to read and he’s so right about the wonderful music that did come out of Hollywood from such people.

    Note too the number of “stars” performing such music. At Youtube, there are outstanding performances of the Korngold by not only H. Hahn but Gil Shaham with Previn and the LSO; I. Perlman and the Pittsburgh Symphony; A. Mutter and J. Heifitz (amongst many others).

    Daniel Hope, to his credit, is not only an outstanding performer and recording artist, he’s also interested in musical education, history, and positive social change. More information about him can be found at his website at http://www.danielhope.com/home/

    He’s an ideal “fit” for Madison so kudos to Maestro DeMain for bringing him here. His performances, talks in the area and on the radio should be one of the highlights of the musical year.

    Comment by fflambeau — March 2, 2015 @ 1:05 am


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