The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Does movie music qualify as classical music? Edgewood Chamber Orchestra concert this afternoon has been CANCELLED | February 25, 2017

ALERT: The concert by Edgewood Chamber Orchestra scheduled for 2:30 p.m. today — Sunday, Feb. 26  — has been CANCELLED. The cancellation was caused by a heating issue in the performance venue. The Chamber Orchestra’s season will continue with its next performance on Sunday, April 23, 2017.

By Jacob Stockinger

The Oscars (below) will be given out this Sunday night at 7:30 p.m. CST on ABC-TV.

Around the nation and the world, more and more symphony orchestras and chamber music groups are turning to performing movie music to attract new audiences — and to explore new repertoire.

And that includes the Madison Symphony Orchestra.

Two seasons ago, acclaimed British violinist Daniel Hope soloed with the MSO to explore movie scores by exiled European composers including Franz Waxman, Miklos Rozsa and Erich Wolfgang Korngold.

This past fall, the MSO put the Chaconne from the film “The Red Violin,” composer by John Corigliano, on the opening program of this season. And this summer, the MSO will perform music by John Williams used in the Harry Potter films.

This morning from 10 a.m. until noon, Wisconsin Public Radio will use the listener’s choice program “Classics By Request” to air its annual Salute to the Oscars that includes past film scores and those up for Academy Awards this year.

YL Oscar foods statue

So this seems a great time to raise the question: “Do film scores qualify as classical music”?

The question was recently debated for Gramophone magazine by the critic Jed Distler and two distinguished contemporary composers who have written for the concert hall and for Hollywood: Philip Glass (below top) and John Corigliano (below bottom).

Philip Glass

John Corigliano

It is a fascinating discussion that may surprise you. One great crossover example that The Ear loves is the String Quartet No. 3 by Philip Glass, which is based on the same composer’s full score for the film”Mishima.” (You can hear the last movement in the YouTube video at the bottom.)

Here is a link to that discussion:

Don’t forget to leave your favorite movie score and what you think about movie music and classical music in the COMMENTS section.

The Ear wants to hear.


  1. I meant “Breaking Away” below, not “Chariots of Fire,” regarding the Italian Symphony. My error.

    Comment by Ron McCrea — February 25, 2017 @ 9:23 am

  2. Korngold’s music, especially the early compositions for film, are startlingly beautiful. Multiple individual lines, complex sustained development not interrupted by everyday street pop tunes meant to change the subject, thoughtful integrated dynamics. In other words, a through composition, where every element stands on its own, without an exterior story line. A composition like Korngold’s violin concerto is a premier example.

    Comment by Linda Marquardt — February 25, 2017 @ 8:18 am

  3. When you turn the question around — is classical music movie music? — the answer is a resounding yes. Think of “Death in Venice” (the adagietto movement of the Mahler 5th), “Elvira Madigan” (the adagio movement of the Mozart 21st Piano Concero), and “Chariots of Fire” (Mendelssohn’s ‘Italian’ Symphony, the hymn “Jerusalem”). Someone once defined a highbrow as one who could hear the Wilhelm Tell Overture and not think of the Lone Ranger.

    Comment by Ron McCrea — February 25, 2017 @ 2:58 am

  4. I think the public has already answered that question and that Daniel Hope, the Red Violin and John Williams are the answer, an emphatic YES.

    Hope’s recording on DG is a revelation and shows many of the linkages between Hollywood and “the old world”.

    I especially like this version of Korngold’s Violin Concerto in D which really is much better than almost anything else in the music books.

    Comment by FFlambeau — February 25, 2017 @ 2:49 am

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

    Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 1,268 other followers

    Blog Stats

    • 2,375,148 hits
%d bloggers like this: