Twice over the weekend, Hollywood Bowl hosted an evening of music from stage and screen--simultaneously. Onstage, the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra was in full force. On the jumbo screen over the stage, various film clips--from "Bride of Frankenstein" to "Ben Hur"--unreeled, with and without benefit of a live orchestra.
It was a "A Night Out at the Movies," a program devoted to science fiction and MGM material, and an innocuous dose of culture lite was enjoyed by all. Even the usual aeronautical intrusions were complementary. On Friday, only one plane passed over during the low introductory drone of "Thus Spake Zarathustra," providing a tidy fourth interval overhead.
Maestro John Mauceri led his charges crisply and provided affable emcee patter to compensate for the orchestra's skimpy, irrelevant program notes. Oddly, it was also a shamelessly nostalgic program. Apart from Jerry Goldsmith's "Star Trek V" fanfare--and that adapted from older music--nothing from the last quarter-century of film music was played. Highlights included Arthur Bliss's mercurial score for "Things to Come" and Miklos Rosza's heroic "Ben Hur" overture.
It is still a wide-open question as to whether the use of existing classical music in films has served to elevate and popularize those sources or exploit and sully them. Did Oliver Stone besmirch the integrity of Samuel Barber in "Platoon"?
More to the point of this program, did Stanley Kubrick compromise the musical intent of Richard Strauss and Gyorgy Ligeti by using their music so integrally in "2001: A Space Odyssey"? It's a nagging question. Then again, under what other pretext could we hope to hear Ligeti's beautiful micro-tonal smears in the Hollywood Bowl--the most musical moment in the program? The Kubrick segment of the program ended with a teasing snippet of Alex North's unused, distinctly Straussian score for "2001," recently unearthed and released on CD.
A moving real time vs. reel time transition came as the orchestra slid into a dance segment from "Brigadoon." Later, the orchestra stirred up dreamy delirium for the scene in "Wizard of Oz" when Dorothy deplanes from Kansas to Oz, and the film shifts from black and white to color.
As an encore: more blasts from the past via Mark Shaiman's music for "That's Entertainment III"--a splash of pure movie-medley froth to send the crowd out into the night of real time Hollywood.
Attendance: Friday, 9,818; Saturday, 12,110.