Celebrating both the centennial of motion pictures and the 50th anniversary of the first Hollywood Bowl concert to honor film music, John Mauceri conducted a program in Cahuenga Pass on Sunday featuring movie scores, a huge overhead projection screen and lots of explanatory chit-chat.
His introductions (and the Bowl program notes) seldom mentioned the film directors involved, nor was the audience told that George Gershwin’s finale from “Shall We Dance” (1937) was being performed without its vocals (one of the few selections on the program not accompanied by a film clip). A bigger problem: Mauceri’s tendency to choose climactic scenes and then deliver anticlimactic playing from the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra.
When has the Tara theme from Max Steiner’s score for “Gone With the Wind” (1939) sounded less majestic--or Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s music for the last sequence in “The Adventures of Robin Hood” (1938) less triumphant?
Played for the first time in concert, the dream ballet from “Oklahoma!” (1955) showcased the on-film choreography by Agnes de Mille as strongly as Robert Russell Bennett’s arrangement of Richard Rodgers’ songs or Mauceri’s hard-working ensemble. Even rarer: music from a brand-new movie, “First Knight,” was lyrically underscored by Jerry Goldsmith and refreshingly free of Wagnerian bombast even in the funeral pyre footage.
Mauceri’s most persuasive interpretation came in material he has conducted before under these circumstances: three excerpts from “Ben-Hur” (1959) demonstrating Miklos Rozsa’s versatility and depth. The audience of 13,501 demanded plenty of encores and got more “Gone With the Wind,” plus “Moon River,” “E.T.” and “Tico-Tico.”