For centuries the dividing line between concert music and popular music occasionally got blurred. J.S. Bach played his sacred music in church services on Sundays and his secular music in cafés in the evenings during the week. In Italy, Verdi’s, and Puccini’s operas were enjoyed by all classes – the wealthy in the orchestra section and the working class in the upper balconies of the theatres. Mozart’s Magic Flute played for weeks at Schikaneder’s theatre, enjoyed by many of Vienna’s working class.
With the arrival of the movies in the 20th century, pianists and orchestras accompanied silent films sometimes improvising and sometimes playing music written by composers like Sergei Prokofiev, who wrote scores to accompany the films of Sergei Eisenstein.
The arrival of the “Talkies” heralded an era in which great film scores by Max Steiner, Erick Korngold, Alfred Newman, Miklós Rózsa, Elmer Bernstein, Johnny Mandel, David Raksin, Franz Waxman, and, closer to our time, John Williams – all composers with classical “chops” and the willingness to escape the low-paying limelight of Carnegie Hall for the earthlier joys of Southern California.
Re-organized by John Wilson in 2018, Sinfonia of London – a recording orchestra made up of top-notch studio musicians – has just released a terrific collection of excerpts on Chandos (CHSA 5294): Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s Overture from The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex; David Raksin’s Theme from Laura; Herbert Stothart & Harold Arlen’s Suite from The Wizard of Oz; Frederick Loewe’s Transylvanian March and Embassy Waltz from My Fair Lady; Max Steiner’s Suite from Now, Voyager; Johnny Mandel’s title music from The Sandpiper; Franz Waxman’s Suite from Rebecca, and Alfred Newman’s Street Scene from How to Marry a Millionaire.
Rafael de Acha © 2022
Rafael de Acha has enjoyed a distinguished career in the arts as a performer, stage director, producer, and educator. He was born and grew up in Cuba. At the age of 17 he moved to the United States to study Drama at the University of Minnesota, and later Languages at L.A. City College, Music at the Juilliard School of Music, at the University of Cincinnati’s College Conservatory of Music, and at the New England Conservatory of Music, from which he received the Bachelor and Master of Music degrees. He has taught courses on the History of Music at the University of Miami’s Frost School of Music and at Florida International University, and contributed writings to Seen and Heard International and to this blog. He co-founded with his wife the award-winning New Theatre in Coral Gables, Florida, where he produced and staged twenty seasons of classical and contemporary theater, including fifty world premieres of plays that went on to have international and national productions on and off Broadway, including Ana in the Tropics by Nilo Cruz (Pulitzer Prize for Drama 2002 and Tony Nomination 2003.) In 2006 he and his wife, Kimberly were presented with a citation from The Dade County Cultural Affairs Council for “trailblazing contributions to the arts in South Florida.