Review by Sylvie Di Leonardo
As I buttoned my coat and struggled to get into my boots, my little brother asked me why I was headed to hear Cinema Serenade with Itzhak Perlman and the TSO this evening at Roy Thompson Hall. “Are they playing along with the movies?” No. “Is it a shadow cast?” No. “Why would you want to go hear the songs, then?” He had a point. Why spend my day off on the highway at rush hour? “It’s like watching reruns,” he says. I consider this, and again—he had a point. But, I like watching reruns. Photo by Jag Gundu – T.S.O.
I like pausing to zoom in on the moment everything had changed even though I hadn’t noticed it before. So, I zipped my boots and hit the highway.
“Concert music rarely makes good movie music,” says TSO’s Peter Oundjian. The greatest film composers are able to make powerful statements in short melodies and pieces, and still enhance rather than overwhelm the movie itself.” It is obvious that tonight’s pieces were carefully curated to reflect this sentiment.
The evening’s program began with Beethoven’s seventh symphony, a piece recognizable from the earliest days of cinema (and more recently, The King’s Speech) and closed with the tango from Scent of a Woman. ‘Cinema Serenade’ illuminated those well-known yet not often celebrated pieces that live somewhere between the brass blasts of space opera themes like “Thus Spake Zarathustra” and the whirring of classics-turned-cartoon pieces like “The Barber of Seville.” Perlman and Oundjian selected works just as powerful as the former and imaginative as the latter. While the players did treat us to some compositions by some big names from the marquee—John Williams, John Barry– we experienced the softer, more delicate pieces, including the themes from “Cinema Paradiso” and “Schindler’s List”.
Perlman’s sharp and delicate lyricism was best presented during ‘Casablanca’s’ “As Time Goes By” and in his own arrangement of the title from “Out of Africa”. The connection he had with these pieces made it impossible not to revel in the joy he shares on stage. Cellist Joseph Johnson gave us more to love in Robin Hood’s love theme, as did Patricia Krueger on the grand piano celesta. Time seemed to stand still as Perlman reprised the theme from Schindler’s List.
So, why do we gather to listen to music from the movies? The frames captured by these pieces aren’t of the extraordinary or the catastrophic, but of the simple and concise turning points between what is and was for Rick & Ilsa, and of what was but shouldn’t have been for Oskar, Itzhak, and the girl in the red coat.
As I glanced in the rearview mirror and merged onto the Gardiner, I remember the initial question, and it becomes obvious. These songs are important to all of us because they are time capsules of the most romantic sentiment of all– what we might be.