‘Nevsky’ film score thrills
Before John Williams' music to "Star Wars," there was Sergei Prokofiev's score to "Alexander Nevsky." It's no wonder symphonic music is unparalleled when it comes to soundtracks. Nothing is more evocative, bringing life to images on the screen, from the most intimate glances to the most powerful scenes. Hollywood has long realized this. Can you name a favorite movie that does not feature orchestral music? I can't.
In concert: 8 p.m. Friday, 4 p.m. Sunday
Place: Blaisdell Concert Hall
Tickets: $22 to $73
Call: 792-2000 or Ticketmaster, 877-750-4400
From Russia comes "Alexander Nevsky," a 1938 film by director Sergei Eisenstein. Eisenstein, for the connoisseur, belongs in the silver screen hall of fame, author of the classic "Battleship Potemkin." When he took on "Nevsky," the director searched for music that would not only "reveal the appearances and subjects of objects, but also, and particularly, their special inner structure."
Prokofiev, who escaped the Russian Revolution of 1917, learned a few tricks about film-making in Hollywood during his exodus. His collaboration with Eisenstein was hailed as a great choral work in the Russian tradition. It even became a rallying cry for those living under the threat of invasion from Hitler.
The unified forces of the Honolulu Symphony Chorus will join the orchestra in this production, led by guest conductor Norichika Iimori. Think of Iimori as Prince Nevsky leading the choir in a fight against the enemy, in this case the invading Germans of the Middle Ages. There's oppression at first, and dissonant music depicting the unwelcome Teutonic knights. But soon after comes a call to arms: "Rise against the foe, Russian land, arise!" The tune becomes invigorating, and the icy wind seems to be tapering.
The eerie tuba announces the inevitable epic battle. Brass calls and choir shouts clash. The Russians come out victorious, at great sacrifice.
A woman searching the battlefield for her lover finds only immense sorrow, yet in her song she swears eternal fidelity to her warrior. This poignant moment will be highlighted by the brilliant Margaret Lattimore, from the prestigious Metropolitan Opera of New York.
Maestro Iimori will also lead an intimate section of the symphony in Tchaikovsky's "Serenade for Strings."
Think Tchaikovsky and you might think Nutcracker. The "Serenade" isn't that far off. It includes a waltz, a few nostalgic melodies and a hearty dose of cheerful folk tunes. Written in 1880, the "Serenade" is an homage to Mozart in its simplicity and clarity. It contrasts with the bombastic canons of the "1812 Overture," composed the same year. Tchaikovsky much preferred the former. He wrote to his sponsor, Madame von Meck, "The 'Overture' will be very noisy and have no artistic value, but I wrote the 'Serenade' from inner compulsion, from the heart."
Ignace "Iggy" Jang
is the Honolulu Symphony's concertmaster. His column will appear on the Monday prior to each concert of the season to illuminate works to be performed. E-mail comments and questions to Jang at firstname.lastname@example.org