Richard Kaufman 

Cinematic orchestrations

Richard Kaufman will serve as guest conductor when the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra performs passages from 2001: A Space Odyssey, Singin' in the Rain, Gone With the Wind, Citizen Kane, North by Northwest and King Kong on Sat., Aug. 16, at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre. The event, which features scenes from the movies, will be hosted by Turner Classic Movies' Robert Osborne.

How did you wind up choosing these movies?

John Gobberman, who is the producer of "Live from Lincoln Center," is one of the people who has a tremendous expertise in music and concert presentation in film and television. And John has created various concert presentations with symphony orchestras accompanying the actual film. In this case, John and I talked about what films would be the most exciting perhaps to present in a concert, paying tribute to what I feel is the best television station cable or otherwise on the air: Turner Classic Movies. I think everyone would agree that in great part, the music is what has helped to make these pictures so memorable, and in these cases, has become another character in the film.

Of those movies, what's the first one you remember seeing in the theater, and what impressed you most about the music?

I would say probably Gone With the Wind. I think that that movie, if someone says "Gone With the Wind," very possibly one of the first things that comes to mind are those four notes written by Max Steiner. Whenever you hear those four notes, you think of Rhett Butler, you think of Tara, all of it. It's similar to when you hear the four notes that John Williams wrote for Jaws. You see a shark, and you get a chill and it's instantaneous.

What kind of value can the audience get out of listening to film scores in this amphitheater, concert setting compared with watching a movie with the score?

Most of these scores were originally recorded in mono, on a single track. To hear the music played live by a symphony orchestra with the dialogue and sound effects still there, it makes the musical colors incredibly vivid, and you hear everything. To me, it's also exciting to see the musicians make the music because music is a visual experience. As we play the music by North by Northwest, this very exciting and dramatic music, you see the musicians excited playing it.

Let's play grumpy old man: Do you think film scores have gotten better, or worse, since the days of the film scores you'll be conducting?

I would say there are some very fine film scores being written today, but nowhere as many as there used to be. And I think that when you hear the scores of Max Steiner, Franz Waxman, Alfred Newman, Bernard Hermann – those scores have tremendous depth to them, and creatively and compositionally. I'm not sure if composers today ... I'm not sure how to put this ... frankly, I'm not sure if composers have the films to write to as those classic films.

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