Prior to next week’s opening night gala featuring Yo-Yo Ma, the New York Philharmonic is offering a week of events dedicated to film scoring, including screenings backed by live music of “2001: A Space Odyssey” and clips from Alfred Hitchcock thrillers.
amNewYork spoke to conductor Constantine Kitsopoulos, who will be making his Philharmonic debut with “Hitchcock!”
Are you a Hitchcock fan? I became a Hitchcock fan a few years ago when I first learned “Psycho” in order to do it live with orchestra. When I was growing up, I avoided thrillers, horror movies and anything with violence. I didn’t like the feeling of being scared or in suspense. “Psycho” opened up the world of Hitchcock to me. I’ve been a fan ever since. I think my favorite is “Vertigo.” Bernard Herrmann’s music is almost Wagnerian in scope, and the cinematography and acting are so wonderful.
What makes the music in his films right for an evening like this? Music was very important to Hitchcock. His integration of music, color, script, acting, editing, etc., is the closest thing in cinema to what Wagner referred to as “Gesamtkunstwerk,” that is, the organic combination of all aspects of a piece of art. His work with Herrmann was a special collaboration. ... The composers he worked with were a sort of bridge between European and the newly emerging American musical traditions. New York, as a place that has always welcomed immigrants, is an important part of that idea.
To what extent will the films be integrated with the live performances? The film excerpts will be projected above the orchestra as it plays the original music from each scene, live. The audience will be able to hear the music in extraordinary detail.
What was the music’s role in Hitchcock’s films? Herrmann referred to the scene as the melody and the music as the accompaniment. Music in film heightens the emotion and mood of a scene. It can tell the audience what a character is feeling without a word being spoken. Music can build suspense like no other filmmaking element. A well edited scene jumps off the screen with the right music.
How do you think the music holds up today? The music in Hitchcock films is even more important to listen to today as it has influenced so many other film composers. It’s beautifully written for the orchestra and in fact holds up even without the visual aspect. Just as Mahler is played more than ever, so should these scores continue to be programmed.
“Hitchcock!” plays Tuesday night and Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. at Avery Fisher Hall. nyphil.org, 212-875-5656.