Since the beginning of the talkies, film directors have turned to classical music for their soundtracks. Whether it’s Beethoven, Mozart, Rachmaninoff, Richard Strauss, Mascagni, Puccini, or Bach, opuses of almost every famous composer have added emotional depth to hundreds of films.
With fascinating clips, witty commentary, and piano demonstrations, concert pianist and movie fanatic Rachel Franklin delves into the magic of some of the greatest film music ever composed (even when it was unintentional).
January 24 Mozart Goes to Hollywood
Directors have long picked great concert music to enhance and underpin their films. Max Reinhardt’s gloriously extravagant 1935 film of A Midsummer Night’s Dream used re-orchestrated works by Felix Mendelssohn. If there are corsets and wigs, it must be Handel. Mozart projects aristocratic elegance, Wagner is all about might, and Rachmaninoff signals the weepiest of romances. Classical music can persuade us we’re experiencing history, identity, and culture—but is it really all in the ears? Franklin explores the impact film music can have on our subconscious responses, illustrated by some of the most iconic classical music moments in film history.
January 31 The Myth of Beethoven
Why Beethoven—and why so much of him? Dive into Beethoven’s very busy side-gig, providing the soundtrack of hundreds of films. His musical brand is so embedded in Western culture that most of the time we don’t even notice he’s secretly driving our movie experience. What cultural signals does it send us when a director uses a well-known Beethoven work, and is the composer’s sublime inspiration simply being used as a substitute for the lack of it on screen?
February 7 Classical Crossovers
Shostakovich, Bernstein, Copland, Corigliano, Gershwin, Walton, and Prokofiev—each a 20th-century giant of the concert hall—all composed superb movie music. Writing for film was very attractive to many concert composers: they saw film as an important medium, and their experiments in crafting new composing techniques for the screen influenced later soundtrack superstars such as John Williams.
February 14 Lights, Camera, Composer!
In an age in which classical music gets co-opted for almost any commercial purpose, a swipe from a great composer doesn’t need the remotest connection to the screenplay to be effective. As the fade-out to her series, Franklin surveys the astonishingly varied use of concert masterpieces in film, from slasher and sci-fi to satire and gangster genres.
British-born Franklin has been a featured speaker for organizations including the Library of Congress and NPR, exploring intersections among classical and jazz music, film scores, and the fine arts.