This Sunday Elder Music column was launched in December of 2008. By May of the following year, one commenter, Peter Tibbles, had added so much knowledge and value to my poor attempts at musical presentations that I asked him to take over the column. He's been here each week ever since delighting us with his astonishing grasp of just about everything musical, his humor and sense of fun. You can read Peter's bio here and find links to all his columns here.
Classical music has been used in numerous films but there are a certain few where the music has been inextricably linked to them. I'm going to feature some of those today. I imagine you know all of these, but it's fun to revisit them.
“Elvira Madigan” is the only film on the list today that I haven’t seen, however, it does include Mozart’s music so I’ve included it. The music is his Piano Concerto No.21, the second movement.
THE LONE RANGER
I haven’t seen a film of “The Lone Ranger” but I watched the TV program enough times when I was young so I think that counts.
There's an old saying that anyone who can listen to Rossini’s overture to his opera “William Tell”, and not think of “The Lone Ranger” is a civilised person indeed. I guess that makes me uncivilised. I don't think I'm alone.
Of course, when you listen to the complete overture you might be sitting there thinking, when does the famous bit kick in? Quite some time into the piece, is the answer.
“Diva” is a French film that’s worth searching for if you haven’t seen it. It’s about a reclusive opera singer, played by Wilhemenia Fernandez, and an obsessive fan who wants to record her. The piece of music featured throughout is the aria Ebben Ne andrò lontana from Catalani’s opera “La Wally”.
THE LADY KILLERS
“The Lady Killers” is an entertaining tale of a bunch of crooks who pretend to be a string quintet to fool their landlady while they are plotting. What could possibly go wrong? The piece they play, and when I say play I mean play a record of, is a string quintet by Boccherini.
Old Boccers wrote music for a group called the Font String Quartet. He liked to play with the lads himself, so he added an extra cello part for himself and thus created a string quintet.
His most famous is the one used in the film, String Quintet in E major, G. 275, the third movement, a minuet.
2001" A SPACE ODYSSEY
Just about everyone knows the start of this film. The music used over the initial sequence is a small part of Richard Strauss’s Also Sprach Zarathustra.
It's a good thing that Stanley Kubrick only used this first bit because, to put no fine point on it, the rest of it is quite tedious – and it does go on for quite some time, so we're spared that.
So, here is just the first bit of the first movement of the tone poem by Richard Strauss called Also Sprach Zarathustra.
Do films get any more British stiff-upper-lippery than Brief Encounter? No, they don’t. It’s probably the most passionate film ever made where nothing actually happens.
It all doesn’t happen to the sound of Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No. 2, mostly the second movement.
THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION
This is a rare recent film that’s on the list of a lot of people’s favorites, including mine. (Rare because there would be few recent films that most of us would even consider for that list – or is that just me?)
There is a scene where prison inmate Andy (Tim Robbins) locks himself in the warden’s office and broadcasts to the entire prison the Letter Duet from Mozart’s “The Marriage of Figaro”. His friend Red (Morgan Freeman) says, “For the briefest of moments, every last man at Shawshank felt free”.
"The Sting" brought the music of Scott Joplin back into the spotlight where it’s remained since. That was a bit odd because the period in which the film is set is some decades after Scott’s music was popular. Doesn’t matter.
The tune that was probably considered the main theme of the film is The Entertainer.
THE ADVENTURES OF PRISCILLA, QUEEN OF THE DESERT
In case you’re unaware, Priscilla is the name of the bus used by the main characters to travel from Sydney to Alice Springs. During the journey Felicia (Guy Pearce) got on top of the bus and sang along to Joan Sutherland performing E'strano Ah fors'e lui Sempre libera from Verdi’s opera “La Traviata”.
DEATH IN VENICE
“Death in Venice” used the music of Mahler quite extensively, sampling a couple of his symphonies. The biggest chunk was the fourth movement of Symphony No. 5. Like much of Mahler, this does go on for a bit so you could probably go and make a cup of tea or coffee. Perhaps cook some toast.