Pacific Symphony plays live, and lively, 'Star Trek'

Richard Kaufman
OC Register

It’s the summer of symphonic sci fi. Last week at the Hollywood Bowl, it was a screening of Stanley Kubrick’s “2001” with the Los Angeles Philharmonic performing the score live. Next week, the same players will have a go at “E.T.” at the same venue.

What is it about classical music and space? Kubrick gets some credit for getting it started with the bona fide classical score to “2001.” John Williams definitely cemented it with “Star Wars.” But Bernard Herrmann was at it way back in 1951 with his magnificent theremin-juiced score to “The Day the Earth Stood Still.”

The score is by Oscar-winner Michael Giacchino (who won it for “Up”) and it is certainly accomplished. The style is about what you’d expect: late 19th century Romanticism, early 20th century Modernism. There are lots of ostinatos (repeated rhythmic patterns) that drive the music forward. There is plenty of brass and percussion.

And there are soaring themes that fly above the intricate activity below. Giacchino’s main theme is particularly memorable, somewhat Brucknerian with a delicious harmonic turn in it midway. He transforms that theme and interweaves it throughout the movie, and that harmony change lights it up every time.

Principal pops conductor Richard Kaufman, an old hand at this type of thing, was on the podium and made it look easy, synchronizing seamlessly with the film. The Pacific Symphony had to play gobs of music and did so indefatigably, also athletically. The sound mix, between sound on film and the live sound, was good (and probably better than indoors at Segerstrom Concert Hall), though overall the sound was more than a little harsh.

Safe to say, the audience thoroughly enjoyed itself. The experience was a little like a drive-in movie with better sound and a more communal feeling. Laughter, cheering and clapping brought us all together, as did the real sense that a live performance was taking place.

Next up in the Pacific Symphony’s filmic scheme (in March) are indoor performances of a new score to the silent “Ben-Hur” (1925) by former Police drummer Stewart Copeland, who will also be on hand to participate.

Read the rest of the review here