Every Friday night we smooth our way into the weekend with music, the universal language. These selections demonstrate that despite what is being passed off as art today, there is plenty of really good music available. Come along and enjoy.
Next weekend at the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra performs music from Fantasia.
This 1940 film consists of animation set to eight musical pieces. On the American Film Institute’s listing of the top 100 films of all time Fantasia ranks #58.
In 1937 Walt Disney began work on a Silly Symphony cartoon short of Paul Dukas’ “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.” Disney happened to meet Leopold Stokowski who accepted the chance to conduct the score for the short.
Mickey’s looks changed. For the short he got pupils in his eyes (a first for him), a bit more bulk to his frame, and a greater dose of cuteness.
Production costs started to beef up, too. The project was beyond the normal price for a “cartoon” of just a few minutes in length. Not too worry. Disney improvised.
Instead of a short, Disney changed plans and decided to make a full-blown “concert feature.” It took Disney, Stokowski, music critic Deems Taylor and story directors Joe Grant and Dick Huemer three weeks to finally choose the musical selections for Fantasia.
This week we feature takes from other artists on the Fantasia soundtrack.
And we absolutely must begin with…
Every Sunday on my way to church I listen to a weekly broadcast of an old “American TOP 40” radio program with Casey Kasem on WRIT-FM On last week’s show Kasem did a short feature on Stokowski.
Seems the conductor loved to showcase the works of new, young, up and coming composers in his concerts back in the 20’s and 30’s. This didn’t always go over with the purists in his audience who would react by booing.
Stokowski never lost his composure. When boos rang out he merely tapped the podium with his baton, turned the pages and back, and started the piece all over again from the very beginning.
I wonder what Stokowski would have thought of this modern rendition of a classical piece used in Fantasia composed by Johann Sebastian Bach in the early 1830’s. It appeared in films such as 1931’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, 1933’s The Black Cat, and 1935’s The Raven. Appropriate for Fantasia? Those were horror films.
Disney was advised not to use it as the opening piece. He objected and placed it right at the beginning. There are great visuals including bows and strings, raindrops, waves, hills, mountains, clouds, flames and smoke.
Here’s Walter Murphy with a high-energy take of that classical recording.
Reports indicate Disney thought about showing the “Toccata and Fugue” section in a wide-screen, 3D format. That didn’t happen.
The “Dance of the Hours” portion of Fantasia included the unlikely combination of zoo animals and ballet dancers. You’ll recognize the music performed by the California Philharmonic Youth Orchestra.
Next, this Fantasia selection is one of the most beautiful pieces ever written. From “Also Sprach Zarathustra” fame, Deodato and “Ave Maria.”
That’s it for this week.
Have a great weekend.
For our closing number when it was played in theaters Disney wanted to spray perfume on the audience. But that, like the 3D idea, was never done due to worries about cost.
Not the way Disney would have done it, but very entertaining.
Brian Setzer and his Orchestra!