Epic Hollywood Film Music @ Dvořák Hall Prague

Behind-the-scenes with producer James Fitzpatrick

Have you ever left a movie theater humming music that you heard in the film? Behind every box office hit (and even behind the ones that flop), there's often an equally great music soundtrack. Nowadays, it's the soundtracks of Descendents, Guardians of the Galaxy, Fifty Shades of Grey or Frozen (for kids) that rock contemporary music charts. However, in Golden Age of Hollywood – the 40s, 50s, and 60s – the best film music came from one main source, the renowned Hungarian composer Miklós Rózsa. With epic films such as Ben Hur, El Cid and Quo Vadis in his repertoire, Rózsa made a long-lasting contribution to the music of the cinema.

On September 28, a selection from Rózsa's musical legacy will be performed live by the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra. The Epic Hollywood Film Music Concert starts at 19:30 at the Dvořák Hall of the Rudolfinum and will last two hours, as long as a full-length cinema production.

Prague.TV went behind-the-scenes to speak with producer James Fitzpatrick to learn more about the music at the heart of the concert, and why Prague provides the ideal location to bring the classics from Hollywood's Golden Age to the general public.

Recording in Prague since 1989, Fitzpatrick is the producer for the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra, which has a 70-year history in the Czech Republic. Started just after the end of World War II as the in-house orchestra for the huge Barrandov Film Studios, the orchestra, under the name The Film Symphony Orchestra, played music for film and animation productions made at the world famous Prague studios. Renamed by Fitzpatrick in 1992, the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra nowadays records CD albums, major international films, television series, video games, and even ring tones for clients & media productions all around the world.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the city of Prague stands behind only Los Angeles and London as a top location for recording film and TV scores, due to its extensive network of classical musicians from the city's numerous orchestras and its variety of authentic recording studios. The Dvořák Hall and Smecky Music Studios being two of the most popular.

When we asked Fitzpatrick why he chose Rózsa's music for the concert, he said, “The concert is almost my way of saying thank you to the musicians, you've been fantastic. Let's do a concert of some of your favorite music. Of all the composers that they perform, they feel that Rózsa writes music that appeals to them. It's dramatic, it's romantic, and it's got a passion that Prague musicians really love. And they play Rózsa better than any other musicians in the world.”

The City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra is 99% Czech, and includes the “crème de la crème” of the nation's classical musicians, selected by Fitzpatrick from the main Czech orchestras. The orchestra has recorded CDs for contemporary artists like Katherine Jenkins, Il Divo and Jonas Kaufmann. They've recorded Roman Polanski's Oliver Twist, The Duchess and Star Wars: The Clone Wars. They've also performed live concerts of film music under the direction of conductor Nic Raine with guest artist Itzhak Perlman in Chile and Brazil, regular tours in Germany, concerts for BBC's Planet Earth series and the Austrian Sound of Hollywood tour in about 15 different cities.

If Epic Hollywood in Prague is a success, the orchestra may play similar concerts in Spain, Hungary and England.

Although Rózsa (1907–1995) composed his first film score nearly 80 years ago in London, he later moved to Hollywood for the remainder of his career. But he never forgot his classical roots from training at the Leipzig Conservatory. Rózsa's ability to bring classical scores to the masses through his work during Hollywood's Golden Age, has earned him a long-lasting international legacy. With over 90 original scores in Rózsa’s filmography, the Epic Hollywood program takes pieces from a variety of his scores, including “The Parade of the Charioteers,” probably Rózsa’s most often performed piece from his Academy-awarding winning score for Ben Hur.

The City Philharmonic musicians have exceptional sight-reading skills. Since they've recorded Rózsa's music and enjoy playing it, they're enthusiastic and passionate. Preparing for the concert requires one full eight-hour day of practice along with a three-hour dress rehearsal in the Dvořák Hall. Highlights of the concert include solos by world-class violinist Lucie Švehlová, the concert master. Fitzpatrick himself is looking forward to hearing scores even from epic movie flops, citing the film Sodom and Gomorrah as a prime example. “I don't think [Rózsa] wrote a bad score. He wrote great scores for a few awful movies.” He is looking forward to some of the quieter pieces, such as music from The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes with a gorgeous violin solo by Švehlová.

When we asked Fitzpatrick if classically trained musicians like those in the City Philharmonic Orchestra prefer to stick to Mozart, Fitzpatrick says it's the opposite. Many of the musicians in the orchestra are under 30. “For a younger generation of musicians, they love all types of music and because of all the recordings we do anything from film scores to jazz albums to rock and pop tracks. As long as the music is well-written, well-scored and well-orchestrated, they love the variety. It doesn't have to be always the same music. That's what's turning young people off from going to classic concerts.”

In the past ten years, classical orchestras have realized that they have to expand their repertoire in order to get young people into concerts. Now, there are many concert options to choose from, ranging from performances like the video game concert that CNSO played in Karlin in the summer to the big Star Wars concert being planned for the end of the year. Fitzpatrick admits that there are almost too many concerts nowadays. Yet he still says, “You can always listen to something on your I-pod, but nothing beats seeing a live orchestra, whether they're playing Mozart or whether we're doing stuff for a heavy metal band. It doesn't matter. The people get to see it live.”

For those who'd like to hear a live orchestra perform in one of Prague's most renowned concert halls, but aren't willing to sit through an evening of Mozart or Beethoven, don't miss your chance to hear one of the most recorded orchestras in the world perform some of their greatest hits. Epic Hollywood promises to appeal to movie goers who like the classics, classical music devotees and music lovers in general, even Frozen fans.

Tickets: From 490 CZK, available through the Ticketpro network or at the Dvořák Hall box office.

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