KFMF marks Elliot Goldenthal’s 70th with his ‘Symphony No. 3’

By Ray Bennett

American composer Elliot Goldenthal’s affinity with Poland and that nation’s cultural icons reached another pinnacle with his ‘Symphony No. 3’, which will be performed as part of the Krakow Film Music Festival’s ‘Traces of Memory’ evening at the Krakow Philharmonic Concert Hall on May 22.

The 43-minute work is inspired by words of the Polish poet and activist Barbara Sadowska, who died aged 46 in 1986, three years after the death of her son Grzegorz Przemyk, aged 19.

The young man’s death became emblematic of the world’s struggle against authoritarianism as it is believed widely that he was beaten and murdered by communist authorities in response to his mother’s political protests.

Goldenthal (pictured top) had long intended to write a symphony for voice and orchestra using Titania’s ‘Ode to the Environment’ from ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’. That changed when he was invited to create a piece using Barbara Sadowska’s words for the Beethoven Academy Orchestra, which was founded in 2005 by Elzbieta Penderecka, widow of the late Polish composer Krzysztof Penderecki. The orchestra had collaborated with him before and other Oscar-winning including Hans Zimmer and Jan A. P. Kaczmarek,

New York-based Goldenthal became acquainted with Krzysztof Penderecki (pictured with him below) and Elzbieta Penderecka on frequent visits to Poland in connection with the influential Film Music Festival held annually in Kraków since 2008.

His first visit was in 2012 and in 2015 he was the inaugural winner of the festival’s Wojciech Kilar Award, named for the Polish pianist and composer who died in 2013 aged 81. Kilar wrote the music for more than 130 films including Francis Ford Coppola’s ‘Bram Stoker’s Dracula’, Jane Campion’s ’Portrait of a Lady’ and Roman Polanski’s Oscar-winning film ‘The Pianist’.

The festival assembled a council of experts to choose the first recipient of the Kilar Award and organisers said Goldenthal was an almost unanimous choice. ‘In his music,’ the FMF said, ‘Goldenthal balances between dissonant, atonal music and classical harmony, often during a single phrase, blending traditional orchestral music with jazz and rock, as well as electronic music.”

The festival noted that the composer is comfortable working on pieces that are extensive symphonically and chorally as well as more ambient and intimate as he creates both traditional and unusual compositions: ‘Goldenthal is highly valued for his unique, dark, and almost dense style. None of the contemporary composers of film music use their talent in creating works in such a variety of musical genres.’

Goldenthal won the Academy Award for his score to ‘Frida’, directed by his partner Julie Taymor, who created the original ‘The Lion King’ on Broadway. He wrote the music for Taymor’s ‘Titus’, ‘Across the Universe’, ‘The Tempest’, ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ and ‘The Glorias’. He was Oscar-nominated for best score for Neil Jordan’s ‘Interview with a Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles’ and ‘Michael Collins’.

He also provided the music for Jordan’s ‘The Butcher Boy’ and ‘The Good Thief’ amid a range of films that include ‘Alien3’, ‘Batman Forever’, ‘Batman & Robin’ and ‘Heat’. Busy in the concert hall, Goldenthal composes chamber music and writes symphonies, ballets and operas. As well as the Oscar, he has won two Golden Globes, three Grammy Awards and two Tony Awards

At the 2018 FMF, Goldenthal spoke of his admiration of Poland’s great military hero Tadeusz Kościuszko, a general and architect who played a significant role in Polish and American history. In tribute, he wrote ‘Concerto for Trumpet and Strings’, which was performed at the NOSPR Concert Hall in Katowice and the ICE Kraków Congress Centre.

The dedication was related to the first time the composer went to Kraków and heard the hourly live bugle calls that have been heard for centuries from the tower of St. Mary’s Church in the city’s Grand Square,‘They echo Kościuszko’s values,’ Goldenthal said. ‘He was a great hero of the American Revolution and he instilled the values of social issues that are ever more important today. These issues come up every twenty years or so and it seems like we go down the same dark road but Kościuszko still has the ability to inspire.’

After the Beethoven Academy Orchestra approached him for the Sadowska commission, Goldenthal became affected deeply by the poet’s work. He spent two years on an intense and moving vocal symphony that was to have debuted in Poland in August 2020 until the coronavirus pandemic got in the way. Along with everything that happened as a result of Covid 19, the world situation regarding authoritarianism has only grown more threatening. ‘Symphony No. 3’ challenges that boldly.

The ‘Traces of Memory’ concert programme was inspired by two anniversaries: The 30th anniversary of the Polish release of ‘Schindler’s List’, with the Oscar-winning score by John Williams, and Goldenthal’s 70th birthday. The concert also will feature works by Krzysztof Penderecki, Antoni Komasa-Łazarkiewicz and the band Kroke. The concert is organised in cooperation with the Krakow Philharmonic and the United States Consulate in Krakow, which has been a part of the city for 50 years.

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Duane Eddy – meeting a rock legend in the shade

By Ray Bennett

In the 1950s, Duane Eddy, who died on April 30 aged 86, was one of the American rock stars most popular in the United Kingdom. With his band the Rebels, his hit singles ‘Rebel Rouser’, ‘Peter Gunn’, ‘Ramrod’, ‘Because They’re Young’ and ‘Forty Miles of Bad Road’ made him red-hot with teenagers along with hits of Elvis Presley, Bill Haley, Little Richard, Buddy Holly and the Everly Brothers.

Little more than a decade later, it was a different story. Continue reading

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There are film composers and then there’s Elliot … Goldenthal

By Ray Bennett

Oscar-winning American composer Elliot Goldenthal, who turns 70 today, said that the first time he saw the sheet music for Krzysztof Penderecki’s ‘Threnody to the Victims of Hiroshima for 52 Strings’ when he was 17, he turned pale and started to tremble. ‘It was a deep moment. I realised that I had seen my first real film score.’ 

Speaking at the 2018 Krakow Film Music Festival, with the venerable late Polish composer sitting next to him on a speaker’s panel, he described spending an afternoon at Penderecki’s home with its bucolic surroundings. ‘We didn’t exchange many words but the silences – in music we call them rests – the rests were more poignant,’ Goldenthal said. ‘He has the ability to inspire. His music goes out, he doesn’t know where the wind will take it. For me, it took it to Brooklyn when I was growing up.’ Continue reading

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Songwriter Steve Dorff in praise of Clint Eastwood

By Ray Bennett

American songwriter and composer Steve Dorff, who turns 75 today, has a huge number of screen credits including TV series such as ‘Murphy Brown’, Spenser for Hire’ and ‘Major Dad’. In a Q&A for The Hollywood Reporter, he told me his big break came in 1979 when Clint Eastwood and music supervisor Snuffy Garrett asked him and collaborator Milton Brown to contribute a song to the film ‘Every Which Way But Loose’.  Continue reading

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Henry Mancini and the best strip club in London

By Ray Bennett

A memory of the great film composer Henry Mancini, who was born 100 years ago today:

London’s Soho strip clubs in the Sixties (so I’m told) were shabby and sleazy, compared to which the long-gone Raymond Revuebar on Walker’s Court, run by local mogul Paul Raymond, was classy and good fun. Continue reading

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Going drink for drink with ‘Dallas’ star Howard Keel

By Ray Bennett

In 1981 when he was 62, Howard Keel’s days as the star of great Hollywood musicals were long gone. He was living in Oklahoma with his third wife Judy when he received a phone call. ‘I was pretty much washed up in Hollywood by the late Seventies,’  he told me. ‘We were packed ready to head off to retirement in Colorado.’  Continue reading

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The sad fate of Carolyn Jones, the original Morticia Addams

By Ray Bennett

The Ringwood Music and Dramatic Society production of the hit Broadway musical ‘The Addams Family’ this week is the latest in a long run of versions of the original one-panel cartoon series created by cartoonist Charles Addams that first appeared in the New Yorker magazine in 1938 and ran for years. 

The tales of a wealthy family who are not aware that their macabre tastes are unusual spawned a hit 1960s television series that has remained a cult favourite, sequels and specials, two feature films and the successful Broadway musical that will be staged by the RMDS at The Barn, Ringwood School, April 10-13. Continue reading

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Lauren Bacall, a friend’s death and a total eclipse of the sun

By Ray Bennett

LONDON – Lauren Bacall was wrapping up the pre-Broadway run of ‘Applause’, the stage musical based on the feature film ‘All About Eve’, at Detroit’s Fisher Theatre in February 1970.

After the final curtain in a nearby club rented for the night, my Windsor Star colleague Ron Base and I sat in a booth enjoying the free food and booze waiting for our promised interview with Bacall for a freelance story in The Toronto Telegram and another for our own paper. Continue reading

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Marlon Brando: the man behind the myth

By Ray Bennett

LONDON – The myth surrounding Marlon Brando, who was born 100 years ago today, has centred not only on his brilliant acting in films such as ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’ (with Vivien Leigh above),  ‘On the Waterfront’, ‘The Godfather’ and ‘Apocalypse Now’ but also his eccentric ways and latterly immense girth.

It’s instructive to recall what he was like as a young man when he burst into worldwide fame on stage and screen. When he made his first movie – ‘The Men’ (below left) in 1950, a story about disabled war veterans – Brando spent six weeks living in a hospital ward of paraplegic soldiers. Determined to recreate their reality on film, he shared their lives and won their confidence. Continue reading

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Lesley-Anne Down on filming with Patrick Swayze

By Ray Bennett

LONDON – Lesley-Anne Down, who turns 70 today, was a stark contrast to Patrick Swayze, her co-star in the hit 1985 U.S. Civil War miniseries ‘North and South’. In interviews for Canadian TV Guide, the enormously likeable but very intense young American actor told me back then, ‘The only thing that will make my career last is if I always deliver one hundred percent.’ The English actress, famous for the 1970s British series  ‘Upstairs, Downstairs’, confirmed the actor’s high energy and drive drily: ‘Oh, very, yes.’ Continue reading

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