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Hollywood In Vienna: Tales Of Mystery & A Tribute To James Newton Howard

posted Nov 5, 2015, 1:53 AM by Michael Hollands
This year's Hollywood In Vienna was my very first live Vienna concert experience and I was extremely excited. The feeling of excitement was well-founded since I knew I was going to experience something memorable. This was no ordinary concert for me, it was a night that celebrated the music of one of the biggest and best composers the industry has ever seen.

In early 2015 the announcement was made that none other than James Newton Howard was going to receive the Max Steiner Film Music Achievement Award and many fans could not wait to finally attend the concert. On October 16th 2015 it finally happened and the Hollywood In Vienna Gala Evening took place.

This year's event was named Tales Of Mystery and in the first part of the concert, the audience attending in a sold out Wiener Konzerthaus, got to experience a large selection of well-known and great pieces of music. Conductor Keith Lockhart, the ORF Radio Symphony Orchestra and the Neue Wiener Stimmen choir plus all guest performers were really on fire that night. It was a fantastic concert from start to finish. I am not only talking about the quality of the music and the spot on performances. It was furthermore the entire set design, the lighting and every other factor that made it a very special evening.

Conductor Keith Lockhart kicked things off with "The Hollywood In Vienna Fanfare". The first piece of the night, a suite as a matter of fact, was Franz Waxmans' classic score for Alfred Hitchcock's film Rebecca, followed by another suite of John Debney's wonderful Phantom Manor, which was a world premiere performance and a really well executed one. There was simply a superb selection of music for the Tales Of Mystery part. From Alan Silvestri's Death Becomes Her  "End Credits" to the brilliant "Carol Ann's Theme" from Jerry Goldsmith's Poltergeist. Another very effective score had a world premiere in Vienna: IT by Richard Bellis who was also in attendance that night. His great "Main Title" and the theme for Pennywise were performed really well.

Alice In Wonderland by the great Danny Elfman was another wonderful addition. "Alice's Theme" was performed beautifully by orchestra and choir. Yet, the best pieces of the first part of the night were yet to come. Perfume: The Story Of A Murderer saw a fantastic vocal performance by the amazing Daniela Fally. The first part of the concert brought such a big variety and many great pieces by fantastic composers were presented to the audience. There were quite a few standout pieces and Hans Zimmer's brilliant "Chevaliers De Sangreal" from The Da Vinci Code certainly was one of those.

One of the most effective, frightening and simply outstanding scores in film history has to be Jerry Goldsmith's The Omen. A score that is absolutely unique and sensational. "The Omen Suite" was brilliantly conducted and orchestra and choir were simply phenomenal. The combination of Goldsmith's "Main Title" and other moments of choral brilliance from the movie resulted in one of the evening's most memorable performances. After the incredibly intense suite, the audience got to revistit Marc Shaiman's Adam's Family  with another nice suite which ended the first part of the night.

Before I go into detail about the second part of the concert, I would like to mention that the producers of Hollywood In Vienna decided to incorporate a great tribute to the late James Horner, who received the Max Steiner Award in 2013. James was not only one of the most brilliant composers ever but most certainly one of the most influential and inspiring ones. The tribute was very touching to say the least. "Rose's Theme" from James' Titanic score was performed on the piano and on screen the audience got to see a part of James' moving award acceptance speech of 2013. A heartbreaking moment for sure!

The time had come to celebrate the music and career of one of the most respected and gifted composers ever: James Newton Howard. Conductor Keith Lockhart, the orchestra and choir did an incredible job to perform one of James' very best pieces from The Last Airbender. The cue "The Wave" started the James Newton Howard Tribute and it was a magnificent experience!


A Tribute To James Newton Howard

A medley of James' scores followed and it was comprised of no less than seven of his scores and it clearly showed the versatility and genius of this composer. From Wyatt Earp to King Kong, Peter Pan, Lady In The Water, Dinosaur, Hidalgo and Atlantis. Those seven scores represent some of James' best work ever. Signs certainly was another great highlight and the suite, which contained James' "Main Title" and parts of “The Hand Of Fate” was outstanding. This was thrilling to say the least.

Of all the scores James has written so far, I consider The Village to be my personal favorite and I was extremely happy to see it performed that night. “The Gravel Road” was a great choice for the concert and it was played just beautifully. The Village and Defiance were presented in a suite as well and the transition to "Nothing Is Impossible" from Defiance was seamless.

The night pretty much covered it all, from moments of great excitement and beauty to very soft ones. Pretty Woman contained moments of absolute beauty followed by James' extremely moving theme for The Prince Of Tides. Louise Dearman did a superb job singing "Places That Belong To You" from this very movie. Those were really lovely moments.

The night just kept getting better and better and some of the best moments were yet to come! From Maleficent, one of James' very finest achievements of recent years, to the awesome performance of Blood Diamond and the splendid "Suite" of Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. Both Maleficent and Blood Diamond were world premieres and the orchestra and choir delivered big time! All of those pieces delivered some of the evening's most amazing musical moments. What a highlight! The audience loved it and rightfully so!

Slowly but surely, the wonderful concert was coming to an end, but of course it could not end without "The Hanging Tree" from The Hunger Games. This was a massive performance that must have given goosebumps to pretty much everybody in the audience. Simply amazing.

Basically, the concert provided one great moment after another and after "The Chariot Ceremony" also from The Hunger Games, James accepted the Max Steiner Film Music Achievement Award and gave a touching acceptance speech. After all those great moments, the night ended with Brian McKnight singing "For The First Time", a lovely song James wrote for the movie One Fine Day.


James Newton Howard receiving a huge standing ovation

I have said it many times before, but I simply cannot point out enough what a fantastic concert and great night this was. It was very special and it meant a lot to me to be able to experience it live. The musical selection was great, the set design and lighting were amazing and it complimented everything nicely. On top of that, Steven Gätjen did a great job as the evening's host! Conductor Keith Lockhart, the ORF Radio Symphony Orchestra, the Neue Wiener Stimmen choir and every guest performer simply did an excellent job and gave us many moments to remember. Everything was put together and executed so well. Congratulations to everybody of Hollywood In Vienna and let me thank you for making this event possible and of course for honoring the fantastic and brilliant James Newton Howard!



photo credit: Ludwig Schedl