Film music minus movies loses impact

Hamilton Spectator,
Saturday, September 24, 1977

For the opening concert in its du Maurier Pops series held last evening at Hamilton Place, the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra was under the direction of Miklos Rozsa. Indeed Rozsa not only conducted, but he supplied the full complement of music played.

An American of Hungarian origin, Rozsa has been Hollywood-oriented in the field of film music since the 1940s. Music for Spellbound, Ben Hur and Quo Vadis were among his most successful scores for the film industry.

The second half of last evening's program was devoted entirely to this form of background music. Somehow once divorced from the pictorial, the music loses its impact.

Rozsa is a highly-skilled orchestrator, though his reliance on excessive percussion and heavy brass for effects does detract to some extent. But, perhaps, this is really a major asset, for much of the material heard was fragmentary and lacking in skilful development.

Rhythm is essentially of a basic nature, sentimentality is highly exploited, and lush sounds pervade constantly.

One also found these traits in the Overture to a Symphony Orchestra, Hungarian Serenade, and Theme, Variations and Finale, the three non-film pieces which formed the first half of the program. The material here scarcely differed from that used in the film music. Nor did the craftsmanship offer anything much more venturesome. One felt all the works lacked that tough grain of creative genius which separates the writer of music from the composer.

The distance from the lyrical pathos of Spellbound to the tonal and rhythmic excitement of the Ben Hur music proved to be very slight indeed. And yet one had to credit Miklos Rozsa for a luxury of shifting sounds and a good many pleasant moments.