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Do You Know the Score?

menorah_logoOne of my favorite summer traditions is Menorah’s annual outing to the Colorado Music Festival, followed by a gala reception at the home of Josh and Ellen Taxman.

This summer’s event may be the best yet. The opening night concert includes a tribute to Jewish composers, “The Sound of the Movies: Masters of the Film Score,” which is part of CMF’s Rediscovered Masters series focusing on the work of Jewish musicians victimized by anti-Semitism. The $60 cost includes group tickets (Section A seats), regularly $50, and tickets to the wine, cheese and dessert reception.

Erich Korngold, the composer of the Oscar-winning score for "The Adventures of Robin Hood," which will be performed by the CMF on June 30.
Erich Korngold, the composer of the Oscar-winning score for “The Adventures of Robin Hood,” which will be performed by the CMF on June 30.

Prior to the concert, I will be presenting the free Talk in the Tent at 6:30, describing the work of Jewish composers who created the scores for the greatest Hollywood films of the 1930s through the 1950s.

And on Sunday, June 23 at 4 pm, I will be at the Boedecker Theater introducing a documentary on the same subject, “Hollywood Sound: Music for the Movies.”

This intelligently written and well-edited documentary explicates the craft of film scoring and explores the legacy of seven talented composers (all Jewish) whose music redefined the classic Hollywood film.

Although the film composers of Hollywood’s Golden Years are virtually unknown to moviegoers today, the titles of the classic films whose scores they composed are legendary: composers such as German-born Franz Waxman (The Bride of Frankenstein, Sunset Boulevard); Hungarian-born Miklos Rozsa (Spellbound); Austrian-born Erich Wolfgang Korngold (Adventures of Robin Hood, Kings Row ); Austrian-born Max Steiner (Casablanca, Gone with the Wind); Russian-born Dimitri Tiomkin (High Noon); and American-born composers Bernard Herrmann (Citizen Kane, Vertigo) and Alfred Newman (Wuthering Heights).

Even less well known is the fact that virtually all of these great classically trained composers were Jewish. In a collision of circumstances, brilliant classical composers were fleeing Europe for their lives at the same time that Hollywood was maturing. Eager for employment and without any prejudice against this new popular art form, these immigrant composers found safe haven in sunny California, did some of their best work, created what came to be known as the Hollywood sound, and transformed cinema.

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About Kathryn Bernheimer

Director of Menorah: Arts, Culture and Education at the Boulder JCC. The former film and theater critic for the Boulder Daily Camera, Kathryn is the author of "The Fifty Greatest Jewish Movies" and "The Fifty Funniest Films of All Time."

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