Try to imagine the Dark Knight standing on that rooftop at the end of Tim Burton’s 1989 “Batman” without Danny Elfman’s brassy, ennobling crescendo.
Close your eyes and consider the depth of sadness in Burton’s 1990 “Edward Scissorhands” without the snow-globe loneliness captured in Elfman’s balletlike score.
Longtime collaborations between stylistically distinctive filmmakers and composers are nothing new in the world of cinema. But there has always been an astonishing synergy in the partnership between the unfettered imagination of director Tim Burton and the dreamy, music-box moods of Danny Elfman’s orchestral themes.
Taken together, Burton and Elfman’s movies — 15 of them in nearly 30 years, including “Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure,” “Corpse Bride” and “Alice In Wonderland”— are an engulfing, self-contained experience, otherworldly visions supported by sometimes-floating, sometimes-galloping musical majesty.
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It’s no wonder that Elfman, as he has said in interviews, has been asked more than once to allow his film scores to be played live in tribute concerts by symphony orchestras. But that’s not something he’s been willing to do.
The Seattle Symphony Orchestra, led by guest conductor John Mauceri — a former protégé of Leonard Bernstein and past music director of multiple opera companies, the American Symphony Orchestra (succeeding Leopold Stokowski) and the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra — presents “Danny Elfman’s Music from the Films of Tim Burton” on Friday and Saturday (June 27-28).
A celebration of a longstanding artistic alliance, the concert features suites derived and reorganized by Elfman from his own compositions for Burton’s films, while images of Burton’s feature-related artwork are seen on-screen.
“[Elfman]’s interested now in live performances of his music,” says Mauceri. “Having stepped down as a performer in Oingo Boingo [a rock band that called it quits in the 1990s], he committed his life to writing orchestral scores whose recordings he could completely control.”
Elfman’s prior reluctance to permit concert performances of his music was precisely because of his need to personally handle quality assurance — something a composer can’t have when the orchestra is in another city. His fortuitous introduction to Mauceri at a reception following the 2005 Carnegie Hall premiere of Elfman’s “Serenada Schizophrana” opened up new possibilities.
“I had a conversation with Danny about his Russian heritage and the Russian influences in his work: trails of Prokofiev and Shostakovich.
“We became friends. I ended up recording ‘Serenada Schizophrana,’ then Danny wrote a piece for me in 2007.”
From that start, Elfman agreed to work closely with Mauceri on a live presentation of film music. Elfman even sang some vocal parts at one 2013 performance.
“The concert came out of the success of Tim Burton’s artwork being shown in a number of museums,” Mauceri says. “That led to Danny and Tim agreeing to work together on a two-hour presentation. It was enormous work for both. People will hear music they’re familiar with, but they’ll also hear Danny re-imagining some of his cadenzas and transitions.
“We’ll show a sequence or two from the movies, but most of the time you’ll see Tim’s conceptual art. You’ll actually see his drawings of Batman, Penguin and Edward Scissorhands. You go to the very artistic source of the films.”
Tom Keogh: firstname.lastname@example.org