Can a film composer write a concerto?

Can a film composer write a concerto?


norman lebrecht

June 29, 2015

Korngold did.

Likewise Rozsa and Waxman (both for Jascha Heifetz).

John Williams’s suite from Schindler’s List has been marketed as a concerto.

James Horner, who died in an air crash last week, has written a double concerto, modelled on Brahms.

Any good? Click here to find out.

Le nouveau monde<br />
the new world<br />
2006<br />
real : Terrence Malick<br />
James Horner</p>


  • Fanny says:

    John Williams wrote a tuba concerto

  • Kris says:

    Don’t forget that John Williams wrote actual concertos for a number of instruments… honorable mention to his Concerto for Horn and Orchestra!

  • Robert Levine says:

    Rosza wrote a viola concerto for Zukerman as well.

  • Mikey says:

    John Williams wrote a brilliant violin concerto, quite different from the film-score medley from Schindler’s List.

  • MacroV says:

    John Williams also wrote a real violin concerto. Heard Gil Shaham play it at Tanglewood back in 1997, and I believe he recorded it with the BSO and the composer.

    And Miklos Rozsa’s concerto can’t get promoted enough; it’s fantastic, IMHO much better than Korngold’s (and I have nothing against Korngold).

  • John Borstlap says:

    The tragedy is that since modernism, there are hardly any ‘official serious contemporary composers’ who can write convincingly for the orchestra; that is left to the commercial film composers who are asked to indulge in bad taste and flawed structure because that is what film music requires: it is merely mood setting and illustration. In his sympathetic ‘Pas de Deux’, Mr Horner did not fly very high:

    One has to respect the musicality and the craft, but to really write in a more or less oldfashioned orchestral style – Horner’s so-called ‘Double Concerto’ sounds like bland, cheap early 20C music – requires an entirely different mindset:

    No doubt classical music audiences will sigh with relief when exposed to film composers’ products trying their hand at ‘serious composition’, because there is not much beauty and expression to be had in the usual ‘new music’ that is occasionally presented. But to treat it as serious music, is stretching the case much too far.

    • pooroperaman says:

      ‘there are hardly any ‘official serious contemporary composers’ who can write convincingly for the orchestra’

      Birtwistle, Ades, Weir, Adams, Dove. And that’s just the first five who come to mind.

      • pooroperaman says:

        There’s also plenty of beauty in these composers’ works. For instance, Ades’s ‘Tevot’ and Weir’s ‘Moon and Star’.

        • John Borstlap says:

          I agree as to Weir…. With Ades I admire the cleverness with which he covers-up the lack of musical substance, so that he can get away with it, in spite of some admirable Bergian Wozzeck moments in his Tempest. But most of these people treat the orchestra as a sprintered band of soloists, which has become convention after 1945. And the orchestra is a harmonic, holistic medium.

      • John Borstlap says:

        Thank you, I have to correct: ‘…who can write convincingly for the orchestra in an older tonal style’, that was what I meant. Birtwistle writes brilliantly for the orchestra, all the nihilistic, monolithic terror he wants to express, his entire attempt to create nausea in audiences prepared to endure their shot of masochistic pain, comes across effectively.

        • pooroperaman says:

          Odd. I find his work moving and inspiring, not nauseating or terrifying.

          • John Borstlap says:

            … The bloody and pointless Minotaur? The Triumph of TIme which celebrated total apocalypse and THUS formed the centre piece of a royal gala where everybody happily hopped around? Gawain? etc. etc….. all pretentious neo-expressionism laid-on thick because it is the second time. This was a breed of composers fanatically hammering on the shitness of life and being paid and feted enthusiastically for it…. I attended a concert where a piano piece of HB was performed by one of his fans, Joanna McGregor, but she played very many wrong notes, some quarter or third of the text was just completely msised – maybe she held the score upside down – but nobody noticed or cared (I knew because I knew the page turner who could follow the music). So, a matter of taste really, and of standards. HB’s work has not much to do with musical culture, IMHO. (And not only of mine.)

  • Keith says:

    The violin concerto’s only a tiny piece of Williams’ concerto output; he’s written more than a dozen for various instruments. The tuba concerto is a particularly nice piece.

  • Kevin Lindsay says:

    Elmer Bernstein-‘Concerto for Two Christophers’ written for guitarist Christopher Parkening. Very cinematic-sounding, but some truly beautiful passages.

  • Lukaeber says:

    Seeing as how Shostakovich composed for film, I think the answer is a most definite yes.

  • Stephen Widder says:

    John Williams has also written a bassoon concerto!

  • Doctor Presume says:

    Michael Kamen wrote a couple (an electric guitar concerto for Eric Clapton, and one for saxophone for David Sanborn).

  • Tim says:

    Erm Walton, Vaughan Williams, Arnold, Bax…

  • Jeffrey Biegel says:

    Lalo Schifrin has written several. (We performed and recorded his ‘Concerto no. 2 “The Americas”) which ended up in a film soundtrack titled, ‘Something to Believe In’ produced by the late Lord Lew Grade. The concerto was one of three commissioned by the Steinway Foundation and was premiered in 1992 along with piano concerti by Lowell Liebermann (his 2nd) and Rodion Schedrin. The Schifrin is a fabulous work–not easy, but fantastic. Young pianists should learn it and present it to the public.

  • pooroperaman says:

    Britten, Shostakovich, Saint-Saens…

  • Herbert Pauls says:

    There are a number of fine concertos by the very prolific Castelnuovo-Tedesco that are quite riveting and delightful, and surely worth giving an airing from time to time. And the hugely gifted Andre Previn wrote a number of concertos especially for top-flight virtuosos.