California Philharmonic “Music Movies” Review – Sunday Music Magic Unfolds for Happy Audience

The Disney Concert Hall hosted California Philharmonic’s “Movie Magic” show as part of their “Cool Music, Hot Spot”, bringing some of the most amazing Hollywood themes and music to a delighted crowd.

The audience was an array.  Everyone from suited couples, to truly casual shorts and t-shirt families.  All were welcomed.  The ages spanned also.  From youngings wanting to hear cartoons, to college kids ready for the famous, to the chic ready to cleanse the aural palate.

Disney Concert Hall

Maestro, Lead Us

Conductor Victor Vener is the perfect maestro for the event.  His larger-than-life personality and gregarious grin belong on the silver screen along with the legendary notes that he brings out of the gifted musicians.

Conductor Victor Vener

The afternoon starts with “Ben Hur” as Rozsa’s “Parade of the Charioteers”, builds to a rousing march.  It’s the perfect lead-in as the heavy beat brings the crowd back in time.

Vener tells stories between the pieces.  His charm is light and carefree.  He plays us as though we were another instrument in his orchestra, gently plucking our strings and massaging coo’s.

‘Cause You Gotta Dance

This time he explains the next piece, Gershwin’s “An American in Paris”.  He shares an anecdote about Gene Kelly’s dancing and women in the matinee audience fidget and blush.

The happy crowd

The longer-than-average piece plays in full; and delights.  Around the spacious room glimpses are caught of engaged audience members closing their eyes and imagining the debonair dancer as he jumps, swivels and floats.

“The Godfather” holds a special place in every movie lover’s world.  So to experience it again as Nino Rota's masterful work fills the majestic room is a treat in and of itself.  The lone, strong violin beginning sets the tone.  As the body opens up, it’s like a taste of wine that slowly takes over your body and reminds you how good it can be.

Best in the World

Vener introduced Ayke Agus for the next few pieces.  The world-class Agus is slight in frame, but her talent could fill the galaxy.  She embraced the violin and recreated the tortured beauty of John Wiliams’ “Schlindler’s List” score.  Watching her work the instrument is a lesson in artistry not to be missed.  She pours her heart into the notes and allows the audience to travel with her on every emotional stirring.

World-class musician Ayke Agus

The first act ends strong with a fan favorite.  John Williams continues the same legendary collaboration with Steven Spielberg.  This time with the instantly-recognizable “Raiders March” from “Raiders of the Lost Ark.”

Sundays in the Park with…

The intermission is too soon and many fans spend the break getting fresh air in the lush courtyard.  As you stroll through the intermittent greenery, it’s fun to hear others talk and celebrate the music.  One debates “The Godfather”, another cheers on “Ben-Hur.”

Another man walks over, clearly a concert-lover, and his words are so succinct they bear repeating, “Everyone associates the music to excitement, to movies.  So if you’re not at the movies, you close your eyes to picture it.  Here, it’s just as exciting to keep your eyes open and watch the magic unfold in front of you.”

With that, we return inside for Addinsell’s “Warsaw Concerto” from “Dangerous Moonlight.”  It’s a soothing piece that brings the audience back. It entices you, engages you and by the end, you’re held in your seat waiting for every last vibration of a note.

Best of Blockbuster

Easily the most recognizable tunes come next.  Beautiful bits from Hollywood hit-maker James Horner.  Touches of “Braveheart”, “Apollo 13”, “Titanic”, and “An American Tale”.  Moments emerge and this is where, once again, the younger crowd may have connected the most.  You realize how important and essential the music is in a movie.  For after all, if the music can bring emotions without the visual, it shows the true power of the individual element.

Disney Concert Hall's magnificent Organ

During the second half, Agus returns this time with a piano.  Also comes Phil Smith who delights the audience with the concert hall’s bellowing organ. For the truest concert fans, this moment alone was worth the trip.  Feeling the walls quiver as the music is deployed, you realize not just the emotional power of the music, but also the physical power.  Luckily, Smith tickles the keys gently, bathing us rather than overpowering.     

Roger Allan Ward’s tremendously gifted musical skills are quickly apparent.  His early presence on the stage is comfortable and proud as he introduced our maestro.  By the time his piece, “Walk of Stars” is introduced he gives another wave and bow.  He comes off as a modest man, truly honored by the acclaim he receives.  As his music flows, the acclaim is very warranted.  It’s at first bubbly, yet snappy.  Motivated, yet light.  

The afternoon is scheduled to end with Saint-Saens’ “II. Allegro moderato” from “Symphony No. 3 in C Minor Op. 89”.  A calmer piece that isn’t the ending you want.  While it’s lovely, it’s not satisfying.  It’s not the creamy dessert you crave.

Vener knows it.  The master showman is doing just that; putting on a show.  Just moments before his formal “thank you, goodbye” he unleashes a smile that let’s us know that it’s not over.  In fact, the best may be yet to come.

Stand up and Cheer!

With a twinkle in his eye, the real last piece plays.  “Gonna Fly Now”, the theme song from Sylvester Stallone’s “Rocky” pumps up like a geyser. The room floods with energy.  People react, they want to pump their arms, move themselves.  They struggle to hold back.  A satisfying ending for the day.

Yes, it’s fun.  And no, it’s not over.  Well, at least not yet.  It’s part of a series called “Cool Music, Hot Spot.”  The season finale is Sunday August 24 at 2pm.  See it.  I’m going to say it again, because truly it’s worth repeating:  See it!  

One Last Chance

Take your wife and impress her with your culture.  Take your girlfriend and try to convince her you have class.  Or take a friend and simply enjoy the day.  Because it’s so darn easy to enjoy.

Cal Phil’s “Cool Music, Hot Spot” plays at the Walt Disney Concert Hall
Season Finale is Sunday August 24 at 2pm.
For tickets, call (213)365-3500 or purchase online,
Tickets start at $35

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