The second concert of the film music festival in Prague was an exceptionally special one. It was a concert with music from the Alien movies. Since those movies are focused on suspense, the music has to reflect that, putting melodies and themes more on the back burner. The organization decided not to show movie images, they instead decided to show all kinds of patterns, images of spaceship interiors, and the occasional image of an alien on the screen. The night’s orchestra was the Filmova Filharmonie led by Japanese conductor Chuhei Iwasaki.
The first piece of the night was the main theme from Alien: Resurrection, composed by John Frizzell. This theme set the foundation for the rest of the night: dark, tense, solid sound patterns, with an occasional melody. Next up was the world premiere of the main theme from the latest Alien movie, Prometheus, with music by Harry Gregson-Williams. This track really stood out for me as a fan of Harry’s music. It is not that tense but contains nice melodies in the orchestra and choir.
The last piece of a very short first half was a suite with music from Alien 3, written by Elliot Goldenthal. It is not really possible for me to describe the music that Goldenthal writes. It consists of a lot of rhythmic, chaotic, and often aggressive patterns. Iwasaki had to be very methodical in his conducting to keep the orchestra in check to make it a solid performance. The percussion section of this young orchestra deserves a special mention for their very tight play. After the final notes had been played, the musicians could take a much-deserved breather during the intermission.
The second half of the concert started with James Horner’s take on Alien with music from the second movie: Aliens. As can be expected from Horner, his music is making good use of the orchestra’s horns and they were beautiful. The echo effects, which Horner reused from the first movie, were especially well done. The official program ended with the beginning of the Alien series: music from Alien written by Jerry Goldsmith. Of all the music written for the Alien movies, his music is the most iconic to me. I like his music the best for an Alien movie.
We were still missing one branch of Alien movies: The Alien vs. Predator ones. They got their exposure in the encore, which was written in the program, with Brian Tyler’s theme from Alien vs. Predator 2: Requiem, which provided an explosive ending to the evening.
It is very hard for me to put into words what I think about this concert. The venue was pretty big but that did not hurt the acoustics at all. The sound was well produced I did not notice the amplification by the sound system. Overall the orchestra and conductor did a technically precise and beautifully executed job. There is, however, one small and very personal hurdle: I am not a big fan of the music from the Alien movies. The music I tend to love has very melodic themes or is like a rhythmic engine with melodies on top and the Alien music does not do that for me. Its purpose is to make the viewer of the movie feel uneasy and to support the action scenes. That is the reason why it was hard for me personally to enjoy this well-performed music.
The visual cues were a nice addition to support the very hectic music. Personally, I would still prefer the actual movie images since I have not seen the first three movies. If you know the movies by heart, you can imagine the movie sequences while listening to the music. During the concert, there was also some confusion about where a suite started and ended. The conductor had to shoo away a pre-emptive applause several times. The information in the program for purchase was not accessible during the concert because it was too dark to read it. This could easily have been fixed by displaying said information on the screen. Clearer transitions in the music, where the conductor could go straight in the next part, would have helped to clarify when a suite was ending, as well.
I think that the true fans of the Alien movies and their music had a great time. That is the great thing about music: everyone has a different piece to love or to hate. When I walked out to the lobby, I heard a lot of praising about how people “loved that Horner piece” or how “The Goldenthal music was great!” and I have enough musical knowledge to see that that praise was well-earned. I have the impression that the organizers of the Film Music Festival took a chance with this very daring program, but that they pulled it off wonderfully.
Where and when: Prague, Czech Republic – April 22th, 2017 during the Film Music Festival in Prague
Orchestra: Filmova Filharmonie conducted by Chuhei Iwasaki
Choir: Kühn Choir, boy solo from Boni Pueri choir
- John Frizzell – Main titles from Alien: Resurrection
- Harry Gregson-Williams – Main theme from Prometheus (World premiere)
- Elliot Goldenthal – Suite from Alien 3
- “Agnus Dei”
- “Bait and Chase”
- “Lullaby Elegy”
- “First Attack I”
- “The Entrapment”
- “First Attack II”
- James Horner – Suite from Aliens
- “Main Title”
- “Ripley’s Rescue”
- “Face Huggers”
- Jerry Goldsmith – Suite from Alien
- “Main Title”
- “The Shaft”
- “The Landing”
- “Out of the Door”
- “End Credits”
- Brian Tyler – Theme from Alien vs. Predator 2: Requiem