Masters of Cinema

Howard Assembly Rooms

Howard Assembly Rooms

This was a concert held at the Howard Assembly Rooms in Leeds. The Assembly Rooms were built alongside the Grand Theatre in the late C19th. In 1911, along with similar venues in other towns and cities, they were converted to screening the new ‘flicker’ entertainment. The building was gutted by fire in the 1920s, but in the 1970s returned as a film venue as The Plaza Cinema, which specialised in ‘adult entertainment’. More recently they have been refurbished as a concert venue managed by the Grand. The concerts are varied and include live music accompanying the screenings of films. However, the venue has neither 35mm nor HD digital facilities, so these rely on DVDs.
The recent concert featured The Tippet Quartet playing music by composers for film. The Quartet are John Mills and Jeremy Isaac – violins: Lydia Lowndes-Northcott – viola: and Bozidar Vukotic – cello. They have a reputation for playing both new and varied music.

The programme opened with Bernard Herrmann’s Echoes. The quartet played this alongside a screening of the last twenty minutes of Vertigo [1958, one of Herrmann’s most famous collaborations with Alfred Hitchcock. The projection had the sound turned down and subtitles switched on. It was clearly sourced from a DVD and not an especially good image. I did not watch the screen, but I do know the final part of the film pretty well: and the relevance of the music to the film seemed to come and go; though it was well performed. The concert picked up after that as we had only music. The next composer was Miklós Rózsa, the winner of three Academy Awards. The quartet performed his String Quartet No 1, opus 22. Bozidar Vukotic, who introduced most of the pieces, suggested that the piece included chords and similar familiar from Rozsa’’ film scores, and I thought I recognised Spellbound (1945) in there. I thought this a fine piece, very well played and enjoying good acoustics from the Assembly room hall.

After an interval the Quartet returned, announcing that the forecast heavy snow had commenced. Also to play an arrangements made for them of themes from the film music if Nino Rota, long-time collaborator with Federico Fellini. These included Amarcord (1973), La Dolce Vita (1960), and Otto e mezzo (1963). This was followed by the main theme from The Godfather (1971), the shortest item in the concert. Its brevity surprised the audience who failed to applaud, despite in being performed with excellence.

We then had Samuel Barber’s famous Adagio, which has graced a number of films, notably The Elephant Man (1980). It seems it was also played over the radio in the USA when Franklin D. Roosevelt passed on.

We then had Bernard Herrmann’s film music, from Psycho (1960), what else. It works surprisingly well as a concert piece, despite it seeming so essentially a set of cinematic sounds. And the concert ended with two tangos. The first by Astor Piazolla was titled Four for Tango, and was partly a tribute to Hermann. The crossover with Herrmann’s music for Psycho was very strong, where as the tango rhythms seemed quite muted. The final piece and tango was Carlos Gardel’s Por Una Cabeza, most famously associated with Scent of a Woman (1982). However, it has been used in at least nine other films. And it provided a lighter but beautiful finale to the programme.

It was a really enjoyable evening and worth struggling through the fresh snow as we made our way home. I suppose something by Dimitri Tiomkin would have been an appropriate addition to the concert.

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