Posted by StringOvation Team on Dec 14, 2020
Winter break is a perfect time to stay in pajama mode, get comfy on the couch, and settle in for a movie marathon.
In the past, we’ve put together lists that focus on string musicians or famous composers such as Bingeworthy Holiday Entertainment. However, we’ve noticed that some of our very favorite classical pieces show up in movies that are not necessarily centered around the lives of musicians.
Classical Favorites Featured in Hollywood Blockbusters
This year, we’re including the following list of five great movies that also feature some of our team's favorite classical pieces on their soundtracks.
1. The King’s Speech
“The Crown” has been a huge hit on Netflix, with the first season focusing on the young Queen Elizabeth as she inherits a throne she never really wanted or planned to have in the first place. It was truly a repeat pattern for the Windsor family, as her father, King George VI (Academy Award winning Colin Firth), also donned a crown he wasn’t interested in wearing.
The movie, “The King’s Speech” focuses on King George VI's transition from Duke to King. One of the most moving scenes is supported by the second movement (Allegretto) of Beethoven’s 7th Symphony.
George VI's speech helped to restore the people’s faith in their king and the monarchy, and using the 7th Symphony's second movement as the backdrop for this scene was a masterstroke. Especially since the two men shared a common bond of having physical disabilities (Beethoven had begun losing his hearing three years prior to writing the 7th).
If you’ve never seen the 1940s, animated film, Fantasia, it’s a must-see. Along with absolutely incredible hand-drawn animation and a wildly creative plot, the imagery is accompanied by some of the most famous and memorable classical compositions ever written. These include, “The Nutcracker Suite” (Tchaikovsky), Beethoven’s beloved “Pastoral Symphony (#6),” “Rite of Spring,” (Stravinsky), and, “Dance of the Hours,” from the opera, “La Gioconda,” (Ponchelli). All of the orchestral pieces were performed by The Philadelphia Orchestra, led by conductor Leopold Stokowski.
3. Still Breathing
“Still Breathing,” a cult classic starring Brendan Fraser, is a quirky romance which boasts a fun soundtrack. Included in that soundtrack is Chopin’s, “Berceuse in D Flat Major.” It appears twice in the film. The first time it’s performed as a jazz arrangement featuring the tuba, clarinet, and trumpet. The second is the original piano version. Both are stunning.
The comparison between the two versions might just inspire you to take classical pieces and begin interpreting them through the filter of another musical genre.
4. Tree of Life
The film, “Tree of Life,” was written and directed by Terrence Malick, and it boasts an incredible cast of actors. Critics were a bit surprised at how successful the film was at the box office sales and in the eyes of public and professional critics alike. Terrence Malick is passionate about classical music and that is reflected in “The Tree of Life’s” music selections.
The entire soundtrack immerses you in classical and modern classical music, featuring scores such as “Symphony #1” by Mahler, “Lacrimosa 2” by Zbigniew Preisner, and the “Andante” movement from the “Symphony #4 in E Minor” by Brahms (who is one of our 10 Romantic Composers You Need to Know).
5. Raging Bull
In 1980, Martin Scorsese directed “Raging Bull,” starring Robert DeNiro. Typically known for featuring pop music in his movie scores, Scorsese took a bit of a gamble when he used Pietro Mascagni’s “Cavalleria Rusticana: Intermezzo,” as the theme for “Raging Bull.” It is a piece you might recognize from the equally iconic film, “The Godfather III.” Trusting his intuition, he used classical pieces by Mascagni, and an old 1930’s recording of the Larry Clinton Orchestra playing their jazz rendition of Claude Debussy’s “Reverie.”
Movies are a common way of exposing the general public to some of the most beautiful and compelling classical compositions written through the ages. We hope you have a chance to enjoy at least one or two of our top five movies with great classical music during your holiday break.