From Captain America to Conduktor, there was a superheroes
convention Friday night (Oct. 12) at Music Hall. All the caped and masked marvels were there, from Captain America to Iron Man.
Hosted by the Cincinnati Pops, it was a color-splashed event, featuring music from superheroes’ films and TV. Pops conductor John Morris Russell (JMR) -- who continues to demonstrate what a super pops conductor can do -- presided at the podium. As usual, the Pops performed for him splendidly.
The concert was thoroughly entertaining and ingeniously conceived. It was not only informative and musically rewarding, with JMR providing background on the superhero genre in music, but a blast of just plain fun. Joining the Pops were the May Festival Youth Chorus and students from the music theater department of the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music.
All the great cine-master composers were represented. There was Jerry Goldsmith in the theme from “Supergirl,” opening the concert with a sparkle of scales, Danny Elfman (“Batman,” “Spiderman”), Alan Silvestri (“The Avengers,”“Captain America”), Patrick Doyle (“Thor”), James Newton Howard (“Dark Knight”), John Powell (“X-Men”), John Debney (“”Iron Man 2”), John Ottman (“Fantastic Four”) and Michael Giacchino (“The Incredibles”). (Music from the concert will be recorded this weekend for release on the CSO’s Fanfare label in mid-2013.)
There were signal contributions, too, by Cincinnati Pops players Julie Spangler and Timothy Berens in arrangements of “The Lonely Man Theme” from “The Incredible Hulk” (Spangler) and “Iron Man” and “Star Spangled Man” (Berens). Pianist Spangler gave a touching performance of “Lonely Man,” a reference to the green monster’s isolation, providing a thoughtful contrast to the overall bombast of the evening.
Musical highlights included Howard’s “Dark Knight,” with its slow, ominous beginning and percussion-laced climax (unsung heroes of the concert were the Pops percussion section). Clarinetist Jonathan Gunn was a hip soloist in the jazzy “Incredibles,” and the entire assembly, including the Youth Chorus, soared in the main theme from “Spiderman,” where pianist Michael Chertock dashed super-swiftly to the organ to add its empowering voice. There was a medley of catchy TV superhero themes and a fine performance of the end credits to Powell’s impressive “X-Men: The Last Stand.” A crash of thunder introduced “Thor,” one of the concerts big moments, with chorus, organ, pounding percussion and a beautiful solo by principal cellist Ilya Finkelshteyn. Harking back to perhaps the original superhero composer, JMR led the Pops in “Ride of the Valkyries” by Richard Wagner, a brilliant touch accompanied by projections of modern superheroes onto a screen above the stage.
A brilliant add-on to the program was the Pops premiere of heavy metal band Black Sabbath’s 1970 song “Iron Man,” arranged by Berens. With JMR providing sepulchral vocalism (“I am iron man”), it sounded right at home. A nice contrast was “Make Way for Tomorrow Today,” from “Iron Man 2” by Disney composer Richard Sherman, with the Youth Chorus and CCM students.
The concert (highly recommended) repeats at 8 p.m. tonight at Music Hall. Tickets, from $25, at (513) 381-3300, or visit www.cincinnatipops.org