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Premiere of Alex North's Cleopatra Symphony

On January 19, conductor John Mauceri premiered Alex North's Cleopatra Symphony in Leipzig, Germany. The Gewandhaus Orchestra performed the piece along with the European premiere of Bernard Herrmann's original Psycho suite Psycho: A Narrative For Orchestra. Attending the premiere of the Cleopatra Symphony was North's wife Anna North. Mauceri sent us this brief but enthusiastic report and photos from the event (via John Waxman) which indicates, as we at FSM have long suspected, that European audiences seem a lot more open to challenging film music than Americans do. The photo below shows the concert hall and audience; the second photo is of Mauceri and Anna North.

"I just wanted to report of the extraordinary success of the Gewandhaus program. It was already sufficient to hear this great orchestra, which traces its history back to Mendelssohn, Schumann and Brahms, play the music of Bernard Herrmann and Alex North. But I was not prepared for the first of two (hopefully) full houses for these non-subscription concerts which contained people of every age, from young teenagers to rather old folks. Their intensity and concentration were palpable. The two concerts, which were non-subscription, sold some 3500 seats out of a maximum of just under 4000. The public, which was not a normal Gewandhaus audience, ranged in age from young teenagers to quite old people. About half of this music was atonal and, with the exception perhaps, of Lawrence of Arabia and the one encore, Star Tek V, the films for which these scores were written are generally unknown to this former-East German populace. At the end of each piece there was a prolonged ovation and by the end, especially on Saturday night, cheers, stomping and standing. That they vociferously applauded the European Premiere of Psycho: Narrative for Orchestra, cheered Lenny's West Side Story Dances, gave Mrs. North a prolonged ovation and then heard the World Premiere of the newly created Cleopatra Symphony; that they then continued on this journey, the orchestra giving everything to this music, and enjoying themselves mightily as Maurice Jarre, John Barry, Ennio Morricone and Nino Rota's names were introduced by me: applause before and ovation after each work: All of this should give us heart as to the possibility of restoring a better balance in our orchestral repertory. The encore, Jerry Goldsmith's Star Trek V, was greeted with gasps and cheers. And it was amazing to hear! And I know it does send an important signal to other orchestras, not only in Germany, but throughout the world about the repertory we all care about -- not to the exclusion of any other repertory, mind you -- but a repertory which deserves to be played as seriously as any other orchestral repertory and which clearly engages the minds and spirits of a great orchestra as well as an otherwise marginalized and interested audience." --John Mauceri

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