A happy coincidence or strategic planning?
Well, either way, October 2011 is a time to celebrate the music and legacy of Dimitri Tiomkin in the UK.
Tadlow Music are releasing the complete re-recording of The Fall of the Roman Empire on 2-CD's, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment release The Guns of Navarone 50th Anniversary Blu-ray on the 24th and perhaps best of all, the London Symphony Orchestra & Chorus perform a selection of his finest film music at The Barbican on 27th October. Actually, there's much more besides the concert. Exhibitions of original film posters from Tiomkin scored movies, film screenings and discussions. More information can be found by clicking here and if you scroll down you can also listen to an audio clip from my interview with the concert conductor, Richard Kaufman.
Olivia Tiomkin Douglas is the driving force behind the concert and surrounding events:
“I am so pleased that the London Symphony Orchestra has chosen to honor Dimitri with a program devoted solely to his film music. Dimitri called London home for many years and I’m sure he would be overjoyed that this city that he loved will reverberate with his music played by some of the finest musicians in the world on the evening of October 27"
On Monday 10th October, Varese announce their latest batch of CD Club releases. Could a Tiomkin title be included? A further happy coincidence if so! FSM Online are adding extra gravitas to October's celebrations with a special promotion on Monday too, so keep an eye out!
I chatted on the phone with UK Dimitri Tiomkin expert, Peter D. Kent last week about writing a short Tiomkin biography and he enthusiastically informed me that he is working on a film music book which he hopes to have published and continued to say how much he's looking forward to the concerts and events. After reading below, i'm sure you'll agree that Peter succinctly covers the key career timeline very well.
It's also a welcome reminder of how special Dimi's life in music was and if you have yet to hear it, then you are in for quite a treat. I hope to see you join in with the celebrations at The Barbican on the 27th!
Dimitri Tiomkin - A Short Biography
by Peter D. Kent
Dimitri Tiomkin was one of the great musical trailblazers who set the standards for film scoring in what is now known as The Golden Age of Hollywood. Together with the likes of Max Steiner, Alfred Newman, Erich Wolfgang Korngold and Franz Waxman, his name is synonymous with what would become one of the great musical innovations of the 20th Century.
Born in the Ukraine in 1894, he began playing piano as an infant before going on to study at the St. Petersburg Conservatory under Alexander Glazunov and later, in Berlin, with Ferruccio Busoni, where he would also make his debut as a concert pianist with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra.
He arrived in America in 1925 and began playing piano in Vaudeville theatres in New York, with a very handsome salary attached, but eventually returned to the concert platform in 1928 in Paris as soloist for the European premiere of George Gershwin's Piano Concerto in F. Upon returning to the US, sound had now arrived in cinemas. Naturally, he was very soon scoring his first motion picture, which was in 1931. A couple of years later, he wrote music for Paramount's Alice in Wonderland, which featured many of the studio's biggest stars dressed up in costume disguised as Lewis Carroll characters. Co-written by none other than Joseph L. Mankiewicz, it was not a great success, but Tiomkin continued working on films for some of the other studios of the era, including the film that would introduce Peter Lorre to Hollywood audiences, Mad Love, directed by the distinguished cinematographer Karl Freund.
In 1937 came Frank Capra's Lost Horizon, a splendid vehicle for Tiomkin to display his flair for cinematic composition, and he seized the opportunity with his magical, mystical and evocative score. It was to be conducted by Max Steiner and I think this was the only occasion where their names appeared together on a screen credit. Tiomkin went on to score many other pictures for director Frank Capra, including the perennial yuletide favourite, It's A Wonderful Life. In 1939, he scored the first of several pictures for Howard Hawks: Only Angels have Wings and Hawks was yet another director with whom Tiomkin would enjoy a fruitful association.
Not tying himself to any particular studio, he composed the score for Alfred Hitchcock's Shadow of a Doubt for Universal, William Wyler's The Westerner at UA. For David O. Selznick, he scored the celebrated Duel in the Sun - and the stories surrounding this film are legendary! He would go on to compose superb scores for some very classy productions, but he was not averse to scoring minor B-movies, especially if the subject matter was away from familiarity. Good examples are the 50's movies such as D.O.A., The Well and The Steel Trap. All fairly unusual in their own way and just a few to which Tiomkin's contribtions were most memorable.
In 1952 he won 2 of his 4 Academy Awards for High Noon and the song Do Not Forsake Me. Title songs were not particularly new and there had been many memorable songs and tunes to come from previous movies, Laura perhaps being the prime instance. However, it seemed that Tiomkin was to take the blame for a new trend with the employment of songs in films, either as a dramatic backdrop or for exploitation purposes. Producers went on to make ridiculous demands of both composers and lyricists to get a hit song to help promote their movie. It was even more important in the early 50's by trying to lure audiences away from their TV sets and back into cinemas, so we had Cinemascope as well as stereophonic sound. Tiomkin even scored one of the first ever 3D films, a western called The Command.
In 1956, he composed a most arresting score for Friendly Persuasion and the same year, one of his most notable, Giant with James Dean. His western scores continued to appear throughout the 50's and 60's, highlighted by the sweep and vision of The Alamo and culminating in one of his very last scores, the amiable The War Wagon in 1967. Other popular titles from this period include, The Guns of Navarone, 55 Days at Peking and The Fall of the Roman Empire (all recorded in London). Between 1968 and 1979 his pre-occupation was with a Russian film biography of Tchaikovsky, on which Tiomkin acted both as executive producer and musical director.
Having moved to London, following the death of his first wife in 1968, Dimitri Tiomkin was present at the recording sessions at Kingsway Hall for one of the series of recordings made by producer George Korngold (son of Erich Wolfgang) and conductor Charles Gerhardt. Both gentlemen had already made significant recordings of music by Korngold, Steiner, and Newman and in 1976 came, Lost Horizon: The Classic Film Scores of Dimitri Tiomkin. One whole side of the original LP / Album was devoted to a suite from Lost Horizon. A magnificent tapestry of choral and orchestral effects.
Tiomkin died in London during November, 1979 at the grand old age of 85. To many, including myself, it was the end of an era - but "Dimi" had lived and worked at exactly the right time, doing what he wanted to do, and his music will be remembered so long as there are people like myself and his world-wide legion of other admirers around, to attest to his special qualities, both as an artist and as a man.