National Philharmonic Presents Washington Premier of Oscar-Winning Film On the Waterfront, With Live Orchestration of Leonard Bernstein's Score
The National Philharmonic begins its 2018-2019 season at The Music Center at Strathmore on Saturday, Sept. 29, at 8 p.m., with a Washington D.C. premier of Marlon Brando's On the Waterfront celebrating iconic American composer Leonard Bernstein's 100th birthday. The orchestra will perform Bernstein's score from the 1954 Oscar award-winning film, On the Waterfront, which ranks eighth on the American Film Institute's Top 100 list. The orchestra will be conducted by Philharmonic Music Director and Conductor Piotr Gajewski who was mentored by Bernstein. The concert will begin with a performance of the Star-Spangled Banner, conducted by Eliot Pfanstiehl, former CEO and founder of the Strathmore Hall Foundation Inc. The eight-time Oscar-winning re-mastered film, directed by Elia Kazan, stars Marlon Brando, Karl Malden, Lee J. Cobb, and Eva Marie Saint, and will be shown in high-definition with the original dialogue intact. Ticket prices are $35-$85 and are free for young people age 7-17. Strathmore is located at 5301 Tuckerman Lane, North Bethesda. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit www.nationalphilharmonic.org or call 301.581.5100.
Bernstein (1918-1990), was an American conductor, composer, and pianist, most famous for his film and Broadway compositions. Playing piano from age 10, Bernstein received musical training at Harvard University, the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, and the Berkshire Music Center at Tanglewood. In 1943, he was appointed assistant conductor of the New York Philharmonic, and led the orchestra from 1945-1947, later serving as musical director from 1958-1969 and touring internationally with the orchestra. Among numerous other works, Bernstein is the musical genius behind iconic scores including West Side Story and concert performances celebrating the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Bernstein opens On the Waterfront with a solo French horn, which was rare for 1950s Hollywood, during which nearly every movie opened with a full orchestra performing a kind of overture. Here, the composer employed one lonely horn, eventually joined by a flute, then a trumpet, then a few more instruments. Bernstein called it "a quiet representation of the element of tragic nobility that underlies the surface of the main character."
"Once in a great while a movie becomes an artistic triumph, and Bernstein's music definitely lifts On the Waterfront into that realm...Anyone who knows the film appreciates Bernstein's contribution, and live-to-picture events help to remind people just how thrilling and significant it is," said film music scholar John Burlingame. Bernstein's score for On the Waterfront is his only work composed specifically for film. In a score of breathtaking complexity, beauty, and emotional inflection, Bernstein created a powerful musical rendition of the drama, conveying sentiments of nobility, violence, corruption, tenderness, aspiration, frustration, and resignation. The film earned 12 Academy Awards nominations, including one nomination for "Best Music, Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture," and won eight awards. It has been recognized by the American Film Institute as "one of the best film scores of all time."
Pfanstiehl, who retired in August, spent more than three decades at Strathmore, and created the Strathmore Hall Foundation. He was instrumental in expanding Strathmore's offerings from the Mansion at Strathmore on Rockville Pike to The Music Center at Strathmore, with its nearly 2,000-seat concert hall, and the 250-seat AMP by Strathmore at Pike & Rose. He will conduct the Star Spangled Banner as part of a long standing season opening tradition of The National Philharmonic. "This will be my premiere conducting gig since retiring from Strathmore," said Pfanstiehl. "Upon hearing it, Piotr suggested I 'keep my day job.' Too late!," Pfanstiehl joked of friend and former colleague Maestro Gajewski.
In 1983, Maestro Gajewski was selected from more than 150 applicants as a Leonard Bernstein Conducting Fellow at the Berkshire Music Center at Tanglewood, along with only two other young conductors. Maestro Gajewski had the opportunity at that young age to spend the summer studying alongside the world's most famed conductors, including Bernstein who, himself, had studied at Tanglewood decades earlier under the prominent conductor Serge Koussevitzky.
"Tanglewood provided many unforgettable experiences, but none more poignant than a program where each of the three Fellows conducted a work on the first half and Bernstein conducted the second half," reminisced Maestro Gajewski. "The venue was the legendary outdoor Tanglewood Music Shed (now Koussevitzky Music Shed), packed to its 5,000-seat capacity, with thousands more sitting on the lawn. For this 24-year-old, it was quite an evening," he said.
Maestro Gajewski is one of a select group of American conductors equally at home in nearly all musical genres. He is the music director and conductor of The National Philharmonic at the Music Center at Strathmore, and a sought-after guest conductor. He was a student and disciple of the late Leonard Bernstein, and is described by The Washington Post as an "immensely talented and insightful conductor, whose standards, taste and sensitivity are impeccable." With one foot in the United States and the other in Europe, as Principal Guest Conductor of the Silesian Philharmonic (Katowice, Poland) and frequent guest at other orchestras, the jet-set maestro's seemingly limitless repertoire, most conducted without a score, amazes critics and audiences alike.
Led by Maestro Gajewski, The National Philharmonic is known for performances that are "powerful," "impeccable," and "thrilling" (The Washington Post). In July 2003, the National Chamber Orchestra and Masterworks Chorus merged to create The National Philharmonic, an ensemble with more than 50 years of combined history, bringing high caliber musical performances to the Washington area. The National Philharmonic took up residence at the state-of-the-art Music Center at Strathmore upon its opening in February 2005. Now, more than 250 performances later, and with far-reaching educational programming, The National Philharmonic is the largest and most active professional orchestra based in Montgomery County.
The National Philharmonic boasts a long-standing tradition of reasonably priced tickets and free admission to all young people age 7-17, assuring its place as an accessible and enriching component in Montgomery County and the greater Washington, D.C., area.
As the Music Center at Strathmore's orchestra-in-residence, The National Philharmonic showcases world-renowned guest artists in time-honored symphonic masterpieces conducted by Maestro Gajewski, with additional conducting by Associate Conductor Victoria Gau, and monumental choral masterworks under National Philharmonic Chorale Artistic Director Stan Engebretson.
To purchase tickets for the performances and for information about the Philharmonic's 2018-19 season, please visit www.nationalphilharmonic.org or call the Strathmore Ticket Office at 301.581.5100. Tickets are $35-$85; young people 7-17 are free through the ALL KIDS, ALL FREE, ALL THE TIME program. ALL KIDS tickets must be purchased in person or by phone. Complimentary parking is available.