News Column

Symphony brings musical partnership to life on stage [Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (PA)]

November 21, 2013


Creativity isn't always completely solitary work. Long-running partnerships are a special treat in entertainment history, including Broadway composers and lyricists, such as Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II, and film directors and composers, such Alfred Hitchcock and Bernard Herrmann or Stephen Spielberg and John Williams.

Director Tim Burton and composer Danny Elfman have been inspiring each other since 1984, producing a stream of distinctive and successful films, including "Beetlejuice," "Batman," "Batman Returns," "Edward Scissorhands," "The Nightmare Before Christmas" and "Alice in Wonderland."

Ted Sperling will conduct the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra in "Music of Danny Elfman From the Movies of Tim Burton" on Nov. 23 at Heinz Hall, Downtown.

"I've always heard Danny's scores performed live during our recording sessions for the films we've collaborated on," Burton says in a prepared statement. "For others to finally be able to hear his music live is really something special."

Elfman created the concert suite himself, according to Sperling.

"The concept is to do two things at once -- to throw the spotlight on the music itself and not necessarily tied to the moment in the film, but also to see the behind-the-scenes progress," he says. "You get to see Tim Burton's original sketches and story book and then see them morph into the actual film."

Sperling previously conducted this program with the Detroit Symphony.

"My reaction after seeing all those montages was it made me want to watch the movies again and also see how the music fits into the entire movie. It is a very fun evening. You see (parts of) 15 films from the brains of these two creative people and hear the music live, which is exciting."

The Elfman concert is Sperling's second visit to Pittsburgh this fall. He opened the Pops season in October with vocalist Brian Stokes Mitchell.

"It was really great fun to work with that orchestra. They have a wonderful spirit to them, and to be able to do it four times in a row was terrific. It was also a treat to work with Stokes again. That was a great reunion."

Mark Kanny is classical music critic for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7877 or

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