Hitchcock films include Vertigo, Psycho, and an evening of excerpts from
To Catch a Thief, Strangers on a Train, Dial M for Murder and North by Northwest,
all accompanied live by the SFS, along with The Lodger with organ accompaniment
The San Francisco Symphony (SFS) introduces a season-long film series beginning October 30 with a week devoted to Alfred Hitchcock’s classic films and their unforgettable scores. Subsequent film presentations in the series include Singin’ in the Rain, A Night at the Oscars—an evening of excerpts from Academy Award-winning films, Charlie Chaplin’s City Lights, and Fantasia in Concert, a compilation of the most memorable clips from Disney’s 1940 classic and Fantasia 2000. The San Francisco Symphony performs the scores to these iconic movies while the films are projected on a large screen above the stage.
The San Francisco Symphony launches its first film series during the regular season after overwhelmingly positive audience responses to several similar film presentations over the past few summers, including screenings of The Wizard of Oz and The Matrix with live orchestral accompaniment, and the world premiere of Pixar in Concert, a compilation of music and imagery from Pixar’s thirteen feature films.
To begin the series, the SFS devotes a week of presentations to the Master of Suspense, Alfred Hitchcock, for whom music played an essential role in the development of his characters, plot, and atmosphere. The Hitchcock Film Week includes full presentations of Psycho, the silent film The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog with organ accompaniment, Vertigo—in a world premiere presentation of the full score performed live—and an evening of excerpts from several of Hitchcock’s other classic movies. Joshua Gersen makes his SFS debut conducting the three orchestral presentations.
Steven Smith, a leading expert on the music of Hitchcock’s most frequent collaborator, Bernard Herrmann, observes of Hitchcock’s use of music, “Hitchcock learned his craft making silent films, and said throughout his career that he avoided making movies that were ‘pictures of people talking.’ Instead, he used sound to heighten emotion, whether through natural sounds without music or through full-blooded scoring.” As the composer with whom Hitchcock collaborated with the most, Herrmann’s music is featured prominently during this week of presentations. “The pairing of a master visualist like Alfred Hitchcock and a composer like Bernard Herrmann, who set out to pull viewers ‘into the drama,’ remains the greatest director-composer partnership in cinema,” Smith states. “Each artist excelled at exploring the dark side of human relationships—especially romantic ones—in ways that blended emotional intensity with formal beauty. For a decade, the partnership was so close that Herrmann could sometimes go against Hitchcock’s instructions—most famously in writing music for Psycho’s shower scene, which Hitchcock originally wanted to play out without score.”
Hitchcock Film Week opens on October 30 with Psycho, considered one of Hitchcock’s greatest films. Special guest Tere Carrubba, Alfred Hitchcock’s granddaughter, introduces the film that evening, and will sign memorabilia and books after the performance.
On October 31, audiences can experience an early realization of Hitchcock’s genius with the presentation of his 1927 silent film The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog. Organist Todd Wilson makes his San Francisco Symphony debut improvising an accompaniment to the film on Davies Symphony Hall’s Rufatti Organ. The Lodger introduces themes and filming techniques that run through much of Hitchcock’s later work, such as the theme of the innocent man on the run, hunted down by a self-righteous society, and the use of ominous camera angles and claustrophobic lighting. While Hitchcock had made two previous films, in later years he would refer to The Lodger as the first true “Hitchcock film.”
The San Francisco Symphony performs the score of Hitchcock’s Vertigo along with the film on November 1, marking the world premiere performance of the full score. The music for Vertigo was also composed by Bernard Herrmann, and Steven Smith notes that in this particular score, “The Wagner-tinged love theme evokes the obsessive desire of James Stewart’s character, and in the exhilarating opening credits, Herrmann’s music and Saul Bass’ visuals swiftly plant us in worlds of irrationality, fear and excitement.” Shot on location here in San Francisco, Vertigo is considered one of the defining works of Hitchcock’s career. One hour prior to the presentation of Vertigo on November 1, Steven Smith will give an informal talk from the Davies Symphony Hall stage to shed light on the working relationship of Alfred Hitchcock and Bernard Herrmann.
The Hitchcock Film Week concludes on November 2 with a presentation of Hitchcock!—Greatest Hits, in which the SFS performs excerpts along with the respective clips from a number of Hitchcock’s movies. The films included in the evening’s compilation are To Catch a Thief, with music by Lyn Murray; Strangers on a Train and Dial M for Murder, both of whose scores were written by Dimitri Tiomkin; and Vertigo and North by Northwest, scored by Bernard Herrmann. North by Northwest star Eva Marie Saint serves as host for the evening to guide audiences through some of the most famous scenes from Hitchcock’s films, with their unforgettable scores performed live by the Orchestra.
About the Hitchcock Week Performers and Speakers
Joshua Gersen made his conducting debut at age 11 with the Greater Bridgeport Youth Orchestra in Bridgeport, CT, and his professional conducting debut 5 years later, when he led the Greater Bridgeport Symphony in a performance of his own composition, A Symphonic Movement. He is currently the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation Conducting Fellow of the New World Symphony, where he serves as the assistant conductor to Artistic Director Michael Tilson Thomas, and leads the orchestra in various subscription, education, and family concerts. He is also the Music Director of the New York Youth Symphony, a post he began in September 2012. He has attended numerous conducting workshops and summer festivals, most recently the American Academy of Conducting at the Aspen Music Festival in the summers of 2010 and 2011, where he worked such distinguished conductors as Larry Rachleff, Hugh Wolff, and Robert Spano. As a result of winning the 2011 Aspen Conducting Prize, he served as the festival’s assistant conductor for the 2012 summer season. Mr. Gersen is a graduate from the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, where he studied conducting with Otto-Werner Mueller.
Beyond his conducting interests, Gersen is also an avid composer. In 2006, Gersen finished his work at the New England Conservatory in Boston, where he received his Bachelor of Music degree in composition studying with Michael Gandolfi. He has had works performed by the New Mexico Symphony, Greater Bridgeport Symphony, and frequently with the Greater Bridgeport Youth Orchestra. His work as a composer has also led to an interest in conducting contemporary music. He has conducted several world premieres and collaborated with such established composers as John Adams, Christopher Rouse, Steven Mackey and his teacher Michael Gandolfi.
Todd Wilson is head of the organ department at the Cleveland Institute of Music, and Director of Music and Worship at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Cleveland, Ohio. Mr. Wilson has been heard in concert in many major cities throughout the United States, Europe, and Japan. In addition, he is Curator of the E.M. Skinner pipe organ at Severance Hall, home of the Cleveland Orchestra, and House Organist for the newly-restored Aeolian organ at the Stan Hywet Hall and Gardens in Akron, Ohio. Mr. Wilson was previously director of music and organist at the Church of the Covenant in Cleveland for nineteen years, and from 1989 through 1993 he was Head of the Organ Department at Baldwin-Wallace College Conservatory of Music. Prior to these positions, he served as organist and choirmaster of the Cathedral of the Incarnation in Garden City, New York. Mr. Wilson received his bachelor’s and master’s of music degrees from the College-Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati, where he studied organ with Wayne Fisher and piano with John Quincy Bass. He received further coaching in organ repertory with Russell Saunders at the Eastman School of Music.
Producer and journalist Steven C. Smith is the author of the biography A Heart at Fire’s Center: The Life and Music of Bernard Herrmann, winner of the ASCAP-Deems Taylor Award. The book was the primary research source for the Academy Award-nominated documentary Music for the Movies: Bernard Herrmann. A four-time Emmy nominee and five-time Telly Award winner, he has produced over 200 documentaries for such television series as A&E Biography and AMC Backstory, including profiles of Steven Spielberg and Marlon Brando. Smith has provided DVD audio commentaries for such films as Vertigo, Jane Eyre and The Day the Earth Stood Still, and written about film music for The Los Angeles Times, Entertainment Weekly and Newsday.
With a career spanning more than six decades, Eva Marie Saint first starred opposite Marlon Brando in On The Waterfront, for which she won an Academy Award. In addition to North by Northwest, she went on to star in several other movies including A Hatful Of Rain, Raintree County, Exodus, The Russians Are Coming! The Russians Are Coming!, All Fall Down, Grand Prix, Loving, Nothing In Common and I Dreamed Of Africa. Her recent films include Because of Winn-Dixie, Don’t Come Knocking, Superman Returns and the upcoming Winter’s Tale. Saint’s television appearances include roles on Frasier, Moonlighting, Time To Say Goodbye and The Last Days Of Patton. She has earned four Emmy nominations for her work in Philco TV Playhouse, Our Town, with Frank Sinatra and Paul Newman, Hallmark Hall of Fame’s Taxi!!! With Martin Sheen and How The West Was Won. In 1990, Saint won an Emmy for her performance in the NBC mini-series People Like Us. In theater, she has starred in the Broadway presentations of Trip to Bountiful, The Lincoln Mask and Duet for One. Saint and her husband director Jeffrey Hayden produced the PBS television documentaries Primary Colors: The Story of Corita, which she narrated, and Children in America’s Schools, for which they won an Emmy.