CSO contends with On the Waterfront score this Friday

“Kaufman is a veteran film score conductor…”


By Emma Broder

“It is really sort of like all the planets are lining up perfectly,” Chicago Symphony Orchestra (CSO) conductor Richard Kaufman said in anticipation of the upcoming October 23 performance of On the Waterfront.

Maestro Kaufman will be leading the orchestra in the opening night of the annual CSO at the Movies concert series, for which the orchestra will play scores from beloved movies, for the 10th time. Kaufman is a veteran film score conductor.  He has collaborated with countless film and television stars, received two Emmy nominations, and worked as the vice president of music for Metro-Goldwyn-Meyer.

On Friday, under Kaufman’s baton, the CSO will play Leonard Bernstein’s score for Elia Kazan’s On the Waterfront, starring Marlon Brando.

“This film was done many decades ago, and the sound of that time was not as advanced in the theater as it is now,” Kaufman said while discussing the upcoming concert. “The idea that an audience can not only hear the score played live, which will be kind of like attending the recording session for the film, but hear it played by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra…will be truly a unique experience for both film and film score lovers.”

In addition to showcasing the incredible sonic power of the CSO, the On the Waterfront performance will be a special opportunity for Leonard Bernstein enthusiasts. Bernstein, a revered American composer and conductor, composed countless symphonic works as well as musical scores; West Side Story is the most notable example. However, On the Waterfront was Bernstein’s only work for the screen.

“I believe that what Leonard Bernstein wrote musically truly creates a musical environment under and around the film,” Kaufman said. “Elia Kazan made certain choices on how to use the music in the film, and I believe his choices were brilliant, and they certainly have helped make this motion picture iconic in many ways. It would have been interesting to know what Bernstein would have written for other films, but he made the choice to have this be his only film score. And I believe that he really hit a home run in this effort.”

In December, Kaufman will once again take to the podium in a performance of the holiday classic Home Alone, starring Macaulay Culkin and Joe Pesci, with music by the great John Williams. “Each season we try to put together a contrasting group of evenings. Making the decision on what to present is an exciting challenge, and a lot of fun,” Kaufman explained. “There is so much that can be presented in concert in terms of music that represents different films, different film composers, and different genre of music.” 

Kaufman’s vast knowledge of film scores will be on full display on the final evening of the series, “Hooray for Hollywood.” The CSO will play selected excerpts from such classics as Citizen Kane, Gone with the Wind, King Kong, and Star Trek: The Motion Picture, among others. With each excerpt, the orchestra will play alongside the corresponding movie scene.

The success of the last 10 years of the CSO at the Movies series is a testament to the unparalleled experience of hearing film scores live, and Friday will be the start of another season of film score celebration.

“I think everyone has their favorite films and film music,” Kaufman said. “To be able to hear that music performed by one of the greatest orchestras in a concert setting…gives the listener an exciting and unique opportunity to enjoy the music.”