by Nick Stubblefield
The New York Philharmonic rounded out the year with a sold-out performance of John Williams' score for the 1990 film Home Alone, part of the Phil’s ongoing “Art of the Score” series. It was the New York premiere of the live score (the original film soundtrack was performed by the Boston Pops Orchestra), and the Philharmonic’s emotionally stirring performance made this a special and memorable holiday evening at David Geffen Hall.
The concert commenced with a pleasant surprise: a rousing performance of the snare-drum heavy 20th Century Fox fanfare, eliciting cheers and chuckles from the unsuspecting audience. In the opening title sequence, the cue “Somewhere in My Memory” showcased the full capabilities of the orchestra, including some less-common instruments like tam-tams, tinkling bells and the celeste, the keyboard instrument famously heard in another holiday classic: the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies from Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker.
Williams’ motifs convey childhood innocence, as well as a playful, mischievous quality. The Philharmonic deftly navigated those capricious mood changes under the hand of conductor Constantine Kitsopoulos. The string basses plucked pizzicatos in perfect unison, the French horn soared with longing, and the string section played with the phrasing and swell of a classic Hollywood film score. Emotions were high before the movie had even started.
“Holiday Flight,” or as fans of the film know it, “Peter! We slept in!” hit the audience like a double-shot of espresso in the morning; the dynamic level increased threefold, thanks to a roaring percussion part. The Philharmonic channeled the mania of the scene with virtuosic flourishes in woodwind and string sections. “Scammed by a Kindergartner,” the motif tied to the two bumbling, cartoonish villains in the film, featured solo turns from the clarinet, bass clarinet, trumpet, and oboe. Rhythmic and dynamic intensity peaked with “Setting the Trap,” which showcased drums, soaring french horns, and some retro-90s synthesizer sounds.
The emotional crux came after the intermission when the Grammy-award winning Brooklyn Youth Chorus sang “Somewhere in My Memory.” The ensemble delivered the memorable melody with tenderness and sweetness.
After the film, the Brooklyn Youth Chorus returned for an encore of “Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas” from Home Alone 2, singing with all the youthful exuberance that the song requires. I can't imagine a better way to round out 2018!