From Lord of the Rings. Music from all three movies has been incorporated into a full-length symphony.
The Unforgettable Year 1919 Suite, Op. 89a
(Arr. L. Atovmyan) : V. The Assault on the Red Hill
Since the 2021 Academy Awards come up later this month on April 25, let’s take a moment to consider some of the greatest movie music ever written. The acid test for great movie music is whether or not it has become part of the general concert hall repertoire. The other requirement is that it is music composed specifically for a movie. This rules out contenders such as Also Sprach Zarathustra and The Blue Danube from 2001 A Space Odyssey or “Un bel di vedremo” from Fatal Attraction.
Vaughan Williams: Sinfonia Antartica
[Haitink] Sheila Armstrong
The first piece of great movie music is from a Soviet movie entitled The Unforgettable Year 1919. This movie was part of several cult movies made around the persona of Joseph Stalin. The movie itself has been totally forgotten but the music was written by none other than Dimitri Shostakovich. A section of the score has become known as “The Assault on Beautiful Gorky”.
Miklos Rozsa - EL CID - Suite
New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, James Sedares (Conductor)
Ralph Vaughan Williams’s Seventh Symphony is based on the music he composed for the 1948 movie Scott of the Antarctic. The movie tells the tale of the ill-fated Scott expedition which was racing the Norwegian team to become the first to the South Pole.
The Heiress Suite · Leonard Slatkin · Aaron Copland
Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra
El Cid received an Academy Award Nomination for Best Musical Score in 1962. The score, by Miklos Rozsa, has been turned into a symphonic suite with a notable recording by The New Zealand Philharmonic.
Lord of The Rings Full Symphony
Aaron Copland wrote seven film scores and received Oscar nominations for four of them. His score to The Heiress won an Academy Award in 1950. The film itself was nominated for eight Oscars and won four.
Bernstein : Symphonic Dances from West Side Story
Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, The Symphony Hall, Osaka, 1985
Howard Shore won two Academy Awards for his Lord of the Rings film scores. Music from all three movies has been incorporated into a full-length symphony. To be honest, this might be the best symphony written in the past 50 years.
Alexander Nevsky - "The Battle of the Ice"
Music: Sergei Prokofiev. Yuri Temirkanov conducting the St. Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra
Of course, there’s Star Wars. Music from the now nine-part film series was featured in a massive two-hour concert by the Netherlands Philharmonic. Star Wars doesn’t enter the concert hall too often but it dominates summer pops stages around the world.
West Side Story won 10 Academy Awards in 1962. The symphonic suite of the musical score has become a concert hall staple. The composer, Leonard Bernstein, wrote serious music for the concert hall, but none of it has enjoyed the success of West Side Story.
The film score with the most concert hall success is clearly Alexander Nevsky by Sergei Prokofiev. It could be argued that it is simply the greatest film score of all time. The film, from 1938, depicts the Russian prince Alexander Nevsky defeating the invading Germans. In 1941 the Germans invaded Russia and were defeated.