Nightmare Romance: Bernard Herrmann and Alfred Hitchcock
Symphony Center; Fri 4
Despite a voluminous portfolio, Bernard Herrmann has enjoyed a bigger legacy as an answer to film trivia questions than as a serious composer. Yet among a small but influential cadre—including John Zorn, guitarist Bill Frisell and others—Herrmann’s “incidental” film scoring, like his contemporary Ennio Morricone’s, has come to be seen as anything but.
We first came to Herrmann’s music through the swanky swing and dystopian haze that floats through Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver, which Herrmann famously finished recording the day before his death. But Herrmann’s legend was truly built many years earlier during his decade-plus collaboration with Alfred Hitchcock. The dramatic paranoia that hovers over Hitchcock’s work (their 1955 to 1966 partnership produced Psycho, Vertigo, those freaky electronic squeals in The Birds and many more) would be unthinkable without Herrmann’s ear for the uneasy and the avant-garde.
This close relationship with Hitchcock long ago ensured Herrmann his fair share of orchestral pop tributes, but this tour—pairing local orchestras with an unorthodox jazz quintet to recreate the sounds of Psycho, Vertigo, North by Northwest and more—promises to be a tribute of a different sort. Leading the quintet is New York bassist Greg Cohen, a collaborator with Tom Waits and Elvis Costello as well as the anchor on free-jazz pioneer Ornette Coleman’s 2005 doozy Sound Grammar. Joining him are classically fluent reedist Marty Ehrlich and a rhythm section featuring Americana abstractionist Frisell; all three possess an intellectual heft the late composer would be proud of.