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Performance highlights artistry of film composer Howard Shore

| Friday, June 24, 2016, 11:40 p.m.

Sure awards are great.

Composer Howard Shore has shelves of them, including multiple Oscars. But to really appreciate a composer, there's nothing like a concert, as the Pittsburgh Symphony is showing at its final Pops concerts of the season, which are conducted by Ludwig Wicki and devoted to “The Film Music of Howard Shore.”

The first part of the concert Friday at Heinz Hall was devoted to the premiere of “The Hobbit, Four Movements for Symphony Orchestra,” which the composer created from one of his most successful scores.

Each movement was very well defined, from the stormy opening to the peaceful close, and featured appealingly bold orchestration. Mezzo-soprano Eva Rainforth, who was amplified with lots of added reverberation for atmosphere, lofted haunting lines in the second movement, while the pungency of bag pipers Colleen Poe and Palmer Shonk added color to the finale.

Orchestras playing film music, including the Pittsburgh Symphony, often supplement the experience by showing film clips, but the Pops offered instead short interviews with Shore by noted film music writer Jon Burlingame between the pieces in the second half of the concert.

Although the content was mainly biographical, Shore did offer insights on the music itself. For example, he noted in speaking of “The Silence of the Lambs” that the perspective was FBI agent Claire Starling's, not Hannibal Lecter's.

Terry Steele was the alto saxophone player for “Naked Lunch,” a part originally written for Ornette Coleman. Excerpts from “Ed Wood” featured the theremin, the electronic instrument so familiar from horror films, played by Lydia Kavina, the grand niece of the Russian inventor Leon Theremin.

The musical excerpts during the second half had to be short because there were nearly a dozen of them, including ones Shore wrote for director Martin Scorsese. Concluding with “The Fellowship of the Ring,” the program closed the circle with which it began two hours earlier.

While it's a treat to hear a composer speaking about his work, it's a shame there we no clips at all to for the audience to feel how well Shore's music serves the dramatic situation.

This concert will be repeated at 8 p.m. Saturday and 2:30 p.m. Sunday at Heinz Hall, Downtown. Admission is $24 to $99. Details: 412-392-4900 or

Mark Kanny is classical music critic for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7877 or .

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