Italian films long have been known for their lush, evocative musical scores. Almost inseparable from the films, they enhance the storytelling with a romanticism and vigor not often seen elsewhere.
The Nuovo Cinema Italiano Film Festival has partnered with the Charleston Symphony Orchestra to bring that music to a live concert setting.
On Feb. 22 at the Charleston Music Hall following a red carpet cocktail party, the CSO will perform some of the most iconic music from Italian cinema while scenes from those films play on stage.
Yuriy Bekker will be at the podium conducting. He has led the CSO as concertmaster since 2007 and now serves as the group’s Principle Pops Conductor.
“We talked about this idea for years with Giovanna De Luca (founder and artistic director of the Nuovo Cinema Italiano Film Festival),” says Bekker. “I’m a fan of Italian culture and the Italian Film Festival, and Giovanna is a fan of music, so we wanted to collaborate and do something special. And it’s really a lot of fun preparing for this concert.”
Some of the film scores that will be performed include "Amarcord," "La Dolce Vita," "Once Upon a Time in the West," "8-1/2," "Cinema Paradiso" and "Mondo."
“They’re basically a collection of different suites from these movies combined by an arranger,” says Bekker. “The music is absolutely beautiful and expressive. And at times it’s even very dramatic, like 'La Dolce Vita' opens in a very dramatic way.”
But there’s one piece in particular that holds a special place in Bekker’s heart. And that’s the theme from "Cinema Paradiso."
“When my wife and I were dating, it was a favorite movie (of ours),” he says. “And on our wedding day, I surprised her. I took out my violin and asked some of my colleagues to join me and during our ceremony, I played the theme for her.”
But for this concert, that specific piece will be performed slightly differently, with two vocalists taking center stage.
“It’s a gorgeous duet,” says Bekker. “And it’s just very moving.”
Nino Rota and Ennio Morricone are two Oscar-winning composers who provide the majority of the music for this concert. Rota may be best known for composing "The Godfather" score, while Morricone had been nominated for five Oscars before finally winning one in 2016 for the music he composed for Quentin Tarantino’s "The Hateful Eight."
“These two composers have contributed so much, not just to Italian films but also American films,” says Bekker.
Famed Neapolitan film editor Mario Crocetta prepared the film clips that will accompany the music. Bekker feels the combination of sights and sounds makes the Charleston Music Hall is the ideal setting.
“It’s a nice intimate venue,” he says. “I don’t think there is a bad seat in the house. It’s not too big, it’s not too small, it’s just the right size for this type of event.”
Bekker’s enthusiasm is palpable. Certainly every concert is a reason to get excited. But even so, there’s notable joy in Bekker’s voice as he discusses this event.
“I’m having such a ball studying this music and preparing,” he says. “It’s really enjoyable.”