OpusOsm Minutka: FOK’s ‘Ring’ Classics
OpusOsm Minutka (Little Minute):
Five Fast Facts about
FOK’s “Pán Prstenů (Lord of the Rings)”
1. The Prague Symphony Orchestra’s abbreviation “FOK” stands for “Film-Opera-Koncert” — FOK got its start in 1934 by contributing music to Czech films and radio. When they were designated the city’s official orchestra in 1957 (“Symphony Orchestra of the Capital City of Prague – FOK”) they kept this connection to their roots.
2. JRR Tolkein may be the most recognizable name in ring-based legends today, but FOK’s March 9th concert started with a much older ring story. A 13th-century German epic poem, “The Song of the Nibelungen,” inspired Wagner’s four-part opera Der Ring Des Nibelungen (often shortened to just “The Rings”). Soft cellos rising into “Waldweben” from Part III, Siegfried, opened the evening at Smetana Hall.
3. Wagner’s arrangements paint such evocative pictures, even listeners unfamiliar with the original story can imagine their own. The soft, barely perceptible drum sounds in “Siegfried’s Trauermarsch” could easily score the slow walk of any movie villain.
A lonely French horn calls out during part of Götterdämmerung, answered by a chorus of replies from the string section. The tempo of their conversation rises to heated debate, not unlike fantasy fans discussing the latest adaptation of their favorite book.
4.Part II, The Valkyrie, rewarded the audience with one of the most recognizable refrains in film music, “The Ride of the Valkyrie.” This classic cavalry charge may evoke memories of 1979′s film classic Apocalypse Now (or maybe even the 1957 Bugs Bunny cartoon “What’s Opera, Doc?”). FOK conductor Rastislav Štúr attacked the piece with gusto, with sharp elbow movements keeping the strings roiled as the horns trumpeted their arrival. Mr Štúr threw his entire body into the final, authoritative swipe of his baton as the audience erupted into applause.
5. Next, we were transported to Middle Earth as costumed actors wandered the aisles during selections from The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King,composed by Oscar-winner Howard Shore. FOK was joined by the Czech Philharmonic Choir of Brno. Jáchym Minařík, age 9, approached the microphone with the simple modest stance of a hobbit, looked out over the orchestra and packed auditorium and, without a waver in his voice, lilted through the melody of “In Dreams”. Martin Kupčík, age 8, took on the added challenge of singing “Evenstar” — in Elvish. All moved quickly and smoothly through the trilogy, from battle anthems to happy reunions, with the soft flute sounds of The Shire floating through the concert hall.
FOK certainly does cinematic justice to classic soundtracks, but also just as smoothly pays tribute to classical composers.
If you missed this concert, it’s not too late to enjoy more film-literature theme music from the FOK. Their “Shakespeare in Music” concert May 4-5, 2016 presents classic compositions from Romeo and Juliet, Richard III, and others.
– Auburn Scallon, Opus Osm writer
Photo Credits: The Prague Symphony Orchestra (FOK)