Legacy Conversations: John Mauceri

The esteemed American conductor talks about the history and the aesthetic of music written in Hollywood during the Golden Age era and how it led to the rise of John Williams.

Hosted by Maurizio Caschetto

John Mauceri @ Detroit Symphony Orchestra January '07
John Mauceri with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra (January 2007)

Available on Apple Podcast and Podbean
Subscribe to the RSS Feed

There are very few musicians in the world who can compare to Maestro John Mauceri. Conductor, educator, writer and lecturer, John Mauceri is, quite simply, an extraordinary artist who devoted his entire life to master his own craft and share his vast knowledge with the world. Like his friend and mentor Leonard Bernstein (with whom he worked closely for 18 years in many important projects), he kept a child-like curiosity in his approach to music, knowing virtually no boundaries and always keeping an open mind to any repertoire—Mauceri is comfortably at home when conducting a Mahler symphony with a youth orchestra as much as being on the podium at the Teatro alla Scala presenting an opera by Verdi or Puccini, or facing a 18,000-people crowd at the Hollywood Bowl conducting film scores by Erich Wolfgang Korngold, Jerry Goldsmith and John Williams or excerpts from Broadway musicals and Gershwin’s songs. And like Lenny, he also loves to share his infinite wisdom and knowledge about music, musicians and music-making as a teacher and lecturer in university and as a public speaker and writer.

JohnMauceri_Lenny_1983_LaScala
John Mauceri with Leonard Bernstein at the Teatro alla Scala in Milano, Italy, after John’s house debut conducting the European premiere of Bernstein’s ‘A Quiet Place’ (1983)

He certainly doesn’t need introduction to any serious classical and film music admirer. In his distinguished and extraordinarily varied career, Mauceri conducted the world’s greatest opera companies and symphony orchestras, but also worked on the musical stages of Broadway and Hollywood, as well as the most prestigious halls of academia. He served as direttore stabile (Principal Conductor) at the Teatro Regio di Torino in Italy, and previously as music director of Washington Opera at Kennedy Center and music director of the Scottish Opera.

From 1991 to 2006, Mauceri held the post of Founding Director of the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra in Los Angeles (a pick-up ensemble which included some of the best studio orchestral players working in LA), created for him in 1991 by the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association. He truly made the Hollywood Bowl a special place for music-making in Los Angeles and conducted over three hundred concerts, often presenting music by Hollywood composers, with a total audience of some four million people. During the same years, Mauceri led the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra in a successful and varied series of recordings on the Philips Classics label, often featuring a creative mix of classical pieces, music from Hollywood films and excerpts from great American musicals. At the same time, Mauceri brought the same sensibility during his summer seasons at the Hollywood Bowl, offering an innovative programming concept. In this role, he brought a larger awareness to the great film repertoire, especially the music of Hollywood’s émigré composers including Erich Wolfgang Korngold, Max Steiner and Franz Waxman, but also Igor Stravinsky and Arnold Schoenberg. He was also one of the very first to present film night concerts at the Hollywood Bowl, often showing film clips accompanied live with the orchestra—a true pioneer of the now-popular live-to-picture concert format. In many cases, Mauceri had to edit and reconstruct film scores in order to make them performable. In addition to celebrating the music written in Los Angeles and putting it into larger contexts, he brought fully staged musicals to the Bowl for the first time in its history. Maestro Mauceri developed direct professional and personal relationships with a number of important film composers, including Miklós Rózsa, David Raksin, Elmer Bernstein, Jerry Goldsmith, and of course John Williams.

JohnMauceri_JW_1992
John Williams and John Mauceri at the Hollywood Bowl in 1992

Mauceri’s interest in championing film composers’ works written for the concert hall has always been one of his distinctive traits. In recent years, he developed a fruitful working relationship with composer Danny Elfman, conducting for him the live shows Danny Elfman’s Music for the Films of Tim Burton and also Tim Burton’s Nightmare Before Christmas – Live to Projection, accompanying Danny Elfman himself during the singing parts. He also conducted and recorded the composer’s works for the concert hall, including the ambitious Serenada Schizophrana and the challenging Violin Concerto ‘Eleven Eleven’ (released this year by Sony Classical).

JohnMauceri_Elfman_2014
Danny Elfman with John Mauceri (2012)

John Mauceri is also active as public speaker, teacher, educator and writer. For fifteen years he served on the faculty of his alma mater, Yale University, and returned in 2001 to teach and conduct the official concert celebrating the university’s 300th anniversary and is the recipient of two awards from the university. He also wrote articles for the Gramophone music magazine and The Huffington Post, often contributing insightful thoughts about the music for Hollywood films. In 2017, he published a book titled Maestros and Their Music: The Art and Alchemy of Conducting, an unprecedented, informative and entertaining exploration of his profession, rich with anecdotes from decades of working alongside the greatest names of the music world, including his mentors Leopold Stokowski and Leonard Bernstein. He has a new book coming soon: For the Love of Music: A Conductor’s Guide to the Art of Listening will be released in September.

JohnMauceri_talks_2010
Mauceri addresses the audience before a performance of Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No.2 at the Stevens Center in North Carolina

Honoured with countless awards for his outstanding achievements in music (including Emmy, Tony and Grammy Awards), John Mauceri continues to be one of the world’s leading ambassador for film music in the concert hall. He continues to study and conduct the classic scores from Hollywood’s Golden Age, but he’s also very receptive to the more contemporary repertoire of Hollywood composers, including John Williams. He developed a unique perspective and a very profound insight into the rich history of music written for the Hollywood films.

In this long and engaging conversation, Maestro Mauceri talks about the history and the aesthetic of movie music of the Golden Age era of Hollywood, how it led to the rise of John Williams and the role of the composer in the history of Hollywood’s film music. He shares all his incredible knowledge and wisdom about music.

JohnMauceri_JW_2009
John Williams and John Mauceri at the opening season of the Hollywood Bowl in 2009

Thanks to John Mauceri for this time and generosity; special thanks to Michael Carlisle (Inkwell Management) for the help and support.

Visit John Mauceri’s official website for information about his upcoming appearances and news on his recordings and writings: http://www.johnmauceri.com/

You can find recordings of John Mauceri on Spotify and iTunes Store

List of musical excerpts featured in this episode:

– ‘Main Title’ from Gone With the Wind  (composed by Max Steiner: Hollywood Bowl Orchestra conducted by John Mauceri)
– Cello Concerto from Devotion (composed by Erich Wolfgang Korngold; National Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Charles Gerhardt)
– ‘Battle, Victory and Epilogue’ from The Adventures of Robin Hood  (composed by Erich Wolfgang Korngold; Hollywood Bowl Orchestra conducted by John Mauceri)
– ‘Building the Spirit’ from The Spirit of St. Louis (composed and conducted by Franz Waxman)
– ‘Into the Estuary’ from Jaws (composed and conducted by John Williams)
– Suite from Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (composed by Franz Waxman; Hollywood Bowl Orchestra conducted by John Mauceri)
– ‘Overture’ from The Sea Hawk (composed by Erich Wolfgang Korngold; National Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Charles Gerhardt)
– Excerpt from Flash Gordon serial (1940, composed by Franz Waxman)
– ‘Main Title’; Imperial Attack’ from Star Wars (composed and conducted by John Williams)
– ‘Hyperspace’ from The Empire Strikes Back (composed and conducted by John Williams)
– Theme from Jurassic Park (composed by John Williams; Hollywood Bowl Orchestra and Los Angeles Master Chorale conducted by John Mauceri)
– Suite from Psycho (composed by Bernard Herrmann; Danish National Orchestra conducted by John Mauceri)
– Suite from A Place in the Sun (composed by Franz Waxman; Hollywood Bowl Orchestra conducted by John Mauceri)
– Prelude from Rear Window (composed by Franz Waxman; Danish National Orchestra conducted by John Mauceri)
– ‘The Mecha World’ from A.I. Artificial Intelligence (composed and conducted by John Williams)
– ‘End Titles’ from Close Encounters of the Third Kind (composed and conducted by John Williams)
– ‘Joy Ride’ from Catch Me If You Can (composed and conducted by John Williams)
– ‘Devil’s Dance’ from The Witches of Eastwick (composed by John Williams; Hollywood Bowl Orchestra conducted by John Mauceri)
– ‘II. Scherzo’ from Symphony in F Sharp (composed by Erich Wolfgang Korngold; London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Andre Previn)
– ‘Night Journeys’ from Dracula (composed by John Williams; Hollywood Bowl Orchestra and Los Angeles Master Chorale conducted by John Mauceri)
– ‘Throne Room and Finale’ from Star Wars (composed by John Williams; Hollywood Bowl Orchestra conducted by John Mauceri)
– Excerpt from John Williams’ interview with Tommy Pearson (Classic FM, 2012)