Composers Datebook®

with host John Zech

Friday, September 13

Bernstein meets Wharton

Synopsis

On today's date in 1993, the first gala preview screening of a new film, "The Age of Innocence," based on the novel by Edith Wharton, took place at the Ziegfield Theater in Manhattan, as a benefit for the New York Historical Society. That was only appropriate, since Wharton's historical novel describes upper-class New York society of the 1870s — an age, if the film is to be believed, so emotionally repressed that the unbuttoning of a woman's glove can be a breathtakingly sensual moment.

The new film was directed by Martin Scorsese, famous for decidedly UN-repressed thrillers likes "Taxi Driver," "Raging Bull," and "Cape Fear" – and initially some thought Scorsese a poor choice to film Wharton's novel. The skeptics were proven wrong.

Much of the success of the film can be attributed to its ravishing orchestral score by American composer Elmer Bernstein. "It was my personal tribute to the music of Johannes Brahms," said Bernstein, who also credited Scorsese for appreciating the importance of music in bringing a movie to life: Unlike most directors today, Scorsese brought in Bernstein before "Age of Innocence" was filmed – not after.

"We started talking about the character of the music long before Scorsese ever shot a frame of film," recalls Bernstein, with admiration. Bernstein's "Age of Innocence" score was nominated for an Academy Award — the 12th time Bernstein had been so honored in his long and productive cinematic career.

Music Played in Today's Program

Elmer Bernstein (1922-2004) Farewell Dinner, from The Age of Innocence film score Studio orchestra; Elmer Bernstein, cond. EMI Classics 57451

Additional Information

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