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Composers Datebook®

with host John Birge

Friday, September 4

Tchaikovsky and Glass at the movies

Synopsis

For ballet lovers, the opening of Tchaikovsky’s ballet “Swan Lake” conjures up tutus, but for old-time movie buffs, this same music triggers memories of many black-and-white films of the 1930s. Back then, the eerie opening measures of “Swan Lake” served as the “main title” music for dozens of old Universal Studios thrillers, including the famous 1931 film of Bram Stoker’s novel, “Dracula,” starring Bela Lugosi.

“Ah, the children of the night—what music THEY make…”

But on today’s date in 1999 at the Telluride Film Festival in Colorado, Tchaikovsky got some competition from Philip Glass. For a special showing of the Bela Lugosi “Dracula,” Glass wrote a brand-new score. Now, beyond the opening Tchaikovsky, the original 1931 soundtrack had included very little music, and, despite the creepy charisma of Bela Lugosi, the film moved at a ponderous pace. The new Philip Glass score, performed live by the Kronos Quartet, added fresh atmosphere to the familiar old film. In fact, it proved so effective that Glass and the Kronos Quartet took it on a tour, accompanying live showings of the old film in Europe and the U.S.

Music Played in Today's Program

Peter Tchaikovsky (1840 - 1893) Swan Lake Ballet Montréal Symphony; Charles Dutoit, cond. London 436 212

Philip Glass (b. 1937) Dracula filmscore excerpt Kronos Quartet Nonesuch 79542

Additional Information

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