Remembering David Cripps, the Horn Player who Created Princess Leia

David Cripps, the legendary British horn player, passed away last week following a battle with cancer. Cripps served as principal horn of the London Symphony Orchestra between 1974 and 1983. During that time, he performed and recorded under such conductors as André Previn and Claudio Abbado. Perhaps he will be remembered most for his original soundtrack performances of Princess Leia‘s Theme, and other horn solos throughout John Williams’ iconic film scores for Star Wars …

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“Sorry, Wrong Number”: An Excerpt from Franz Waxman’s Film Noir Score

Released in the autumn of 1948, Sorry, Wrong Number is a classic film noir thriller, filled with shadowy, atmospheric shots, and gradually building tension. The film’s plot centers around Leona Stevenson (Barbara Stanwyck), a spoiled hypochondriac and heiress who is bedridden in her New York apartment, and who relies on the telephone for all communication with the outside world. Leona’s husband Henry (Burt Lancaster), a businessman employed by Leona’s father’s company, becomes increasingly …

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Remembering Thomas Stacy

Thomas Stacy, who served as the principal English horn player of the New York Philharmonic between 1972 and 2011, passed away on April 30. He was 84. A native of rural Arkansas, Stacy fell in love with the instrument at the age of 14. He was once hailed as “the Heifetz of the English horn.” Leonard Bernstein called him “a poet among craftsmen.” During his tenure with the New York Philharmonic, Stacy …

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“The Night of the Hunter”: Excerpts from Walter Schumann’s Classic Film Score

Charles Laughton’s 1955 film noir thriller, The Night of the Hunter, starring Robert Mitchum, Shelley Winters and Lillian Gish, tells the story of a serial killer who poses as a minister in Depression-era West Virginia. Based on a novel by Davis Grubb, the plot centers around two children who are rendered parentless. With ten thousand dollars, stolen by their father who is executed for his crime, the children flee down the Ohio River and …

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Korngold’s “The Sea Hawk”: Excerpts from the Film Score

With the music of Erich Wolfgang Korngold (1897-1957), Viennese Romanticism faded into a rich, shimmering twilight. As a child prodigy, Korngold attracted the attention of Gustav Mahler (who declared him a “musical genius”) and of Richard Strauss. Der Schneemann (“The Snowman”), a ballet Korngold composed at the age of 11, became a sensation when it was performed by the Vienna Court Opera in 1910. Later, came the 1920 opera, Die tote Stadt …

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Copland’s “The Red Pony” Suite: Film Music of the American Frontier

Aaron Copland was the quintessential city dweller. Born in 1900 to Lithuanian-Jewish parents, Copland grew up amid the brownstones of Brooklyn, New York. At the age of 21, he set sail for Paris to study with the legendary composition teacher, Nadia Boulanger. Returning to the United States four years later, Copland settled in a studio apartment on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. Although his maternal grandfather had lived on the Illinois prairie in …

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Stephen Sondheim’s Homage to Ravel

Artistically, a strong kinship exists between Stephen Sondheim and Maurice Ravel. In the music of Ravel, we often get a sense of cool detachment. Distance and irony open the door to the most intimate expression. Stravinsky alluded to the pristine craftsmanship of Ravel’s music when he called the composer “the most perfect of Swiss clockmakers.” As a student, Stephen Sondheim learned “that art is work and not inspiration, that invention comes with craft.” Perhaps …

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