Wuthering Heights tech week is upon us, and I am really excited to start seeing and hearing the production in the Ordway. At the Adult Education Class last Monday, you could see how excited everyone in attendance was to hear this music. The composer himself was such an interesting guy. His life long ambition was to be a symphonic conductor. He was a great champion of new music, especially the music of Charles Ives. He conducted the CBS Radio orchestra for years, and this experience granted him infinite knowledge of the orchestra. You will notice in the score lots of low woodwinds, providing an eerie, distant color. He also uses the string writing to either compliment a vocal melody, giving it a Pucciniesque melodic sweep, or to create violent contrasts.
Film composing just kind of fell into Herrmann’s lap. Thankfully for us it did. The opera score is full of ideas that were recycled in other movie scores. The audience should recognize bits of Psycho in the fight sequences, bits of Vertigo in the pensive waiting sequences, bits of The Ghost and Mrs. Muir in the lyrical meditative sections, and the main theme of Jane Eyre.
The opera never became known, but not for lack of trying. The composer didn’t want to give up any artistic control. His reputation was that of a hard-headed man who was often difficult to deal with. You can imagine his point of view though…Wuthering Heights was his own project. Most of his compositions were constrained by time, or action in a movie. It was with this piece that he could write whatever he wanted. It is understandable that he would be defensive of the work, even if it prohibited the work from being done in public. The artistic team has made slight, yet clever alterations to the score that retain Herrmann’s intent, but gives the score a fresh sounding style. I am excited to start hearing the rehearsals with the orchestra!