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Our motto: "Critical thinking in the cheap seats." Unbiased, honest classical music and opera opinions, occasional obituaries and classical news reporting, since 2007. All written content © 2019 by Paul J. Pelkonen. For more about Superconductor, visit this link. For advertising rates, click this link. Follow us on Facebook.

Monday, November 17, 2008

The Die Hard Story: A Reflection

(It's a quiet week on the concert-going so I thought I'd share some thoughts on why we're all here--why a certain young man named Paul J. Pelkonen is nutty about classical music.)

or How I got (back) into Classical Music:

It's true that I came to opera first--my mother and father were great ones for making sure I was "cultured", taking me to Broadway shows as early as 6 or 7 years old. When I was about 8 (?) years old, Mom and Dad brought me to a performing arts series at Brooklyn College--attending a dance recital, some theater piece, and an opera. I don't really remember. But of all those shows, opera was the one that stuck.

When I was 9, (this was in 1982), Mom and Dad bought a subscription for us at the New York City Opera. My first was Turandot, followed in that strike-shortened season by La Boheme, Candide and Carmen. We went to the opera regularly after that, even continuing when my Dad passed away in 1985.

But by the time I turned 16 or so, I was into a different kind of bombast--I had gotten into progressive rock, heavy metal, and the music that is today called "classic" rock. My first rock concert was that summer of '88: Aerosmith, Deep Purple, and Guns N' Roses at Giants Stadium (a show immortalized in the G'N'R' video for the song "Paradise City." The next day, my friend Ethan and I decided to go to the movies. Our choice: Die Hard.

Now, you might recall that the first Die Hard movie has a score pervaded by the "Ode to Joy" theme from Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. It shows up first at the cocktail party, played in a string quartet arrangement. Later, Hans Gruber (the villain, played by Alan Rickman) hums or scat-sings it to himself in the elevator. At the end of the film's second act, when the bad guys crack open the safe, a sprightly version of the "Turkish March" comes bursting out of the orchestra, celebrating the thieves' glee at their success. And after the final, apocalyptic conclusion to the movie, the Ninth roars over the final credit scroll in all its glory--albeit in a slightly compressed, edited version.

I don't know which chorus or orchestra was used in the film--the original arrangements were by the late Michael Kamen but I don't know if he recorded another Ninth (unlikely) or simply edited down an existing recording for the movie. Either way, I stood there, in the theater, for the entire closing credits. The next day, I went to the Record Explosion on Broadway and Fulton, and for $3.99, bought a cassette of the 9th, featuring the Philadelphia Orchestra and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, conducted by Eugene Ormandy. I was hooked. I still am.

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Critical Thinking in the Cheap Seats