John Axelrod

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17 Sep 2010
The 360-degree artist and conductor of film music
Der Standard


The 360-degree artist and conductor of film music
by Stefan Ender | 15 September 2010, 17:34

Conducts in this season 19 different orchestras: John Axelrod.

A native Texan and graduate of Harvard leads the gala "Hollywood in Vienna" at the Konzerthaus Wien
He speaks incredibly fast and is almost uninterruptible. A turbo. And that’s how this man has to be, if you look at his concert calendar: just in the current season John Axelrod conducts 18 different orchestras among the almost-top league in Europe, the USA and Japan without counting his own, the Orchestre National des Pays de la Loire. And he conducts everything: opera, concerts, the classical-romantic repertoire, jazz and contemporary works.

In 2006, the native Texan and Harvard graduate accompanied Martin Grubinger with the RSO Vienna at the four-hour concert marathon at the Wien Musikverein, he has directed world premieres by Wolfgang Rihm, Kaija Saariaho, Jörg Widmann and Fazil Say; last year he toured Europe and North America with Lang Lang and Herbie Hancock. "And of course every year I conduct film music," adds Axelrod. Because: "I am a 360-degree artist. I'm open. There is no serious or light music, there is only good and bad music."

John Axelrod is active in Vienna in terms of film music: today, Thursday, he conducts the Gala Concert „Hollywood in Vienna“, an event he has served as music director since last year. It was initiated by Sandra Tomek and is produced by her agency Best of Film Music and the SP-affine Echo Media House (Christmas in Vienna). As "one of the major financial supporters" of the City of Vienna it will honor Howard Shore with the Max Steiner Lifetime Achievement Award, whose compositional work has enjoyed a wide hearing in Cronenberg and Scorsese movies, and also in the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

John Axelrod's ambition: to take film music seriously, since he, together with the Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra, will present it at the highest level. The 44-year-old will begin the gala with works of emigrants such as Max Steiner and Erich Wolfgang Korngold – to Axelrod's ears the "third Viennese School" - and end with works by John Williams, James Horner and Klaus Badelt, and the awarded Shore.

Has film music actually really developed since Korngold and Steiner? "Yes. Not so much in terms of harmony, but more regarding crafts, sounds and digital sound effects. For we must not forget: Often the film music composer is limited. He must follow the requirements and expectations of the director and producer. Yet the really good composers - I am thinking today of Danny Elfman, Marco Beltrami, Alexandre Desplat and Klaus Badelt - can find their own new language and create music that withholds even without the film background. " (Stefan Ender, THE STANDARD - Print Edition, 16 September 2010)

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