where every sound creates a picture

what do beethoven, debussy, and stravinsky have in common (besides being great composers)? they each have music featured in disney’s fantasia. i really do hope you know what i’m talking about… i’m sure you at least know of mickey mouse in the sorcerer’s apprentice? that’s a good start.

fantasia (1940) and its sequel, fantasia 2000, are animated films produced by disney, which involves several short animated segments set to classical music. from what i’ve heard, fantasia was originally intended to be a marketing tactic during a time when mickey mouse wasn’t doing all that well on the popularity scale. the first segment created was the sorcerer’s apprentice, and to accompany it, disney decided to expand his classical music + animated short films idea into a full-length feature film of sorts. it’s actually a really neat concept, exposing the wonders of classical music through movies. from walt disney’s own words,”we all know it’s impossible to see music, yet many composers have tried to take musical sounds and give them a pictorial meaning.” that was his intent behind fantasia.

[fan-tey-zhuh, -zhee-uh, fan-tuhzeeuh]
1. a composition in fanciful or irregular form or style
2. a potpourri of well-known airs arranged with interludes and florid embellishments
3. fantasy
4. something considered to be unreal, weird, exotic, or grotesque

a few days ago i had the pleasure of attending disney fantasia – live in concert presented by the local symphony. disney + classical music + childhood nostalgia (from the 2000 version, of course)? i had to go! prior to the event, I thought the orchestra was only going to play the music from the Fantasia films – little did I know that the music would be accompanied (simultaneously) by the respective animated sequence from the films. this was definitely a tough feat for the musicians and the conductor, synchronizing the music with the film on the screen, above the orchestra – many props to them. here’s a trailer so you can get a sense of what it is all like:

unfortunately, they couldn’t play all of the pieces from both movies as it would take much too long (though i wouldn’t have minded at all if they did!) but that doesn’t matter because it was amazing as is anyways. being a sort of a music nerd geek, it was exhilarating to hear some of the most well-known pieces in all of classical music history live, in person. and add in beautiful, funny little short films and you get one fantasmic experience! the videos took away from the musical experience (because I was focused more on the clips than the music), but contributed to the experience as well, by helping the audience visualize the music and its nuances. it really is a sound opportunity to expose people to classical music in a slightly more entertaining way, the fantasia films as well as having it played live in concert.

and without further ado, here is the repertoire (warning: please bear with the pitched, low quality, fragmented videos – things weren’t hd back then):

  1. beethoven – symphony no. 5 in c minor, op. 67 (the perfect way to open the concert)
  2. beethoven – symphony no. 6 in f major, op. 68 “pastoral”
  3. tchaikovsky – suite from the nutcracker, op. 71a
  4. debussy – clair de lune (arr. for orchestra? first time hearing that. even though the clip was very boring, the music was gorgeous!)
  5. stravinsky – suite from the firebird 1919 revision (it touches me every time i hear it – second time i’ve heard it live this year)
  6. ponchielli – “dance of the hours” from la gioconda
  7. dukas – the sorcerer’s apprentice (the staple song, of course)
  8. elgar – pomp and circumstance no. 1 in d major, op. 39
  9. respighi – pines of rome
  10. saint-saëns – finale from the carnival of the animals (surprise encore – i’d say this was the most difficult to be in sync with since the music is so fast. this was, unfortunately, the timing in its performance went a little off at one part. luckily enough, it wasn’t too noticeable)

gotta wrap things up now. all in all, it was a very enjoyable concert for people of all ages :the elderly (and pre-2000 babies) in order to relive their childhood the first time they set eyes on fantasia or fantasia 2000, and those born post-2000 who have a love for everything disney. and i really hope they do more – 2020 maybe?

that’s all for now.