Thursday, May 17, 2007
Previn, Rod M.
When I knew him at Metro, he was knee-deep in his religious phase. Quo Vadis?, King of Kings, Barabbas, Ben Hur--he did 'em all. As soon as there were actors in sight wearing white robes and sandals, poor Miklós was called. These were tough films to compose, if for no other reason than the fact that they were absolutely crammed with music, wall-to-wall pious tuttis, and it must have been wildly boring for someones of Miklós's standing.On other fronts: I spent some more time on the forbidden grass, listened to Pierre Boulez conducting the first half of Mahler's Third (with the punchy and primeval Chicago brass section), and read Claire Dederer's funny, counterintuitive piece about Rod McKuen. No derision, no cheap laughs at the poet's expense, who in any case made heaps of money and elicited the loopy praise of W.H. Auden himself. (His poems, Auden declared, were "love letters to the world and I am happy that many of them came to me and found me out.") Bravo!
Once I saw him come out of a projection room really in despair.
"I just don't know what else to write for that scene in which that fella carries the cross up the hill," he complained. This might not have been Bach's problem, but for lesser mortals, it was a genuine challenge. In order to keep himself interested, Miklós did an amazing (and probably unnecessary) amount of research for each of his projects, and so he was a real expert in biblical instruments, plainsong, Gregorian chant, and the like. He was, in other words, a scholar, and an anachronism in Culver City. During Ben Hur, he was beside himself with impotent rage when the director, William Wyler, suggested that "Silent Night, Holy Night" be played during the Nativity scene.