Film & TV Music

Hans Zimmer through the Hands of the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra

Have you ever listened to music from a movie where you could actually see the scene playing in front of you? When I saw the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra (MPO) play the Hans Zimmer‘s composition of Time from the film, Inception, I could actually see the spinning totem at the very last note from the infamous and much-debated ending.

Hans Zimmer being a subject matter for the MPO’s latest endeavour in appealing to the mainstream audience is more than just an act of empty marketing. This break from classical pieces for contemporary film scores turned out magical because of the varied compositions and breath-taking performances skillfully adapting Hans Zimmer’s unconventional composition through orchestral instruments (evident from the performance of Driving Miss Daisy‘s theme which was originally composed by Zimmer using synthesizers and samplers).


Conducting the orchestra for that night was Gerard Salonga, director of the ABS-CBN Philharmonic Orchestra in Manila and has been leading several concerts with the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra. He debuted at the Sydney Symphony Orchestra and Philippine Philharmonic. After a rendition of Driving Miss Daisy, Salonga welcomed the audience and presented the players and stated that the intention to provide visual scenes from the movies while they play was quickly dismissed in order to ensure that the audience would be fully immersed on the performance on stage. A great decision by the conductor as there was total silence during every number and there was keenness to observe the technicalities of each score, searching in the sea of musicians when an interesting tune is played to find its source and finding an unexpected electric guitarist in formal attire during Is She With You? from  Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. 

Gerard Salonga conducting the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra.

I rather not pretend to be pompous and say I was only there to see the haunting Inception Suite or was waiting if they would play the suspenseful, No Time for Caution from the incredibly underrated (or overrated?) Interstellar; I was actually there for the vibrant, adventurous and almost comedic, Zoosters Breakout from Madagascar 2: Escape to Africa. It was the soundtrack that when you first hear in the sequel and thought, “Could it be Zimmer? It couldn’t be. In Madagascar?!” which shouldn’t be surprising considering Zimmer’s discography in animated films like The Lion King and Kung Fu Panda 3 (the oh-so-villanous, The Arrival of Kai).


By the final piece which was Gladiator from the movie of the same name by Ridley Scott, I was a tad bit disappointed when the conductor bowed and did not exclaim, “Are you not entertained?!” but all was well because the audience clapped for a good three minutes which encouraged Salonga to come back on stage and play Jack Sparrow of Pirates of the Caribbean which was not listed in the programme. The concentration it took by the musicians to adapt these scores into live orchestral performances was genuinely admirable and the attention to each sound that it aid in imagining the films scenes was entertaining as an audience; it was a concert that should have been made somewhat a tradition by the MPO because of the positive reaction from the audience and fans of the composer.


Images are from the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra. 

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