Conductor: Constantine KitsopoulosPsycho by Alfred Hitchcock
Just because summer's here and the regular musical season is over does not mean I have to stay home and brood, or face the unpredictable weather and predictable traffic associated with going all the way to Wolf Trap. Luckily, our neighbor to the North, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, is having its "Summer Nights" series at Strathmore in July, and is kicking it off with a very neat idea: watching Hitchcock's classic Psycho while the orchestra is playing the musical score live. Although I've been to quite a few similar events, those were silent movies accompanied by a few musicians in the more intimate setting of the National Gallery of Art. Therefore, this was going to be a new adventure.
Although the unusually gorgeous weather we've been having was keeping a lot of people outside, the concert hall was still about two thirds full. It is probably a safe bet to assume that most of the audience had some kind of familiarity with the film and its famed screeching violins, and was eager to take the experience to a higher ground. Hitchcock was notoriously finicky about every single aspect of his productions, and the attention he brought to the soundtracks sure paid off as they routinely became as important as any character in his films.This was particularly obvious in Psycho where emotions and plot twists were unmistakably enhanced by a reduced, all-string BSO. Even if the spectators knew what was going to happen next, and they obviously did in the shower scene or when mother was revealed, the level of intensity was compellingly heightened by the live orchestra and the unusual live music drastically increased the impact of the images. I regret they inserted an intermission (but the musicians may have needed it), and while after all these years some of the special effects appeared rather archaic and the concluding pop psychology bit quite simplistic, it was still a fun experience, perfect to unwind on a beautiful summer night.