Prague's soundtrack factory
Skilled musicians – and favorable economics – lure filmmakers to this ad hoc symphony for new scores.
A procession of Roman Legion-looking riders, with helmets and colorful flags, gallops over an open plain as the orchestra music builds to a crescendo. As the scene changes, two lovers (Charlton Heston and Sophia Loren) look into each other's eyes. The riders appear over the horizon, and ....Skip to next paragraph
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"Stop there, Nic," says James Fitzpatrick. "Can we do bars 99 to 105 again, please?"
Mr. Fitzpatrick counts the bars carefully on his score of the 1961 movie "El Cid" – back to the main love theme, where the violin solo soars above the orchestra.
Conductor Nic Raine's voice comes through speakers in the production booth. Fitzpatrick looks back and forth between the movie, paused on an oversized flat-screen TV, and the music, making sure he coordinates violin solo with scene.
Recording soundtracks is all in a day's work for Fitzpatrick, owner of Tadlow Music, a recording company based in London. He routinely hires a complete orchestra from the list he keeps of 600 or so top-notch classical musicians in the five symphony orchestras here in Prague.
Hollywood, too, has come calling, lured by favorable economics and talent.
These musicians – pulled together in various configurations to form an ad hoc symphony without a name of its own – draw quite a crowd. They have collaborated with David Lynch on "Mulholland Drive," with Thomas Newman on "American Beauty," and with Johnny Depp on "Sweeney Todd." Classical music greats such as Sarah Brightman, Shirley Bassey, and David Arnold (who composes the James Bond scores) have all recorded here.
Masters of sight-reading
"The quality gets better every year," says Rick Clark, a producer at Silva Screen Records in London, who is in town recording video-game music. "They nail it the first time. It's spot-on, it's so good." (Silva Screen also used Prague musicians to record the score for "The Queen.")
It wasn't always this easy. Fitzpatrick remembers first recording "Funeral March for a Marionette" (the theme for "Alfred Hitchcock Presents") in 1991 and thinking the assembled musicians sounded worse than a struggling high school grouping.
But things go more quickly these days, and the players have learned to sight-read unusual movie scoring.
"Every member of the orchestra plays with full heart and full passion here," Fitzpatrick says. "Sometimes in London it seems like they don't even try."