In July,2015 the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra (conductor Timothy Brock) gave a concert of music from Alfred Hitchcock’s films and it was recorded for BBC Radio 3.
I was lucky enough to be at the concert and it was a thrill to hear the 80 piece orchestra play the music of Frank Waxman,Dimitri Tiomkin,Bernard Hermann and Miklos Rozsa.
Films featured included Rebecca,Notorious,North By Northwest,Pyscho,Vertigo and Dial M for Murder.
Listening to the Russian musician,Lydia Kavina, play the theremin for Spellbound reminded me how amazing this instrument is. I didn’t know anything about the theremin other than its sound in The Day The Earth Stood Still. That eerie,ominous sound when Gort’s visor slowly raises.(Music by Bernard Hermann).
Ms Kavina, on her Facebook page, said,” It was a great enjoyment to play Spellbound with the BBC SSO… The conductor Timothy Brock was a student of Miklos Rozsa himself.”
Composer Miklos Rozsa used the theremin in both The Lost Weekend and Spellbound.
It was also heard in The Spiral Staircase , The Thing From Another World and The Ten Commandments.
Comments about the theremin include,”You can see it, hear it, but you can’t touch it!”
When RCA bought the rights to manufacture and sell theremins in America in the 1920s, they boasted, “Nothing more complicated than waving one’s hands in the air!”
Of course that wasn’t so. Invented by Leon Theremin in 1920, it was one of the first electronic instruments. In 1927,the inventor himself gave a concert at New York’s Carnegie Hall, and the advertising talked about “Creating music out of a wave of the hand.”
Trying to understand how the theremin works isn’t easy. It looks like a radio receiver, with a vertical antenna on top and a horizontal metal loop on the side. The musician’s right hand moves in the air near the antenna ( an electromagnetic field), while the volume is controlled by the left hand.
Lydia Kavina,playing in this concert, was one of the last pupils of Leon Theremin who died in 1993, aged 97.
Owners of theremins in Hollywood included Cary Grant,Harpo Marx,Charles Chaplin and Edward Everett Horton.
And even Jerry Lewis had fun with the theremin in The Delicate Delinquent.