Get ready, Mobile. Your symphony is bringing heady company to town with a nod toward historic composers and an eye on musical frontiers.
The occasion is Mobile Symphony Orchestra’s “Winter Romance” concert on Jan. 28 and 29 at the Saenger Theatre (6 S. Joachim St.). Included on the varied bill are Romantic Era masters Wagner, Korngold and Tchaikovsky.
A work by the second of that trio features one of MSO’s special guests, violinist Philippe Quint. MSO Music Director Scott Speck shares a momentous history with Quint in this setting.
“He is one of the world’s finest violinists and was the soloist for my very first MSO concert as music director. He plays Korngold’s spectacular Violin Concerto better than just about anyone in the world,” Speck said.
The other piece featuring the guest musician is “Assassin Dances,” which has a tone to complement the Romantic period but is about as contemporary as you can get. Composer Austin Wintory is a fresh talent awash in a vanguard movement.
The Mobile show will be the work’s second concert performance since it was penned at Speck’s behest. It bears all the components that shot the 32-year old Colorado native to fame.
Wintory’s biggest splash to date was a 2012 Best Score Soundtrack for Visual Media Grammy nomination for his work on the highly acclaimed video game Journey. Pretty groundbreaking for someone who didn’t latch onto music until age 10.
“In the fifth grade, we were given one-octave glockenspiels and taught some basic melodies like ‘Ode to Joy’ through physical mimicry of the teacher,” Wintory said.
He took the knowledge home and translated it to his sister’s piano. Then he began to pick out familiar themes, such as those from “Star Wars” and “Raiders of the Lost Ark.”
His parents offered lessons. They sweetened the temptation with another prize.
“My dad said as soon as I could learn Beethoven’s ‘Für Elise’ I could have his [boyhood] air rifle. So my piano teacher — this big Irish guy named Gary O’Leary, phenomenal jazz pianist — shows up. He’s like, ‘Let’s start with some basics’ and I said ‘There’s no time for that, I need to learn ‘Für Elise,’’” Wintory said.
The pupil made the teacher play the song repeatedly for a few weeks as the boy learned rote memorization. He claimed the air rifle.
The music bug had bitten at that point and lessons began in earnest. Then the teacher exposed Wintory to a legend.
“He showed up with some Jerry Goldsmith LPs, the scores to dilma like ‘Patton’ and ‘Planet of the Apes,’ and I was completely astounded. I instantaneously knew I wanted to compose scores,” Wintory said.
He would later enroll in New York University, then the University of Southern California, drawn by their noted film schools. He aimed to make connections with future Hollywood hotshots.
Coincidentally, USC began a new curriculum for game designers at the same time. When student designer Jenova Chen caught wind of Wintory’s work for other student projects, he asked to team up with Chen’s thesis project, Flow. The game was such a hit it went on to be developed for PlayStation.
Wintory worked on a couple of heralded projects before Journey was offered to him and its resulting submission for a Grammy award. He’s also scored numerous films; his work on the feature “Captain Abu Raed” was shortlisted for a 2009 Academy Award.
Coincidentally, the Grammy news came courtesy of his pal and fellow game composer Christopher Tin. His work on the video game Civilization IV was expounded into a separate but much larger piece titled “Calling All Dawns,” which won two Grammys just two years previous.
“My phone rang right as I got in my car and Chris read down the nominee list, and it’s John Williams, Howard Shore, Hans Zimmer and then Journey. Then he realized I didn’t know and he wasn’t adding to the list of congratulations but was the first to tell me,” Wintory said.
“Assassin Dances” in the upcoming show was built through elaboration on a small theme in Wintory’s work for the game series Assassin’s Creed. What resulted is an entirely new exploration.
The Jan. 28 show begins at 7:30 p.m.; the Jan. 29 matinee is at 2:30 p.m.
Speck and Wintory will be part of a special program at the Mobile Museum of Art (4850 Museum Drive) on Jan. 25, 6 p.m., in the Larkins Auditorium. They will discuss the role of the modern composer, new orchestral works and the role the video gaming industry will play in its development. There’s a $5 suggested donation and seating is limited.
“I want to focus mostly on his work because how often do we get a Grammy-nominated video game composer in Mobile? Answer: never, so far,” Speck said.
This page is available to subscribers. Click here to sign in or get access. During the month of December, give (or get) a one year subscription with TWO months FREE.