CULTURE

A composer’s unrivaled career

Covering a remarkably prolific, diverse and celebrated career that has spanned over four decades in a single evening is a task almost beyond comprehension. Tonight’s performance of work by the renowned French film composer Maurice Jarre at the Herod Atticus Theater in Athens will merely skim his immense output’s surface, but it will also highlight what a grand, possibly unrivaled, career it has been. Jarre has written music for more than 200 films, including scores for numerous landmark films such as «Lawrence of Arabia,» «Doctor Zhivago,» and «A Passage to India.» These three projects earned Jarre his illustrious career’s three Oscars, a rare accomplishment by any composer. Tonight’s performance will feature themes from 13 Jarre soundtracks performed by the SWR Radio Orchestra Kaiserslautern, led by Nic Raine at the podium. Selections will include themes from the three aforementioned films, «Fatal Attraction,» «Witness,» «Dead Poets’ Society» and «Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome.» Jarre studied engineering before deciding to focus on music, a decision which led him to study composition and percussion at the Paris Conservatoire. His early musical ventures took him the way of theater but occasional forays into film did not go unnoticed. In 1962, the British director David Lean helped change Jarre’s life – literally. Seeking a daring composer with a classical background for his upcoming «Lawrence of Arabia,» the director turned to Jarre after failing to persuade some of the more established composers of the time, including Benjamin Britten. Jarre was given little time, about four weeks, to conjure up music for an epic film well over three hours long. Rather than buckle, Jarre rendered his first of countless classic soundtracks. It was fresh, immediate, even popular. Not surprisingly, Lean contacted Jarre for the soundtrack to «Doctor Zhivago» three years later. The heavy exposure of the film’s basic theme, «Lara’s Theme,» – which, incidentally, will be performed tonight – had provoked negative reactions from some in intellectual circles. They categorized Jarre as nothing more than a mere churner of melodies. In retrospect, considering the composer’s body of work, these accusations were hasty and unjust. After securing fame and wealth for a lifetime with the overwhelming success of his work for the two Lean films, Jarre went on to work differently, in a more reflective and adventurous way, without abandoning his rare melodic vein, as reflected by his scores for numerous hit films. The composer slowed his busy pace after turning 70 in 1994, but continues to work. Maurice Jarre at the Herod Atticus Theater tonight. For tickets, Athens Festival box office, 39 Panepistimiou, tel 210.322.1459; Herod Atticus Theater, Acropolis, tel 210.323.2771. For credit card reservations, tel 210.322.1459.