The Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra, a five-piece chamber ensemble, revives music once played in silent movie theaters. This album contains highlights of Mont Alto’s recorded dvd scores for The Italian, Faust, Bardelys the Magnificent, The Last of the Mohicans, Way Down East, and The Italian Straw Hat.
“…it’s a particular pleasure to hear silent-film music as it was actually performed in most of the first-run theaters of that era—which is to say, by an orchestra.… Mr. Sauer specializes in compiling scores from the authentic photoplay music of the period, drawing on the work of neglected composers like Gaston Borch and J.S. Zamecnik; the results are often breathtakingly beautiful and always in the strict service of the film on the screen.”
— Dave Kehr, The New York Times, April 25, 2008
"...What makes this CD so appealing is not only its period charm, but the sense that these representations of emotion and cinematic action have attained a kind of universality which endures over several generations. This music may evoke the movie-going experience of my grandparents’ youth, but it plays on my feelings as expertly as it did theirs, and I’ll bet even the hard hearts of Lady Gaga’s devotees would feel a few palpitations.
"The Mont Alto players (Britt Swenson on violin, Brian Collins on clarinet, Dawn Kramer on trumpet and David Short on cello, along with Sauer on piano) know how to draw the most out of the sweeping melodies for the Love part of things, then sharpening their tone for the Betrayal and then surrender to the lush embrace of Redemption. What the Mont Alto Orchestra also continually demonstrates is the nearness of these movie scores to dance music—dance and movies, being the main forms of entertainment for the young of the 1920s. The group treats these pieces with a keen sense of style, especially in the way they expand the measure with touches of extra time, resisting the modern, sterile temptation to play perfectly in time. These masterful and varied demonstrations of ensemble rubatogive to their music a rare suavity, without which it might seem merely quaint."
-- David Yearsley, The Musical Patriot Column, Counterpunch
Orchestral silent film scores were pieced together scene by scene from libraries of music maintained by each theater’s musical director. These collections contained plenty of works from the classical and salon music repertoire, but movies demand more than just overtures, intermezzos, and waltzes. As demand grew for music more suited to the kinds of scenes seen in typical films, many classically-trained composers considered this a new genre of classical music, and wrote numerous high-quality pieces specifically for silent film orchestras. They had no idea how soon their work would be plunged into oblivion by the coming of sound films. Mont Alto’s mission is to explore and revive this lost repertoire for modern audiences.
We’ve arranged the music on this album into a score for an imagined movie about love, betrayal, and redemption—themes of the six films from which these excerpts are taken. Picture an opening title, a cheerful flirtation, mysterious forboding, a sudden crisis, misery, a little comic relief, a peaceful interlude, despair, acceptance, a confrontation, a reunion, and a final celebration.