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In the history of film, the use of well-known classical works has often proved to be particularly effective. On the one hand, the audience brings in their previous experience of the music, on the other hand, the cinematic perception retroactively enriches the associations linked to certain pieces. Many film lovers, for example, inevitably think of the landscape panoramas from Sidney Pollack’s Out of Africa when they hear the beautiful slow movement from Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto. And by using the opening bars from Richard Strauss’s Also sprach Zarathustra in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, the tone poem gained a cosmic dimension that surprisingly realises the vision of Nietzsche’s original: to go beyond the limits of human imagination.

However, the use of music in film occasionally causes controversy between classical music lovers and cinema fans. The omnipresence of the famous Adagietto in Luchino Visconti’s elegiac Thomas Mann film Death in Venice, for example, strictly speaking contradicts the intermezzo character that Mahler intended for the movement in his Fifth Symphony. Some wishes of 19th-century composers, on the other hand, were only realised with the possibilities of cinematography: Richard Wagner had to design a new type of orchestra pit in Bayreuth in order to come closer to his idea of an “invisible orchestra” – in film, however, this idea can be realised effortlessly through the music accompanying the image. In Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse now, Wagner’s cinematic potential unfolds in a disturbing way, with helicopter attacks in Vietnam accompanied by the sounds of the Ride of the Valkyries.

And if you’re still puzzling over which films the other works in our playlist were set to: Disney’s musical film Fantasiagave Paul Dukas’s L’Apprenti sorcier a real boost in popularity, Jacques Offenbach’s intimate Barcarolle from Les Contes d’Hoffmann can be heard in Roberto Benigni’s Life is Beautiful, and the soundtrack to Billy Wilder’s East-West comedy One, Two, Three features Aram Khachaturian’s Sabre Dance. Brahms’s Hungarian Dance can be heard in Charlie Chaplin’s The Great Dictator and Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony plays a leading role in Stanley Kubrick’s Clockwork Orange.

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