The Film Score Orchestras

Discussing film scores would not be complete without the orchestras themselves.

In previous posts, I've highlighted the scoring stages and recording studios that most Hollywood film scores are recorded.  Now it's time to turn to the orchestras used.

The first thing to know about film score orchestras is that they don't have set musicians.  When you see a typical concert orchestra, it's the same set players every time.  The "Hollywood Studio Symphony" is quite misleading, as there are no set names and each musician is contracted individually and just known collectively as the "Hollywood Studio Symphony".  This contracting is done for every HSS score, and is an easy way to adjust for orchestra size, instrument numbers and specific players.  If the orchestra members for a specific film are listed in the CD booklet, you'll notice many similar names over the years.  (trivia tidbit:  both John Williams and David Newman started out as session musicians)

In the Hollywood studio system, each major studio had their own orchestras, e.g.
The Twentieth Century-Fox Symphony Orchestra, The MGM Symphony Orchestra.  They naturally played on their own scores with the contracted players and composers/conductors.  

Since the end of that era, studios have been able to use a variety of orchestras.  The topic of moving a huge chunk of recording to Europe is still hotly debated.  

But it is worth highlighting the orchestras that have played on some favorite film scores.  Here's a look at some orchestras both in America and abroad.  

Hollywood Studio Symphony

The majority of score recordings in Hollywood are done by this collective group.  These top musicians go from session to session, performing at the various LA scoring stages.  The orchestra received its name in 2002, after union negotiations with AFM and AMPTP to keep scores in Los Angeles instead of abroad.  
Scores recorded include: Back to the Future, The Village, Star Trek, Godzilla 

Northwest Sinfonia

A recording-specific orchestra in Seattle, made up of musicians from other orchestras originally set up in 1995 for films and video games.  Used as one of the first live orchestras used for video game scores, which continue to this day.    
Scores recorded include: Medal of Honor, Brokeback Mountain, The Incredible Hulk, Mirror Mirror

Chicago Symphony Orchestra

A traditional concert orchestra, used on two special projects: recording of classical pieces for Fantasia 2000 and fittingly for John Williams' score to Lincoln.

Boston Symphony Orchestra

A traditional concert orchestra, used for a few projects such as Schindler's List, Saving Private Ryan and Mystic River.

London Symphony Orchestra

Outside of Hollywood, the LSO have probably recorded the most film scores.  Still a concert orchestra, they started recording film scores in the 1930s, but began their recent popularity with the Star Wars series. 
Scores recorded include: Henry V, Star Wars Episodes 1-6, Aliens, Braveheart, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Munich Symphony Orchestra/Graunke Symphony Orchestra

A concert orchestra, used for many film and television scores.
Scores recorded include: El Cid, Sleeping Beauty, The Wind and the Lion, Adventures of Baron Munchausen, Masters of the Universe, Hellbound: Hellraiser II, The Silence of the Lambs

The London Philharmonic Orchestra

One of the other popular orchestras to record with in London and a favorite of Howard Shore.
Scores recorded include: Lawrence of Arabia, TRON, The Mission, Naked Lunch, The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Thor: The Dark World

National Philharmonic Orchestra

The orchestra, set up by Charles Gerhardt primarily for recording, recorded in England and used often by Jerry Goldsmith and Michael Kamen.  The Gerhardt recordings of classic film scores are one of the orchestra's highlights.  
Scores recorded include: The Omen, The Elephant Man, Alien, Brazil, Rambo: First Blood Part II, Total Recall, License to Kill

The Sinfonia of London

A session orchestra on many classical albums in addition to the film scores.
Scores recorded include: Tom Jones, Young Sherlock Holmes, RoboCop, Tombstone, Lost in Space, The Mummy Returns.

Royal Scottish National Orchestra

A concert orchestra known for their numerous classical albums.  Known in the film world for their re-recordings of Bernard Herrmann (among others) scores led by John Debney and Joel McNeely.  

The City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra
A film score orchestra primarily known for their re-recordings and compilations, but they have appeared as the orchestra in new film scores.

Scores recorded include: The Ninth Gate, Oliver Twist, Pan's Labyrinth, The Lives of Others, Grand Piano  

Take a look back at the Scoring Stages:

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