New Fantasia hybrid to be premiered

A new version of Fantasia accompanied by live orchestra will be given its U.S. premiere by the Lancaster Symphony. This hybrid - with sequences from the original film as well as the sequel - is called Disney's Fantasia, Live in Concert! The world premiere took place in Switzerland a few weeks ago, and in the U.S., the honors go to the Pennsylvania ensemble playing April 4 at American Music Theatre in Lancaster. Longtime music director Stephen Gunzenhauser conducts.

This mashup - two hours long, including intermission - presents, from the 1940 film, music from Beethoven's Symphony No. 6, Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker and Dukas' The Sorcerer's Apprentice; from the sequel, excerpts from Beethoven's Symphony No. 5, Respighi's Pines of Rome, Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue, Elgar's Pomp and Circumstance and Stravinsky's The Firebird.


What's interesting about the Lancaster concert is the inclusion of a six-minute animated sequence prepared for the 1940 film that was cut: a shadowy moonlit swamp scene set to Debussy's Claire de Lune. The arrangement sounds to me like the one Sawallisch recorded with the Philadelphia Orchestra in a 1996 release for EMI Classics. Listen to how the celesta is synchronized to ripples in the water.

You may remember that most of the 1940 soundtrack was provided by the Philadelphia Orchestra led by Stokowski.

Some of you may also remember the Philadelphia Orchestra's 1992 suit against Disney Corp. for $35 million. The orchestra claimed that, as co-author of the film, it was entitled to royalties earned on sales of the film when it was released on a now-ancient format called VHS cassette. The suit was settled out of court after the case went to trial, but the amount of the 1994 settlement was never disclosed.

Recent filings in U.S. Bankruptcy Court associated with the orchestra's management of its endowment list the Disney settlement at $6 million. That money is now gone, according to the filings, along with the rest of the orchestra's board-designated endowment.

For the soundtrack to Fantasia 2000 - actually released in 1999 - Disney turned to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and James Levine.

The Lancaster performance can claim a bit of a special connection with Fantasia. Gunzenhauser was Leopold Stokowski’s assistant from 1969-1970.