This month, we explore the world of film music and classical composers who have written for film. Did you know that one of the first original film scores was composed by Camille Saint-Saëns? L'Assassinat du duc de Guise was an historical French film from 1908, directed by Charles Le Bargy and André Calmettes. It’s only 15 minutes long and recounts the events of 1588 when King Henri III summoned his rival (the duc de Guise) to his chambers and had him brutally murdered. Saint-Saëns had considerable experience writing incidental music for theatre and composed a score for strings, piano and harmonium.

Silent movies would have had live music to accompany the action. There was been a resurgence of interest in reconstructing – and even composing – scores to be played alongside screenings of these films. Fernando Furones, a composer currently studying film scoring at Berklee, recounts a screening of the 1925 classic The Phantom of the Opera where students had composed a new score.

When ‘talkies’ developed in the 1930s, so came the need for a soundtrack to underscore a lot fo the action. Chris Garlick charts the role of British composers, from Sir Arthur Bliss to Michael Nyman, in writing for film and how some composers’ reputations were tarnished by their associations with the ‘silver screen’. Meanwhile, Erica Miner shines the spotlight on French film composers

Of the composers who have written for film, Erich Korngold perhaps set the blueprint for the Hollywood film score. Mark Pullinger explores Korngold’s legacy for film and the impact his concert works had on his soundtracks and vice versa.

Alberto Iglesias may not be a household name, but his scores – The Constant Gardener, The Kite Runner – will be familiar to many. Alan Coady explores Iglesias’ work, particularly his important collaborations with Pedro Almodóvar.  

Hedy Mühleck explores the way Shakespeare's plays have been scored for the cinema. 

James Imam looks at Nino Rota and Italian cinema, while James Slattery explores the music of Bernard Herrmann, especially his working relationship with that great filmmaker, Alfred Hitchcock. 

What place do film scores have in concert programmes? What is it like recording a film score? We spoke to a few orchestras to find out! 

Return to this page throughout the month to check up on our latest contributions to the series.

Silver screen scores: performing and recording film soundtracks

Scoring psychological portraits: Herrmann and Hitchcock

Italian Cinema and the age of Nino Rota

Movie music à la française

Scoring Shakespeare: from silent film to modern adaptation

Speechless: Writing music for silent films

Things to Come: British classical composers writing for film

Korngold: Defining the Hollywood film score

Scoring for Spain: the film music of Alberto Iglesias