You started to become involved with music at an early age, I understand?
C.F. I began piano studies at age six at the National conservatory in Buenos Aires and later I studied piano privately with Lucia Maranca and Guillermo Iscla, except for a few seminars in composition I was largely self-taught until I moved to Mexico in 1971.
After your initial studies and after re-locating to Mexico, and then going to the United States in 1974, did you continue to study?
CF. Yes, indeed I went to Mexico and worked as the music director for Fermata publishing. I was twenty-one years old and there was this composer, Humberto Hernandez Medrano, recently graduated from the Moscow conservatory who studied with Shostakovich. I think I was one of his first students. Later, he taught most of Mexico’s new composers.
Were you from a family background that was musical in any way?
CF. Not at all. My Father was an MD in the army, who retired with the full rank of Colonel and my Mother, although she liked music, was more interested in painting more than anything else.
At what age did you begin to compose music?
CF. I think I was like eight or nine, when I started writing very simple melodies. I would try them on guitar and not on my real instrument, the piano.
One of the first recordings that I added to my collection by yourself Was the soundtrack to LA PELICULA DEL RAY, which is a stunning score, I was lucky enough to get the Milan LP back in 1986, how did you become involved on the movie and what size orchestra did you have for the assignment?
CF. This was during a brief returned to Argentina in the mid-eighties. (I lived in Buenos Aires for three years, commuting to the States every couple of months) Film director Carlos Sorin, came to a jazz concert where I was playing my compositions, and asked me to write the soundtrack for his new film. He had a nice budget and gave me Card Blanche for the music that I was going to compose.
We had a very nice orchestra, basically the Buenos Aires Philharmonic woodwinds by two, meaning 2 flutes, 2 oboes, two clarinets and 2 bassoons. Four horns, three trumpets, true trombones, tuba, percussion and a large string ensemble 14/12/ 10/8/6 plus a 16 strong female choir ( 8 sopranos and 8 altos ).
You are a multi-talented composer arranger and musician, and have written many different types of music, classical, jazz, movie scores etc, is there any genre of music that you are more at home in than others?
CF. I love films especially European films. In the sixties and seventies, I was very much intrigued by some movie scores by Hermann, Rota, Alwyn, Goldsmith, Schifrin, John Williams. Walter Schumann (Schumann wrote his only and one of my all-time favourite scores for (The Night of the Hunter). Manuel De Sica : The Garden of the Finzi- Conti, William Alwyn ; Odd Man Out, John Dankworth, amazing score for The Servant .
In those days Film music was an outstanding contribution to the genre so I was very attracted to the idea of becoming a film composer and did several films in Argentina before moving to Mexico, where I also composed for movies. Eventually my interest moved to concert music rather than films.
Is writing the score for a movie, more difficult or restricting than writing for the concert hall, I ask this because the movies have sound effects, dialogue that you have to be aware of, and also timings that have to be precise?
CF. A film composer becomes another actor on the film he or she is working on. One day the composer has to become a whimsical, magical commentary, another day a Mexican or Cubano full of energetic mambo rhythms, a great seductive melodious soul, or a military commander. You have to be prepared to do it all. As far as timings, music under dialog, etc everything is paramount in the artistry of film scoring. Nowadays we live in an age of minimal music scoring, when in some cases, it is non-existent.
You have recorded two albums I think, where you cover various themes and pieces from motion picture scores, are there any film music composers that you find particularly interesting and what composers either jazz, classical or film music, would you say have influenced you in your approach to musical composition?
CF. Well I have more than two albums under my name, I think I have about forty, between classical and jazz (of course I’m only talking about CDs where I’m the artist and not collaborations) I’ve mentioned before some of the film composers that I admired and whose music influenced some of my film work. In classical or academic music, I feel that my interest fall more on twentieth century composers, such as Stravinsky, Ravel, Shostakovich, Hindemith, Dutilleux and Berio.
FILM NOIR is a very entertaining album, did you decide what tracks would be on the recording and how long did it take to prepare and record?
CF. I always wanted to do an album of film music where the saxophone was the main ingredient. I thought about calling it “Sax Scenes” but the label decided to name it Film Noir. I came out with the repertory and had a lot of fun writing the arrangements. I especially liked the John Barry: Body Heath, one of the best Film Noir tunes ever, as well as the Hermann Taxi Driver and Raskin, The Bad and the Beautiful: what a great haunting American melody!
When writing the score for a movie, at what stage do you like to become involved?
C.F. As soon as the movie is edited. Unless is a movie where the director is asking you to compose source music, for dancing, singing etc. In that case you work before they even shoot.
You have worked with the City of Prague Philharmonic, who as we all know are an excellent orchestra. Do you have any preferences when it comes to recording, i.e. venues or studios and do facilities in recording studios vary in different locations?
CF I’ve done about a dozen different projects with the City of Prague Philharmonic and I always find the experience rewarding. Their musicianship is outstanding and the recording studio, engineers and producer: top notch. You just have to show up with your baton, and the music will be in the stands, the microphones placed accordingly and the coffee ready. All you have to do is your job, they do the rest marvellously.
When you are scoring a movie do you conduct the music as well as performing piano?
CF. Very rarely, I would rather conduct the music against picture and make sure that the timing is correct and that the orchestra performance excellent. In most cases I will have the piano part performed by my wife, concert pianist Allison Brewster Franzetti: finest musician I’ve ever known also great ears, can catch any wrong note coming from the end of the room. In some other cases I will overdubbed the piano at the end of the session.
Do you orchestrate all of your music or at times do you use an orchestrator if the schedule is a little tight?
CF. I have never used an orchestrator, I believe in orchestrating your own music, like Bernard Hermann did. I have done music scores, both composing and orchestrating 40 minutes of music for a sixty piece orchestra in a week.
Your first two movies were both directed by Juan Battle Planas, did he have a hands-on approach to where the music should be placed and what style of music was required, or was he happy to let you work on the score and give you freedom?
CF. I wrote my first score for Juan Battle Planas when I was twenty years old. I wasn’t sure of how good I could orchestrate so a couple of days before the recording I called the small chamber orchestra and invited them for tea and pastries at my parents’ house ( a very large house in BA,) I also invited Juan Battle and played the score, luckily everything worked out fine and a couple of days later we recorded the music.
Many years after while working with Sidney Lumet in Q&A I went through a similar experience, but in this case, it was something that Lumet would do with every score for his movies. He would record on Mondays, but Friday prior to the final session he’ll have a reduce orchestra playing the complete score against picture, if something didn’t work or he didn’t like, you’ll have to revise and rewrite over the week-end. Luckily this time it also went OK.
What are you working on at the moment?
CF. I just finished a composition for two pianos based on Alice in Wonderland, also some arrangements for the Canadian Brass and on the 21 st of this month I’m going to the studio to record a new solo piano album, to continue my love for film scores, this CD will include music from the French film Diva and Morricone’s Ricordare from the Tornatore film. A Pure Formality.
We look forward to hearing that, many thanks to the composer who took time out of a very busy timetable to answer my questions.