Lalo Schifrin is a true Renaissance man. As a pianist, composer and conductor, he is equally at home conducting a symphony orchestra, performing at an international jazz festival, scoring a film or television show, or creating works for the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra or the London Philharmonic. As a young man in his native Argentina, Lalo Schifrin received classical training in music, and also studied law. He came from a musical family, and his father, Luis Schifrin, was the concertmaster of the Philharmonic Orchestra of Buenos Aires at the Teatro Colon.
Lalo Schifrin continued his formal music education at the Paris Conservatory during the early 1950’s. Simultaneously, he became a professional jazz pianist, composer and arranger, playing and recording in Europe.
When Schifrin returned to Buenos Aires in the mid 1950’s, he formed his own big concert band. It was during a performance of this band that Dizzy Gillespie heard Schifrin play and asked him to become his pianist and arranger. In 1958, Schifrin moved to the United States and thus began a remarkable career.
His music is a synthesis of traditional and twentieth-century techniques, and his early love for jazz and rhythm are strong attributes of his style. “Invocations,” “Concerto for Double Bass,” “Piano Concertos No. 1 and No. 2,” “Pulsations,” “Tropicos,” “La Nouvelle Orleans,” and “Resonances” are examples of this tendency to juxtapose universal thoughts with a kind of elaborated primitivism.
He has written more than 100 scores for films and television. Among them “Mission Impossible,” “Mannix,” “The Fox,” “Cool Hand Luke,” “Bullitt,” “Dirty Harry,” “Tango,” “Rush Hour” and “Rush Hour 2” which have become very popular. Lalo Schifrin has won four Grammy Awards (with twenty-one nominations), one Cable ACE Award, and received six Oscar nominations.
In 1987 the Paris Philharmonic Orchestra appointed Lalo Schifrin as Musical Director, the inaugural concert took place at the Theatre des Champs Elysees on January 26, 1988.
Among Schifrin’s other conducting credits are the London Philharmonic Orchestra, the London Symphony Orchestra, the Vienna Symphony Orchestra, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Israel Philharmonic, the Mexico Philharmonic, the Houston Symphony Orchestra, the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, the Mexico City Philharmonic, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, the Orchestra of Saint Luke (New York City), and the National Symphony Orchestra of Argentina.
In 1986, the Glendale Symphony Orchestra, under the baton of Lalo Schifrin, performed at the Hollywood Bowl. His “Salute to the Statue of Liberty” was received with a tumultuous ovation by a crowd of 17,000 people. In 1987, Schifrin was commissioned to write the overture for the Pan American Games which he recorded in Toronto and premiered with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra. In 1995, Schifrin composed ad conducted the finale for the Pan American Games, which were held in Argentina.
It is Schifrin’s ability to switch musical gears which makes him so unique in the music world. As a jazz musician he has performed and recorded with great personalities such as Dizzy Gillespie, Sarah Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald, Stan Getz, and Count Basie.
His “Concerto for Guitar and Orchestra,” was recorded by the London Philharmonic Orchestra featuring soloist Angel Romero. “Dances Concertantes” for clarinet and orchestra which he conducted at the Pyramids of Teotihuacan in Mexico with Placido Domingo as the tenor soloist. The event was telecast in 1989. In 1999, this concert was released on CD, DVD and VHS.
In April, 1989, Lalo Schifrin was appointed Music Director of the Glendale Symphony Orchestra, and he served in that capacity for six years.
He was commissioned to write the Grand Finale for an event which took place in Caracalla, Italy, July 7th, 1990, to celebrate the finals of the World Soccer Cup Championship. In this concert, the Three Tenors, Luciano Pavarotti, Placido Domingo and Jose Carreras sang together for the first time. The orchestras of the Rome and Florence opera companies were conducted by Zubin Mehta. The record and videotape of this event have gone on to become the biggest sellers in the history of classical music. Schifrin also was engaged to arrange the sequels for July 1994, also for Carreras, Domingo, Pavarotti and Zubin Mehta, which was performed at Dodger Stadium, again on the eve of the World Cup Soccer Championships; the Three Tenors event that was held in July of 1998 in Paris, France, and the latest one for the World Cup Finals in Japan.
Schifrin was commissioned by the Steinway Foundation to write his “Piano Concerto No. 2,” which was premiered by the National Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Mstislav Rostropovich, in Washington, D.C. at the Kennedy Center on June 11, 1992, featuring Cristina Ortiz as the soloist. In that year, he also produced, conducted and arranged a CD featuring Jose Carreras with the London Symphony Orchestra: “Friends for Life.” Among his commissions is also “Fantasy for Screenplay and Orchestra” for Daniel Barenboim and the Chicago Symphony, set to premiere in 2003-2004 season.
His longtime involvement in both the jazz and symphonic worlds came together beginning in 1993 when he was featured as pianist and conductor for his on-going series of “Jazz Meets the Symphony” recordings, with the London Philharmonic Orchestra, and such notable jazz stars as Ray Brown, Grady Tate, Jon Faddis, Paquito D’Rivera and James Morrison. “Thinking back, I believe the start of this project was really two of my early film scores, namely, ‘The Cincinnati Kid,’ in which Ray Charles sang backed by a symphony orchestra, and the famous chase scene through the streets of San Francisco in ‘Bullitt’ wherein I wrote a symphonic score combined with saxophone solos playing at very fast tempos. Then, years later, when I arranged music for Dizzy Gillespie, Ray Brown, Grady Tate and myself to play for a tour with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, I began to fully realize that the two distinct musical forms could be combined.”
“Jazz Meets the Symphony” was internationally successful, and led to the release in July 1994 of “More Jazz Meets the Symphony.” The third of the series, “Firebird, Jazz Meets the Symphony, No. 3” was released in the summer of 1996 and received two Grammy nominations. The fourth in the series “Metamorphosis,” was released in the spring of 1998 on Schifrin’s own label, Aleph Records. The gift set contains the first four releases so far and is entitled “The Jazz Meets the Symphony Collection.” The fifth in the series, “Intersections, Jazz Meets the Symphony, No. 5” was released in late summer 2001. It is unique in that it has a full symphony orchestra, full jazz band, plus jazz stars Jeff Hamilton, Christian McBride, James Morrison and David Sanchez.
Schifrin wrote and adapted the music for “Christmas in Vienna” in 1992 featuring Diana Ross, Jose Carreras, and Placido Domingo. The telecast was released as a CD, laserdisc and video in 1993 on the Sony Classics label.
Schifrin returned to Vienna in December 1995 where he arranged the entire program of Christmas music entitled, Christmas in Vienna,” sung by Jose Carreras, Natalie Cole and Placido Domingo. It was shown on PBS in America on December 23rd and 24th of that year and is shown regularly during the holiday season.
In the spring of 1993, Schifrin conducted for a recording with the Vienna Volksoper Orchestra for Julia Migenes, “Julia Migenes in Vienna,” and conducted the recording of “Te Deum” by Charpentier for classical trumpet virtuoso, Maurice Andre and chamber orchestra in Pairs. Both projects were released in October 1993.
His 1996 conducted recording of “The Carnival of the Animals” by Camille Saint-Saens has been acclaimed by the electronic and print media. The narrations are by Audrey Hepburn, Charlton Heston, James Earl Jones, Dudley Moore, Walter Matthau, and Lynn Redgrave.
In the realm of Hollywood, he has scored four films: “Money Talks,” released by New Line Pictures; “Something to Believe In,” produced by Lord Lew Grade; and Carlos Saura’s “Tango.” The latest film scored by Schifrin was the mega-hit “Rush Hour,” for which he received a 1999 Grammy nomination. He scored “Rush Hour 2: Remember the Dragon” which was released summer 2001. His score was for “Bringing Down the House” for release in 2003.
Lalo Schifrin is a recipient of the 1988 BMI Life Achievement Award. He has been honored by the Israeli government for his “Contributions to World Understanding through Music.” In 1988, Schifrin received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame from the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce. He was given Honorary Doctorate Degrees from the Rhode Island School of Design and the University of La Plata, Argentina. He was honored at the M.I.D.E.M. Classique Festival in January, 1990, at Cannes, France, conducting the National Symphony Orchestra of Lyon. He received the “Distinguished Artist Award” in 1998 from the Los Angeles Music Center.
Lalo Schifrin has been appointed “Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et Lettres,” one of the highest distinctions granted by Frances’ Minister of Culture, which in this case was Mr. Jack Lang.
In 1998, the Argentine government appointed him Advisor to the President in Cultural Affairs with a rank of Secretary of the Cabinet.