Frank Embacher – The World Of Hans Zimmer
The first concert to take place at the brand new St. Jakobshalle in Basel, Switzerland
There are many performances of Hans Zimmer’s music out there, but only one that carries the composer’s imprimatur: “The World of Hans Zimmer,” which is currently touring through Europe. Pollstar spoke with the maestro himself and the team involved in bringing his world alive.
Zimmer fell in love with the virtuosity and harmony of symphonic music at the age of 3, when he attended his very first orchestra performance in Frankfurt, Germany, his place of birth.
Zimmer grew up in a musical household. In the playbill for “The World of Hans Zimmer” he writes: “We had a piano at home, and I started playing. Other kids played with Legos, I played the piano. We had no TV, so I played the piano. But, frustratingly, none of the things I managed to get out of the piano had anything to do with what I was really hearing in my head. It wasn’t the lack of formal technique, it had everything to do with having picked the wrong instrument. I didn’t want to become a pianist, I wanted to become ‘The Orchestra.’”
Almost 60 years – and more than 100 film scores later – Zimmer has come as close as humanly possible to fulfilling this childhood fantasy, and his latest live show is a testament to that. The man himself isn’t on stage anymore, but his signature can be heard and felt in every note.
“Whatever pieces you hear were chosen by Hans, as was the way they were arranged. It’s an expression of Hans in an orchestral show,” said Zimmer’s longtime business partner at RCI Global, producer Steven Kofsky.
According to Kofsky, the market for film music played by live orchestras led promoters to reference the likes of Zimmer or John Williams on their posters, even though the composers weren’t involved in the show.
“We felt it was almost like abusing his name and likeness. We actually had to stop a few promoters from doing that. So what we decided to do with Semmel Concerts, with Dieter [Semmelmann] and Christoph [Scholz], was to put out our own show of the music of Hans Zimmer – without Hans necessarily being present – carrying Hans’ own signature,” Kofsky said.
Apart from the fact that Zimmer himself is not on stage, other aspects about “The World Of Hans Zimmer” clearly separate it from his previous “Live” tour, a proper rock show featuring a band of 20.
The new show still features a few soloists, however, a full symphonic orchestra, conducted by Zimmer’s good friend Gavin Greenaway, makes up the heart of the production.
Zimmer told Pollstar that while “sitting next to my lifelong friend Gavin, I slowly realized that this wasn’t just questions about a show, but really about my life. A life I got to live in the very great company of talents such as Gavin Greenaway and all the musicians and directors who not only taught me about music and storytelling, but really how to leave a little bit of the story of all of us in each piece of music. And every night, as Gavin and the orchestra and band get to share that with the audience, it just makes the story more complete.”
Another difference with “The World Of Hans Zimmer” is the presence of film footage, displayed across seven giant LED screens. Artistic director Sandra Tomek of Tomek Production explained the idea behind the stage design and visual presentation, which breaks with a regular 16:9 screen or Cinemascope setting usually used for concerts with movie clips. “It was our intention to find a more artistic approach, even if the film clips cannot be seen in full. This is why we chose seven screens of different heights and spacing,” she said.
German concert promoter Semmel Concerts also promoted the GSA and Scandinavian dates of “Hans Zimmer Live” in 2016 and 2017. “After this magnificent and very successful tour, we conceptualized a new show together with Hans and his management at RCI Global, curated by Hans personally,” CEO Dieter Semmelmann said.
The new show has been touring since spring, and Semmel Concerts will promote all 32 dates in Germany, Spain, Holland, the U.K., France, Belgium, Portugal, Czech Republic, Austria and Switzerland, and also act as producer and local promoter in several of the markets. The capacity at the arenas ranges between 12,000 and 20,000, including The SSE, Wembley in London, Stadthalle in Vienna and Palau Sant Jordi in Barcelona.
At press time more than 150,000 tickets for the tour had already been sold, according to Semmelmann, whose favorite film score by Zimmer is “Inception,” although he emphasized that he hardly has time to watch movies.
That’s because he is much too busy developing new shows together with his team, which, besides Tomek, includes art and video director Michael Balgavy, sound designer Carsten Kümmel, and lighting designer Andreas Kisters. The tour is supplied by Media Resource Group (lights), Videotechnik Bär (video), Soundhouse (sound), Coach Service GmbH (night liner) and Pieter Smit (trucking).
The production manager is Christoph Scholz, who has been producing Semmel Concerts’ exhibition, film music and musical shows – basically anything that cannot be considered traditional rock tours – since 2006.
Scholz said the biggest challenge was to maintain the scope of Hans Zimmer’s compositions in arenas, which aren’t designed for symphonic orchestras. He credits Kümmel and Soundhouse for making it work.
He remembers worrying about the audience and press not accepting a product that lacked the presence of its eponymous protagonist. “Can we create something authentic around an artist without the artist being physically present? We couldn’t be sure. It worked, which is the most exceptional thing about this tour,” said Scholz.
Tomek decided to include behind-the-scenes footage to establish a connection with the crowd. “Since we are presenting ‘The World of Hans Zimmer’ I thought having images on the [venues’] wall of Hans in his studio would give the audience the feeling of being a part of his world and of being invited to his studio,” she explained.
It’s the very studio where Zimmer is rewriting the rules of an entire genre. “The classic world believes a synthesizer, that technology in general, doesn’t belong in classical music – even though that is obviously very wrong,” he said. “Because a violin is technology too, as is an organ. It’s the technology of its time. What we’re doing is resorting to the technology of our time. We’re not playing more modern concerts, they’re simply more timely.”
The maestro has plans of returning to the stage himself in the future. Kofsky said, “We have to modify the show, that takes time. But we absolutely intend to come back out on the live side.”
While it was far too early to confirm any future Hans Zimmer live tours at press time, Dieter Semmelmann said, “We feel honored to be working with such a magnificent and impressive artist. We still have a lot in store together!”