Berlin Philharmonic’s magical ‘Tom and Jerry’ includes a percussionist barking like a dog

11 June 2024, 15:36

Berlin Philharmonic’s ‘Tom and Jerry’ symphony
Berlin Philharmonic’s ‘Tom and Jerry’ symphony. Picture: YouTube / Berlin Phil

By Kyle Macdonald

A great drama from the golden age of children’s animation, brought to life with immense comedy by one of the world’s great orchestras.

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What would happen if you let a cat and mouse loose in the percussion section of an orchestra? We might have some idea thanks to this genius symphonic arrangement of a classic cartoon score.

Music and TV lovers the world over know the magic of the 20th century’s most beloved animations, and the classic orchestral scores that brought them to life. Top of that list is the musical accompaniment to Tom and Jerry, which was expertly brought to musical life by MGM’s resident cartoon composer Scott Bradley.

This sensational live performance, recorded by the Berlin Philharmonic and conductor Sir Simon Rattle at the orchestra’s iconic summer outdoor concert at the Berlin Waldbühne amphitheatre, prompted smiles and laughter from the audience at the familiar sounds of the classic cat and mouse chase scenes.

Watch it all in the video below – but watch out for that excitable dog.

Read more: Cartoonist breaks down how his generation learned classical music from cartoons

Bradley: Tom and Jerry / Rattle · Berliner Philharmoniker

Scott Bradley was the American composer, arranger, and conductor who scored Hanna-Barbera and MGM theatrical cartoons in the 1930s, 40s and 50s. Among his best-loved works are the scores to Tom and Jerry, Barney Bear and Screwy Squirrel. This arrangement of his music was made by Peter Morris and British conductor John Wilson.

Film and animation music in his era was characterised by intense musicianship from composers, arrangers and musicians alike. Everyone involved knew that absolute precision was required between animation and score.

Bradley drew on enormous depths of classical knowledge in his scores, at times using the fiendish 12-tone technique devised by Arnold Schoenberg.

“I hope Dr Schoenberg will forgive me for using his system to produce funny music, but even the boys in the orchestra laughed when we were recording it,” the composer once said.

One viewer on YouTube picks up on this, saying: “Bradley’s music is a brilliant synthesis of Stravinsky, Bartók, Hindemith and Schoenberg along with the American popular song form, from Stephen Foster to Gershwin. A most underrated composer, IMHO.”

And any composer who can make an orchestra woof gets our vote.