Glyndebourne Touring: Don Giovanni

Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury. 15 November.

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What a success the Marlowe Theatre is, five years on from its rebuild. I’ve seen its main space full for pantomime, Philharmonia concerts, West End-style touring shows and much more.  And of course a Glyndebourne tour guarantees a very excited buzz and hardly an empty seat.

A rather abrupt, very punctually launched, overture led smoothly – once musicians and audience settled – to Leporello’s entrance unaccountably clad in grubby, baggy singlet and underpants in this somewhat bitty 1950s take on the story. In many ways Brandon Cedel, as Leporello, is a mercurial cross between Prince Harry and David Tennant, and the star of this show. His immaculately controlled, impassioned, chocolate-rich bass voice works well for both his serious, vexed moments and for lighter spots such as the famous conquest list aria. And he’s quite an actor.

I last saw Duncan Rock (title role) as Don Giovanni, four years ago in a production in a gay nightclub at Charing Cross in which all the roles except his were gender-reversed. He was interesting then but his interpretation, voice and acting have all matured in the interim. The deceptively simple Act 1 seduction duet with Zerlina (good – especially in the later number in which she woos back Bozidar Smiljanic as Masetto) is exquisitely sung and his sensitive Act 2 serenade is an utter delight.

Andrii Goniukov is suitably imposing as Il Commendatore and Ana Maria Labin is a very creditable Donna Anna with the right level of pain and revenge in her voice most of the time. There’s some fine work in the pit under Pablo Gonzalez with mandolin playing from Francisco Correa for the serenade as an especially noteworthy moment.

As for the production itself – Jonathan Kent, who directed the original production and Lloyd Wood who directs this touring revival  often stray perilously close to gimmickry. Why, for instance, do we have a fire at the end of Act 1? If it’s meant to prefigure Don Giovanni’s eventual descent then it’s painfully laboured. The set (designed by Paul Brown) makes so much use of the revolve that it quickly begins to feel unnecessarily fussy as it swings repeatedly to reveal different scenes. Much of the action is played in quite small contained spaces within on-revolve mini-sets. And if there’s an artistic or narrative reason for raking so steep within them that I was reminded of rock pools at the seaside as performers teetered rather alarmingly up and down, then I have failed to work out what it is.

In general though, it’s an enjoyable evening. I’ve seen Don Giovanni done in many quirky settings and eras and, actually, the material is so strong that the details of how you present it don’t matter much. Whatever you throw at the piece – provided the singing and playing is right – the music will carry it. That’s Mozart for you.

Susan Elkin

 

 

 

Hastings Philharmonic

White Rock Theatre, Hastings, 12 November 2016

Under Marcio da Silva, Hastings Philharmonic Choir has gained new authority and professionalism. To this he now adds a newly formed orchestra which gave its inaugural concert last night at the White Rock. Where many would have gone for a popular programme to encourage a wider audience he chose works which challenged both the performers and listeners – but the risk certainly paid off.

To set the seal we were given an unexpected violin solo to start the evening – an exquisite performance of Bach’s Chaconne from Partita No2 in D BWV 1004. Not an easy work for the uninitiated but when so lovingly crafted it could not fail.

This set a standard for the rest of the evening. Music of the highest quality given with respect and professionalism by all concerned – not least the audience whose concentration was splendid throughout – and no attempts to clap between movements!

philip-omeara

The main work in the first half was a new composition by Philip O’Meara, entitled No Man.  It draws together a number of texts which reflect on the nature of man, ranging from Yeats and Victor Hugo to Schiller and the Old Testament. The hushed, reflective opening section includes distant whispers from the choir. It is unclear if these are prayers or the voices of the dead, but the motive returns in the final section when the whispers are no longer there. Have they been forcibly silenced, are they destroyed or have the souls been released? The enigma remains but the effect is moving.

Between these two sections there are effective choral settings of verses from Psalm 88 and a folk dance treatment of Victor Hugo’s Betise de la guerre. The seventh section is the only really extrovert passage with chunky syncopated rhythms and a sense of exultation. The choir seemed very much at home with the setting – even more impressive when one realises they were let down at short notice by the French choir which was to have joined them for the French choruses. It would be good to hear it again in the near future.

After the interval we heard Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony – The Choral. Here the orchestra really came into its own showing both its very real strengths and present weaknesses. The quality of individual playing is not in doubt and there were many felicitous passages from solo instruments, notably the first bassoon and oboe. The string sound is good but at present there are simply not enough of them for the necessary balance. The second and third movements faired best in this respect, with a fine rhythmical bounce to the Scherzo and a wonderful lightness to the trio section. There was sensitivity and a sense of joy to the slow movement but again where the strings should blossom there simply was not the weight of sound available.

The choral movement itself is not an easy sing but the choir dealt with this without obvious strain, the top notes flying out with ease. The four young soloists were well balanced if a little nervous in their approach.

Marcio da Silva maintained a real sense of enthusiasm throughout the evening which was reflected by all on stage and in the audience.

This has been a fine start to a new venture which we applaud and look forward to following in future.

Their next concert is the familiar Christmas Carols Concert at St Mary in the Castle at 5.00pm on Sunday 18 December and there is a full brochure available of all the concerts over the next year. www.hastingsphilharmonic.com

 

ENO: Lulu

London Coliseum, 9 November 2016

ENO

Performances of Lulu are few and far between despite its importance and so it is good that ENO have snapped up a provocative and engaging new production by William Kentridge, even if it is only on for five evenings.

Kentridge is an artist and this is the basis of his approach. The stage looks like the set for a German expressionist film of the nineteen-twenties. Onto this he projects a stream of images taken from his own drawings/paintings which evolve and change in response to the score. It is highly effective, if at times a little overwhelming, but nonetheless does give an insight into the work which is new and provocative without ever doing damage to the music.

Under Mark Wigglesworth’s virile handling the orchestra is in superb form and the glorious late romanticism of Berg’s score shines through. The interludes, which are effectively staged throughout, never sink into purple passages, and part of this is due to the filmic nature of the whole approach, so that Berg’s request for film never stands out as an oddity against the rest of the staging. Very much a step in the right direction for the use of video in opera.

To this we can add a strong cast. Sarah Connolly’s Geschwitz and James Morris’ Dr Schon are superb and Nicky Spence as Alwa is only let down by costume and make-up which regularly reduce him to Billy Bunter. The many smaller parts are well rounded, though I was confused by the lady on the piano and the Igor-like man servant.

ENO

Brenda Rae sings the title role with ease, throwing off the high lying tessitura with a carelessness apt to the part. The difficulty lies in her knowingness where the text is concerned. She seems to want to inflict pain on the men who surround her where the opera as a whole suggests she is as much a victim as they are. There is an underlying innocence to Lulu. In the first act her repeated I don’t know – mirroring Parsifal – should be genuine, and the confession of murder surely needs a sense of naivety. She may be destructive but it is not willed by her so much as the society which has created her. However, the evening is a great success, and given the smaller number of productions this season, one that will surely be well remembered.

Brahms in Brighton

Brighton Philharmonic Orchestra

The Dome Brighton, 6 November, 2016

Brahms

What a good idea to open a concert whose main work is Ein Deutsches Requiem with Schicksalsleid. The choir is already there and it creates a valuable opportunity to hear a live performance of something which doesn’t get too many outings although, as James Morgan told the audience at the beginning, Schicksasleid is one of the finest things Brahms ever wrote. This rendering of it was eloquent, mellow and nicely paced – and it clearly showed how well The Dome works for a large, impressively competent, choir such as Brighton Festival Chorus. The acoustic is warm but also allows for an incisive edge against which Morgan’s tempi were well judged.

Morgan is a perky and insouciantly witty presenter as well as a conductor and he treated us to an unadvertised education workshop on the Requiem between Schickalsleid and the interval, drawing attention to some of former’s most interesting moments. I’ve sung it many times but still learned from this entertaining 15 minutes. The best was the “historical re-enactment” of the first performance when a piano marking was omitted from the timpani part so the player played forte throughout the third movement which put the public off so much that Brahms didn’t risk a second performance for a whole year. Morgan gave us a sample of what this would have sounded like and it was very funny.

And so to the marvels of the Requiem itself with its seven movements, musical and narrative symmetry and emphasis on comforting the living.  Morgan has a real gift for bringing out the detail, such as the double bass pedal in the opening, allowing the harp to dominate briefly where it’s appropriate, letting us enjoy the contra-bassoon and making sure we noticed the beautiful pizzicato passages in the central fourth movement. The final, peace and resolution-bringing movement was particularly fine with some enjoyable flute work.

Leigh Melrose, bass, has some of the clearest, best articulated German diction I’ve ever heard in any account of this work. His style is dramatic with plenty of passion particularly in the third movement. It was a cutting edge performance. Soprano Sarah Tynan has a mellifluous tone and managed to temper the anguish with sweetness in the fifth movement – her big moment

There was excellent singing from the choir too with nearly all entries tidy and very little strain even on demanding high notes. And Morgan’s dynamic control was well observed so that there were some moments of real Verdi-style tension.

Susan Elkin

 

 

WNO: Shakespeare 400

Mayflower, Southampton, 1-3 November 2016

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WNO have been theming their seasons for some time now and so it was inevitable that this year would provide a Shakespeare slot. However, the outcome was not quite what one might have expected. Though each of the three works chosen had their enjoyable moments none of them was of the high standard we have come to expect from WNO.

Firstly the works themselves – Andre Tchaikovsky’s The Merchant of Venice; Verdi’s Macbeth; Cole Porter’s Kiss me Kate. Any one of these alongside greater works – Otello, Falstaff, even Beatrice & Benedict – would have made sense, but three works all from the second tier does not.

Tchaikovsky’s opera dates from the 1980s when it was turned down by ENO, and one can sense why. Scored in post-Bergian style it is relentless in attack throughout, with few reflective moments and little sense of individual characterisation. While this works quite well in the opening Venetian act it is far less convincing in the Belmont scenes. Character seems to come from the individual singers rather than the score, and here Lester Lynch is an impressive Shylock. The scene in the stock exchange is particularly effective as it becomes clear that it is Antonio who is the outsider rather than Shylock. Counter-tenor Martin Wolfel is an aloof Antonio and the younger men are given no individual personalities. Sarah Castle does what she can with Portia though the score does not give her much scope for developing a broader interpretation. Keith Warner has impressed as a director over the years and the outer acts work well, but the poor setting for act two, with its mishandled caskets, was simply not good enough.

Had this been the one problem across the week it might have been acceptable but the following night’s Macbeth had an equal share of problems. It may be that the stage crew was simply not used to the set but the gaps between scenes were simply far too long and any continuity that Andriy Yurkevych was trying to create in the pit was lost in the silences. Luis Cansino was a stalwart Macbeth and Bruce Sledge an eloquent Macduff. Miriam Murphy has a very large voice to go with her large stage presence. In the opening scenes this was on the wild side even if exciting in its impact. As the evening progressed it came under better control and the sleep-walking scene was effective. Her acting however was perfunctory and it was unclear what Oliver Mears was attempting in his direction. I liked Annemarie Woods’ design, setting the whole in an abandoned hospital. The sense of a place which should bring healing providing only destruction was often poignantly made. In the final scene Macbeth sits at an invalid’s table, reminding us of the sickness he has brought to society. Moments like this worked well though what on earth the witches were supposed to be was anybody’s guess. At times they seemed to be sending themselves up but I can’t think this was intended. Orchestra and chorus were in fine form and the music overcame the sticker moments in the production.

wno-kmk

We seem to have had quite a few presentation of Kiss Me Kate recently. It is a work I really enjoy and there was a great deal to please here, if only in comparison to the two previous evenings. In addition, the score being used was the full orchestral version and included much music I had not encountered before – always a bonus for potentially jaded critics. However the production had an air of amateurism about its setting and presentation. It really did look like a touring version at the end of a very long run. While most of the music under James Holmes was exhilarating the dialogue too frequently lowered the temperature, particularly in the first half. Thankfully the dancing was splendid, with Too darned hot and Bianca being particularly impressive.

Accents were wayward throughout, with little sense of time or place. If these seem like quibbles then they are points which could easily have been addressed and the whole evening given a fizz which it too often lacked.

Quirijn de Lang brought a suitably Douglas Fairbanks virility to Fred Graham and sang with panache. Jeni Bern was a positive foil as Lilli Vanessi but did not have the lyricism the role needs. Alun Birkitt taps as splendidly as he sings, and became the one really joyous moment of the evening.

I wish I could be more enthusiastic about the company at the moment, for over recent years we have seen many magnificent performances and much wonderful singing. Let us hope that the revivals of La Boheme and Madama Butterfly in the spring will return things to a more even keel.

 

The Kings Singers @ Pevensey

St Nicolas Church, Friday 21 October 2016

kings-singers

A concert by the Kings Singers is always something special. Since their foundation by six choral scholars at Kings College, Cambridge in 1965, the group has won international renown for  their  total professionalism and lively musicianship. On October 21st, 2016, the Kings Singers performed in St Nicolas, Pevensey to mark its 800th Anniversary.

The Kings Singers began their programme with serious baroque composition, 19th c. French songs and a modern work written for them by John McCabe. Byrd’s canonical ‘Viri Galilaei’ was sung with brisk lightness of voice. Byrd’s music for the Anglican Church has been sung without interruption since the 16th century, and the evening opened with ‘Sing Joyfully’. This proved to be one of the most popular and durable anthems of the Elizabethan age. The piece presents four verses of Psalm 81 in flawless counterpoint. The opening of “Sing joyfully” arrived with a series of upward leaps sung by the counter tenors, alto, and tenor. For the very last fragment of text, which pronounces God’s “law” for the celebration of festivals, Byrd crafts the most extended counterpoint of the piece, which the King’s singers extended beautifully to the final climax.

In contrast, ‘Sicut Lillium’ by Palestrina was characterised by the solemn richness of harmony and sinuous weaving of melodic strands. The modern monasticism of François Poulenc was demonstrated by  the scrunching harmony and sweet texture  of ‘Four Short Prayers’. His countryman Claude Debussy offered ‘Trois Chansons’, old words in a modern setting, clear, sharp and comprehensive, with one song in particular, effective over a drone bass.

We were treated to Palestrina’s ‘Salve Regina’. Palestrina’s writing represents the culmination of Renaissance polyphony. The King’s Singers performed the piece in its original Latin which conveyed this Gregorian chant magically. Intonation, which is critical, was faultless. Sung after Compline the piece can be traced to the monastic practice of intoning it in chapel and chanting it on the way to sleeping quarters at the end of the day. The performance suited the church’s wonderful acoustics for choral singing beautifully.

William Byrd’s –‘Viri Galilaei’ gave the opportunity for the wonderfully rounded tones of Jonathon Howard’s bass voice to come to the fore as the foundation on which the interweaving upper parts could shine in this sacred motet. This piece being part of a larger Mass could only tease us with a flavour of the whole much longer work. Nevertheless this sumptuous performance will stay long in the memory for its delicacy and reflective calm. We were then treated to another early motet by Palestrina, the ‘Sicut lillium’, written for five voices. Again an appropriately early musical experience from a composer who specialised in writing sacred music and who had an influence on so much the development of church music

We moved on three hundred and fifty years to hear a Francis Poulenc – Quatre petites prières de Saint Francois d’Assise, originally composed for the his grandnephew a Franciscan monk. Largely sung in unison the piece demands great breath control and dynamic precision, both of which were effortlessly presented with development into some delicately delicious choral chords which evoked great spirituality, if not on occasion sombre reflections.

Composed by another Frenchman and a contemporary of Poulenc, we heard next Claude Debussy’s ‘Trois chansons de Charles d’Orléans’. The first two songs were performed with full voices before the lively opening of the third song which had some typical ‘clashing chords’ all delivered with authority and confidence. This was a marvellous performance of Debussy’s only choral piece. A rarity well- performed.

Bringing us up to the c21st the King’s Singer’s performed a piece commissioned by the BBC for its first performance by the King’s Singers in the 2002 BBC Proms, forming part of “The Oriana Collection” to celebrate the Golden Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II. Opening with long glissando voices before the lower voices bring discordancy to proceedings. This is a very unusual composition which had everyone on the edge of their seats as the vocal interweaving knitted a rich texture of sounds on which the first half finished.

The second half delivered a totally different side of the King’s Singers’ repertoire with a selection of arrangements by Gordon Lightfoot of Flanders and Swan songs all delivered with the panache and wit for which the ensemble is renowned. Flanders and Swan, Spike Milligan, a Greek version of ‘Old MacDonald’ (with effective vocal sound effects), and African spirituals were all performed with wit and verve. ‘A transport of delight’, re-arranged by Gordon Langford, was a triumph of witty horsepower (97, to be precise) and tingling bells: the clever ditty lost none of its fun and sparkle in a version for six unaccompanied singers.  A packed audience chuckled mightily before feeling a touch of melancholy at the doomed romance between a well- bred Honeysuckle and rampant Bindweed.

A surprise encore paid tribute to Percy Granger who holidayed for many years close to the church. Percy Grainger is now mainly remembered for ‘Country Gardens’. His 1918 arrangement of this English Morris Dance is still well-known and the King’s Singers rendition completed a memorable evening’s entertainment in a church celebrating its 800th anniversary, in unquestionable style.

There doesn’t seem to be anything that the Kings Singers can’t sing, moreover, with their hallmark perfect pitch, exact intervals and precise enunciation. The audience loved them and refused to let them go without encores, programme signing and drawing raffle tickets. They’re wonderful musicians, talented performers and gave all present a memorable evening.

 

 

Oxford Lieder Festival 2016

Friday 21 October

The festival may only run for two weeks but seems to mount more events each year. I was there for a single day and managed to get to six separate events ranging from lieder to Bach Cantatas, and taking in lectures on the way.

The lunchtime recital at Holywell Music room was given by Andre Schuen with an all Schubert programme. Accompanied by Daniel Heide, he opened in operatic style with Auf der Bruck and Der Wanderer an den Mond but produced a fine introspection for Nachstuck and Lied eines Schiffers an die Dioskurn. After many songs with serious if not depressive content he finished happily with Willkommen und Abschied.  He is certainly a young singer whose career we will follow with interest.

The afternoon was given over to three items all linked to the Festival’s theme – The Schumann Project. As well as many concerts given over entirely to Schumann’s lieder, Bach Revived considered the importance of Mendelssohn, Schumann and Sterndale Bennett to the revival of Bach’s music in the early to mid-nineteenth century. Dr Hannah French lectured in the Western Library on the importance of all three composers to the revolutionary change in attitude in the first part of the century, when the concept of J S Bach moved from the antiquarian musicologist, assuming the composer was of little interest and impossible to perform, to the present situation where he is treated in an almost godlike way.

Mendelssohn’s performance of the St Matthew Passion on 11 March 1829 is seen as the turning point. By modern standards this was not a complete performance and nor did is use anything like the instrumentation we have come to expect today. However it gave audiences, and musicians, a clear understanding of the magnificent potential of the work and from then on interest gathered exponentially. Mendelssohn was closely aided by the singer Edvard Devrient – who noted that it had taken an actor and a Jew to reinstate the greatest of Christian works!

The atrium of the Weston Library is not an obvious place for a recital but the Festival aims to present a number of sessions free to encourage a wider audience. Thus after the lecture we heard soprano Turiya Haudenhuyse sing songs by Bach and Schumann, ranging from an entrancing Bist du bei mir from Bach to the bleak setting of Zwielicht by Schumann. The link to the lecture came in the form of arrangements that the composers had made of Bach to make him more acceptable to the contemporary audience. So Schumann had added a piano part to Bach’s solo Violin Sonata No2, and Mendelssohn a similar piano part for the Violin Partita No3. These were finely played by violinist, Jonathan Stone with Sholto Kynoch at the piano. Working against a confused background of clinking teacups from the cafeteria and people coming and going, it still managed to be remarkably effective.

Back in the lecture theatre Richard Wigmore, who had provided many of the lieder translations, spoke about the influence of Bach on Schumann’s song settings.

Little time to recuperate before the early evening instrumental recital in the Holywell Music Room. The Phoenix Piano Trio comprises the violin and piano soloists we had heard immediately before, together with cellist Christian Elliott. They gave us Niels Gade’s Novelletten and Mendelssohn’s second Piano Trio. The Gade is a deeply romantic work, often jolly and extrovert in its scoring with a gentle lyrical Larghetto.  The Mendelssohn was on a different emotional level, sturm und drang from the outset though it comes to a joyous conclusion, using a brief chorale which never overpowers the more enthusiastic lyricism.

The main evening recital was given by soprano Julianne Banse. She apologised at the start for the cold she had developed and it was clear this was not an excuse. Though it did not curtail the performance it was obvious at times she was genuinely suffering and her breathing was often restricted. This did not prevent her from giving us a well focused and highly sensitive reading of Schumann’s Frauenliebe und-leben and the five Gedichte der konigin Maria Stuart.  The evening had opened with five songs by Mendelssohn, concluding with a humorous reading of Andres Maienlied ‘Hexenlied’ and seven by Brahms, of which Die Mainacht impressed.  She was accompanied throughout by Marcelo Amaral whose postludes in the Schumann were moving and always apt.

Most of the audience then moved down the road to New College Chapel where the Oxford Bach Soloists gave a late night performance of three Bach Cantatas. The last of these, BWV55, featured tenor James Gilchrist whose passionate rendition brought the day to a fitting close. Earlier we had heard countertenor Alexander Chance in radiant form for BWV 89 & 115. Here was another young singer who we will follow with interest. Between the cantatas Robert Quinney had shuttled between the chamber organ in the orchestra to the organ gallery to perform two of Schumann’s Fugues on BACH. After so much intimate music in Holywell it was exhilarating to be exposed to the power of the New College organ.

All of this in one day – and one day out of sixteen.

If you have not been, then next year’s Festival runs from 13-18 October and will focus on The Last of the Romantics – Mahler and fin-de-siecle Vienna. www.oxfordlieder.co.uk

ENO: The Pearl Fishers

London Coliseum, 19 October 2016

pearl-fishers

This is the second revival of Penny Woolcock’s production and it maintains the same balance of strengths and weaknesses as have been apparent on both previous occasions. The new soloists are strongly cast and the men are particularly impressive. Jacques Imbrailo as Zurga and Robert McPherson as Nadir impress in the act one duet, which is also well lit. Robert McPherson makes a great deal of his act one aria, floating the top line with ease.

Claudia Boyle may settle into Leila as the run develops but, while the voice is focused, much of her acting seems exaggerated. This worked well last year in Pirates but needs more subtlety for Bizet. James Creswell is a solid Naurabad and often quite sinister in his presence. Roland Boer handles the score with romantic aplomb from the pit, moving the narrative forward while allowing the soloists to enjoy their individual set pieces.

The chorus are in fine form but the production does not help. As I noted at the last revival, the set severely restricts the chorus movement so that the opening scene is both static and additionally is poorly lit. After the impressive diving scene at the start this is a real let-down, and visually the production does not pick up again until Leila appears on her tower and the sea comes in.

An musically worthy evening but I wish somebody had nudged the production values.

 

Maidstone Symphony Orchestra

Mote Hall, Maidstone, 15 October 2016

The weather may have taken a turn for the worse but there was no doubting the enthusiasm of Maidstone Symphony Orchestra who seemed to have retained all the warmth and joy of the summer, in an evening full of romantic extravagance.

Brian Wright opened with a thrilling reading of Dvorak’s Carnival Overture, the delicacy of the harp fending off the brashness of the brass and the thwack of the tambourine. Shostakovich’s Second Piano Concerto followed with Alexander Panfilov its vibrant soloist. He brought a highly percussive approach to the work which was both exciting and convincing, though he has all the subtlety for the familiar Andante slow movement. The fire he brought to his reading was mirrored in the Rachmaninov Prelude which he gave as an encore. We would happily have asked for more but that would not have been fair on him after the exertions of the concert.

alexander-panfilov

Berlioz’ Symphonie Fantastique is equally familiar and gained in authority as it progressed. There was sound dynamic contrast in the first two movements, with the two harps particularly impressive, but it was from the third movement that it really began to impress. From the offstage oboe to the sinister drum rolls at the end it was beautifully phrased in long, lingering paragraphs.

I don’t normally mention soloists by name but the two tympanists, William Burgess and George Barton, really stood out in the final movements. The March to the Scaffold had an intensity and power which came to fruition in the finale movement, where textures were crystal clear even in the density of Berlioz’ orchestration.

If the orchestra can maintain this level of musicality for the rest of the season we are in for a fantastic year. Tell your friends – there are still seats available!

The next concert which includes familiar works by Elgar, Bruch and Schumann is on Saturday 3 December.  mso.ticketsource.co.uk  friends@mso.org.uk

Robin Hood

robin-hoodBarbican Hall, 14 October 2016

Neil Brand has been honing the art of improvisation for silent films for many years (as those of us in Hastings will recall from many fine evening at St Mary in the Castle). He has also had a desire to write a score for Douglas Fairbanks’ 1922 Robin Hood. Happily the two have come together in the magnificent unveiling of a renewed print of the film and a full score for the BBC Symphony Orchestra under Timothy Brock.

The film was always over the top, with Fairbanks’ outlaw closer to Peter Pan than Mel Gibson – think Men in Tights rather than Prince of Thieves – and from the moment he leaps into the forest it is a joy until the final tongue-in-cheek scenes where the king is banging on the bridal chamber door.

Neil Brand’s score mirrors this enthusiasm with aplomb, its rich romantic passages offset by some nastier scenes drawn from Vaughan Williams at his most introspective. Unlike Carl Davis’ scores for Ben Hur or Napoleon there are no obvious big themes to delineate the characters, rather there is a more subtle atmospheric background which gives us an emotional underpinning to the action and allows characters to develop musically as the film progresses.

As the BBC was involved we can only hope that we will see (and hear) the score again with presumably the potential for a DVD.