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Friday Night Classics: 21st Century Blockbusters – Symphony Hall, Birmingham

Conductor: Michael Seal

Reviewer: Selwyn Knight

By its nature, film music is subservient to the films it accompanies, quietly manipulating the viewer’s emotions almost unnoticed. And so, much film music doesn’t really stand up alone. But some does, and this concert includes some of the finest film music – finest music – all of which wears its heart on its sleeve in terms of mood. And, remarkably, none of it existed 15 short years ago.

There is a wide variety of music on offer from the full eighty-strong City of Birmingham Orchestra under the leadership of the orchestra’s Associate Conductor, Michael Seal. We have the majestic theme from Star Wars Episode III – Revenge of the Sith; the reflective Faces Without Names from The Bourne Ultimatum; but also the quirky There Will Be Blood (by Jonny Greenwood from Radiohead), which is played entirely by strings, some pizzicato, others strumming with plectrums; and the frankly chaotic The Knight Bus from Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, disorienting managed chaos under the impish conducting of Seal. Seal’s style is unfailingly enthusiastic, full of showmanship while being authoritative.

Although written to accompany films, the best film music also conjures up images in the listeners’ minds, for example, the feeling of an owl in Hedwig’s Theme (which also provides the strings with a physical workout) and, especially, in the theme from Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest that immediately transports one to the sea.

Throughout the evening, our host and guide is Tommy Pearson, a widely experienced broadcast journalist with a specialism in music and film music. His presentation is competent, if occasionally halting as he refers to his notes.

The first half is an hour of unalloyed pleasure, brought to a stunning climax with a suite from Slumdog Millionaire including the unusual cadences of the sitar played by guest instrumentalist Roopa Panesar. She displays terrific skills during her extended solo half way through the piece, bringing the half to a triumphant close.

The second half is slightly less self-assured than the first. Nevertheless, it has undoubted highlights, for example, Dartmoor 1912 from War Horse, which is the very essence of Englishness, very pastoral, evoking birdsong and undeniably folky in places; and the life-affirming suite from Sherlock with its boisterous climax in Prepared To Do Anything.

So another high quality concert of light and accessible classics from the peerless CBSO, painitng pictures in our heads and tinkering with our emotions throughout the evening.

Reviewed on: 7th March

Conductor: Michael Seal Reviewer: Selwyn Knight By its nature, film music is subservient to the films it accompanies, quietly manipulating the viewer’s emotions almost unnoticed. And so, much film music doesn’t really stand up alone. But some does, and this concert includes some of the finest film music – finest music - all of which wears its heart on its sleeve in terms of mood. And, remarkably, none of it existed 15 short years ago. There is a wide variety of music on offer from the full eighty-strong City of Birmingham Orchestra under the leadership of the orchestra’s Associate Conductor,…

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The Central team is under the editorship of Selwyn Knight. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.