‘BBC Philharmonic Orchestra Presents’ Great Film Scores

BBC Philharmonic Presents A celebration of film music live on BBC Radio 3

Last Friday Mark Kermode and Radio 3 hosted a live event in Manchester creating an evening of delectable sound that played some of the greatest film scores recorded and exposed the importance of this music to the greatness of the movies themselves. Sarah Jane Holland went along to the event, here’s her report.

An evening dedicated to celebrating classic film scores has been just one event in an ongoing radio festival, BBC Philharmonic Presents, which has been broadcasting since the 1st June and will finalise on the 17th. The festival is a celebration of the diversely creative potential of the orchestra and the many guises and forms the symphonic music can adopt. The Philharmonic is the first orchestra to perform live on seven of the BBC’s national radio networks to explore this range, each angle of music being different to suit each station. The celebrations of the orchestra and the power of its music are synonymous with the positive announcement of the birth of the BBC in the North, and the Philharmonic’s new and certainly not too humble abode at the Salford Key’s ultramodern studio.

The recognition of iconic film music was broadcasted live on Radio 3, the home of the BBC Philharmonic, featuring composers from John Williams and Danny Elfman to centenary tributes to Nino Rota. Robert Ziegler conducted and Mark Kermode introduced each musical score. It was a pity for film fans in the audience that Kermode’s critical judgements were not applied more extensively. To witness him simply reading a brief outline off a sheet slightly hindered the authoritative film critical voice he owns over the subject. That said though, the voices of the orchestra over any others has been crucial to the evening’s celebrations of the scores. For an angle leaning further towards the film side, tune into BBC iplayer for Simon Mayo and Mark Kermode’s film review show, assisted by the Philharmonic Orchestra, that broadcasted on BBC Radio five live from the studio earlier in the day.

The event encouraged listeners to appreciate the memorable musical scores in their own right without the distraction of visual images and a narrative. Music in film often serves a simple atmospheric purpose. It may assist in asserting the tone of the scene but be somewhat ignored. Pop soundtracks can be motivated by finances. The demand for Simon and Garfunkel’s soundtrack to The Graduate was integral to the film’s success. Songs from the latest rom coms can be subtly woven into the background of scenes, barely detected, and then appear on the soundtrack posing as if they were a vital addition. Tonight Angelo Baddalamenti’s score from Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me was illuminated in its understated yet powerfully chilling symphonies, dismembered and untouched from the fact that the film itself was critically rendered as a failure, and as Kermode described it, ‘woefully underrated’.

Another highlight included the dramatic opening to the evening, commencing with John Williams’ main title to Star Wars. There could not have been a more appropriate start to effectively capture the audience. The triumphant notes combined with the majestic sound quality of the intimate studio, seating no more than 250 people, was a shock to the system. It was like a slap in the face, but a pleasurable one. The grandiose piece is now inextricably linked with the film, the score perhaps being as iconic as the movie itself.

Bernard Herrman’s score from Taxi Driver, featuring John Harle in a saxophone solo, also stood out in its mesmerising melancholia. The solitary saxophone effectively echoed the loneliness of Travis Bickle on the streets of New York. Evidently, if familiar with the movie the music inevitably merges together with the film in the listening experience. This is not necessarily a drawback. The evening juxtaposed the mediums of film and music and has shown they can certainly compliment each other. The music scores contribute more to the emotional power and success of the film than may initially be realised, and the films offer an effective vehicle for such potential power to be practised.

Speaking as a natural fan of film rather than music, the evening was certainly a new experience and my comfort zone was somewhat displaced. Yet it is clearly not difficult for anyone to appreciate the magnificence of the symphonies and to grasp the important contribution the scores have made to the movies they feature in. The event and location radiated positivity and vibrancy. The BBC Philharmonic’s partnership with Salford City Council and new home at MediaCityUK has brought the art of music into the area, adding further to the cultural and modernised transformation that Salford has witnessed in recent years.

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2 Responses

  1. Jason

    Just caight this event on BBC digital on Sky (red button) what a fantastic selection of music, wish I had been there!

  2. Robert Richmond

    The BBC Philharmonic Orchestra’s Great Film Scores was amazing, nearly every night i watched it. I just wished i was there too. And what an amazing selection of music scores they played, especially Bernard Herrman’s Taxi Driver score with John Harle’s Saxophone Solo, i just loved it so very much! – i wonder if i can get it on CD?. Truly amazing.


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