18 Apr

Classic Movie Thrillers

By  Gareth Bramley
(1 Vote)

Royal Concert Hall, Nottingham (14thApril 2018)
(The Halle Orchestra conducted by Stephen Bell)

I had seen the famous 86-piece Halle here in Nottingham when they played ‘The Music of James Bond’ in May 2016. I had been very impressed with the high standard of playing. They came back here in March last year, with their conductor Stephen Bell, to play an impressive set entitled ‘Great Sci-Fi Movies’.

This latest ‘thriller’ from The Halle – "Classic Movie Thrillers" -part of the Nottingham Classics concert series - was faultless as was the informative compeering from a very knowledgeable Petroc Trelawny who presents BBC Radio 3’s ‘Breakfast’.

The concert got off to a cracking start with one of my favourite pieces – ‘The Dance of the Witches’ from John Williams’ score to ‘The Witches of Eastwick’. Pleasingly, this has now become a staple part of Williams’ concert music. The pace got even faster for the next piece – Lalo Schifrin’s great title theme from the TV series and film ‘Mission Impossible’. Flawlessly played it was preceded by ‘The Plot’, which always played out in the series before the end title theme.

It was now the turn of the great Ennio Morricone and a tune I had never heard before. I must admit I was a little surprised, but delighted – the main theme from Quentin Tarantino’s 2015 Western ‘The Hateful Eight’ was a terrific tune and I’m now wondering whether to invest in a CD of the complete score, which won a Golden Globe and, incredibly, Morricone’s first Oscar!

A concert of film music wouldn’t be complete without at least one track by Bond regular John Barry and, for the second time, I heard the Halle play a lovely version of Barry’s ‘Piz Gloria Escape’ / ‘Ski Chase’ from ‘O.H.M.S.S.’ There was some great twangy guitar playing; and kettle drums towards the middle of the tune. Simply great. The orchestra then toned it down a little for Barry’s 2nd piece - a nice version of ‘The Ipcress File’, where the guitar aptly doubled for cimbalom, which had played out on the soundtrack to the film.

It was time for another John Williams piece – in fact, the 2nd of 5 on the night! ‘Catch Me If You Can’ was a lovely jazzy cue from Spielberg’s 2002 film featuring a charming saxophone solo.

The next cue was an odd one – a very slow, simple theme from a composer I’d not heard of – David Julyan – who was, in fact, sitting in the audience at the very front of the upper tier, taking his bows at the end of this very short cue. It didn’t do anything for me; and even the audience delayed slightly before applauding - though, to be fair, they probably hadn’t expected it to finish so soon.

One of my favourites was next, the headline cue for this concert. This was the great overture from ‘North by Northwest’ by the late, great Bernard Herrmann. This music is always great to hear but the second part of the section was quite laid back and I can only assume this was the cue ‘Conversation Piece’.

Side one of the concert finished with Michael Giacchino’s awesome theme from Pixar’s computer-generated animation film from 2004 – ‘The Incredibles’. Compeer Trelawny reminded me of a fact that I had long-forgotten. Yes, it was John Barry who had originally been chosen to compose this score - but Barry wanted to look forward for his inspiration for his music and the producers wanted him to look back to his old scores / music. In fact, the film’s actual trailer was tracked to Barry’s ‘O.H.M.S.S.’ theme. Nevertheless, I found it a thoroughly enjoyable piece of music.

Side two opened with Stephen Sondheim’s theme from Tim Burton’s 2007 horror film ‘Sweeney Todd’. Quite enjoyable. Next up was a charming waltz theme (Waltz No.2) for Stanley Kubrick’s film ‘Eyes Wide Shut’ from 1999; originally composed by Dmitri Shostakovich. Another horror from 1999 followed - James Newton Howard’s piano theme from ‘The Sixth Sense’. I have to admit that all three of these themes were new to me but they were all played splendidly and were very enjoyable.

It’s hard to think of a concert where ‘Jaws’ isn’t played these days and sure enough this was Williams’ third piece of the night. I’m not a keen fan of ‘Jaws’ – the theme has never done anything for me, aside from Lalo Schifrin’s pounding 6-minute disco rendition that reached No.14 here in the UK singles charts in 1976.

Perhaps one of the best themes of the night was to follow. How can one omit ‘Bernard Herrmann’s ‘Psycho’ masterpiece from a ‘Classic Movie Thrillers’ concert? I’d only just watched ‘Psycho 2 & 3’ a few days before so this was surely one of the highlights of the evening for me. ‘The Rainstorm’ cue preceded the famous, but all-to-short shower sequence – great to hear the screeching / shrieking violins. This had been yet another polished performance from The Halle, who received a fantastic reception from the audience. They then went on to play what would be the third Herrmann theme of the night – in fact, the atmospheric theme to Martin Scorsese’s ‘Taxi Driver’ (1976) was to be Benny’s last as he sadly died Christmas Eve, 1975 before the film’s release.

Time for another Williams piece! Selections from the Indiana Jones series of films always go down well and this time we were treated to the main theme from ‘Indiana Jones & the Last Crusade’, another Spielberg film from 1989. Stirring stuff – Williams’ scores for these films were all very energetic.

It was horror time again and a film I’d seen on TV not too long back. Francis Ford Coppola’s ‘Bram Stoker’s Dracula’ (1992) was composed by Polish composer Wojciech Kilar – another chilling and rarely heard piece of music that went down well.

I’d never been keen on Hans Zimmer but he occasion comes out with a corker. Surprisingly, the next pieces were two of those - ‘Batman Begins’ (2005) and ‘The Dark Knight’ from 2008. Rousing stuff.

After a great concert it was sadly time for the final selection of the evening. The 5th John Williams composition and one of my favourites – the 5 minute plus main theme from Spielberg’s dinosaur epic from 1993 ‘Jurassic Park’. I’ve heard this many times before in concert but like it immensely – it’s like you get two themes in one. Later on this year, to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the film, there is to be a live concert, with the music performed to film and conducted by the Czech National Symphony Orchestra.

After rapturous applause Stephen Bell reappeared to announce an encore – Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’. This certainly got the crowd moving - and I was humming this great tune all the way to the bus stop! Of course, it had to be good – the great Quincy Jones had produced it.

Another great concert of film music was over. Again The Halle proved faultless and the concert had been a refreshing change from the previous space themes. Highlight of the evening??? There were too many nice tunes to choose from but ‘Witches of Eastwick’ / ’Mission Impossible’ / ‘O.H.M.S.S.’ / ‘North by Northwest’ / ‘Pyscho’ / ‘Batman…’ / ‘Jurassic Park’ were perhaps my favourites. Here’s to the next one!

© Gareth Bramley – April 2018

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About Geoff 123
Geoff Leonard was born in Bristol. He spent much of his working career in banking but became an independent record producer in the early nineties, specialising in the works of John Barry and British TV theme compilations.
He also wrote liner notes for many soundtrack albums, including those by John Barry, Roy Budd, Ron Grainer, Maurice Jarre and Johnny Harris. He co-wrote two biographies of John Barry in 1998 and 2008, and is currently working on a biography of singer, actor, producer Adam Faith.
He joined the Internet Movie Data-base (www.imdb.com) as a data-manager in 2001 and looked after biographies, composers and the music-department, amongst other tasks. He retired after nine years loyal service in order to continue writing.