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Simply Too Long

MIKE WHEELER sits through
film scores and Christmas music


Some film scores are satisfying musical experiences in their own right; others aren't. Derby Concert Orchestra had examples of both in its Christmas concert (Derby Cathedral, Derby, UK, 6 December 2008).

John Williams' music for the first Harry Potter film is a typically skilful job with some nice tongue-in-cheek moments. Howard Shore's Lord of the Rings score includes some charming pastiche antique dance music, but is otherwise less than gripping away from the film.

Full marks, though, for DCO's enterprising choice of movements from Sviridov's The Snowstorm, from a 1964 film of a Pushkin story. All these, plus Hans Zimmer's Pirates of the Caribbean, got spirited performances, vividly characterised, though often the brass was too loud. Also, not saying how many movements from the Sviridov were being played (let alone their titles) left the audience awkwardly uncertain when to applaud.

Tubby the Tuba may have been ground-breaking in the late 1940s; today it just sounds tired and dated. Paul Tripp's score has some interesting ideas, but George Heinsinger's script is embarrassingly twee. Narrator Peter Barlow (a bit over-posh) and tuba player Colin Sidney did their best, but it's time to put Tubby out to grass.

The City Singers, a chamber-sized group based at Derby's VoiceBox, started its group of Christmas items well, with lovely blended tone, though by their third item, Walton's All this Time, the tenors were starting to cut through, and this imbalance also affected their three items from Messiah in part 2; a black mark against the Messiah items, too, for not telling us that DCO were using the Mozart orchestration or something like it (Prout?).

In the end, although there were plenty of enjoyable moments, the concert suffered from being simply too long.

Copyright © 13 December 2008 Mike Wheeler, Derby UK


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