concert review by Alistair Kerr
John Wilson, the current “enfant terrible” of British conductors, was in Glasgow on Sunday 18th September 2011 to conduct “Music To Be Murdered By” a varied selection of Bernard Herrmann, Alfred Newman, Miklos Rozsa, David Raksin, Richard Rodney Bennett and Constant Lambert film music with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra.
The rousing “Overture” from “North By Northwest”, started off this marvellous concert and showed what both the orchestra and conductor were capable of. Then a short suite from “Laura” (David Raksin) gave us another side of film music, soft, sweet and completely entrancing. More Herrmann next with the “Prelude”, “Nightmare” and “Love Scene” from the Hitchcock/Herrmann collaboration “Vertigo”, superbly played with just the right amount of tension and tempo.
The “Overture” to “All About Eve”, Alfred Newman’s 1950 Twentieth-Century Fox classic film score followed and then pianist Ben Dawson joined Wilson and the BBC SSO to perform brilliantly the “Concerto Macabre” – the climax to Herrmann’s spine-tingling score from “Hangover Square”. The first act finale was “Parade of the Charioteers” from “Ben Hur”, Miklos Rozsa’s masterpiece – the orchestra and Wilson brought the house down with this rousing and spectacular performance.
More Herrmann started Part 2 – “Prelude, “Murder” and “Finale” from Hitchcock’s “Psycho”. Just the right amount of brio and flair showed the appreciative audience just what a great conductor John Wilson is – he nailed this suite with consummate ease. He might have been channelling Bernard Herrmann here – one of the best performances of this music I have heard.
A suite from “Anna Karenina”, Constant Lambert’s underrated score from the 1948 British film came next and Wilson told the audience that Bernard Herrmann had originally recorded this for a Decca album, “Great British Film Music”. Then the thrilling “Main Title” from “Marnie” gave us more classic Herrmann and the concert concluded with the Christopher Palmer-adapted Herrmann suite from “Taxi Driver” and Richard Rodney Bennett’s “Overture” and “Waltz” from the 1974 movie “Murder On the Orient Express” for orchestra, piano and – fire extinguisher! (Simulated steam noise for the engine in this well-played piece.)
The afternoon was a great addition to Bernard Herrmann’s centennial – and the almost-full auditorium at Glasgow’s City Hall proved that the audience certainly appreciated Herrmann, the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and conductor John Wilson, whose love of film and film music gave us a performance to treasure – and remember.