Tag Archives: BBC

REVIEW: Blackmail with the BBC SSO

Presented as a companion piece to The Sound of Hitchcock, the BBC SSO present a rare opportunity to see Alfred Hitchcock’s 1929 silent masterpiece Blackmail with full symphony orchestra accompaniment.

Wielding the baton again is silent movie music specialist Timothy Brock, the music created by contemporary composer Neil Brand specifically for the movie. Brand refuses to confine himself to the musical  style of the era, instead taking the best of the early decades of movie music and creating a beautifully appropriate soundscape to match the action.

Blackmail itself has an interesting history, existing in two versions, filming began originally as a silent movie but it was converted to sound during production. It is one of Britain’s first all-talking pictures, filmed on the first purpose-built sound studio in Europe at Borehamwood. It’s Czech-born leading lady Anny Ondra also a classic example of a silent movie star failing to make the grade in the talkies, her strong accent having to be post-dubbed by actress Joan Barry.

The story … During a date with her Scotland Yard detective boyfriend, Alice White has a fight with her boyfriend, Frank. Catching the eye of an admirer, she ditches Frank and leaves with the mysterious stranger. When they go back to his flat he attempts to rape Alice and she kills him in defence. Frank is tasked with investigating the case and soon realises Alice’s guilt. However, a petty thief with blackmail on his mind complicates matters.

What the movie does show is a fascinating glimpse of a film that bridged the gap between the overblown histrionics of the silent era and the more subtle talkies to come. Whilst there are exaggerated eye roles and meaningful glances a-plenty from our heroine, it is a stylistic hybrid which also demonstrates the burgeoning genius of Hitchcock and provides a tantalising glimpse of what was to come, indeed many of Hitchcock’s most famous trademarks are here (including the infamous cameo appearance): the beautiful blonde in peril, and a famous landmark used in the movie’s finale (here it’s a chase across the dome of the British Museum).

Surprisingly, the movie remains remarkably watchable, replete as it is with astonishingly sophisticated scene cutting and special effects for its era, and it is all enhanced wonderfully by the BBC SSO, there’s not much can beat the sound of an 80 piece plus orchestra in full flight.

A thoroughly entertaining evening, hopefully next season’s programme will offer more of the same.

 

 

 

 

REVIEW: BBC SSO The Sound of Hitchcock – City Halls, Glasgow

The BBC SSO have teamed up with Radio 3 to present a special edition of Sound of Cinema featuring the music from the movies of Alfred Hitchcock.

Matthew Sweet presents music from Franz Waxman, Dmitri Tiomkin, Miklos Rozsa and Bernard Herrmann linked with some enlightening background facts about Hitch and his composers, all lead by US born composer and conductor Timothy Brock (a specialist in concert performances of early 20th Century silent movie scores).

This is a fantastic celebration of an often overlooked genre of music, but what this performance perfectly exemplifies just how memorable this so-called background music is. It only takes a few bars from the score of Dial M for Murder, Vertigo, and of course Psycho for the scenes to spring firmly to mind.

Beautifully performed and professionally presented, this evocative, unnerving, unsettling and utterly entertaining production is an absolute delight.

To be broadcast on BBC Radio 3 on August 15th at 2pm

REVIEW: Friday Night is Music Night BBC Music Day Concert – City Halls, Glasgow

Once in a while, the stars align to bring a magical evening’s entertainment that will linger long in the memory and so it was at Glasgow’s City Halls to celebrate BBC Music Day, with BBC Radio 2’s Friday Night is Music Night presenting a gala concert featuring the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and a line-up of guests from across the musical spectrum.

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The programme comprising a selection of popular classical pieces, (The Marriage of Figaro, Tosca) to well-loved movie and stage soundtracks (My Fair Lady Overture, the Back to the Future theme tune), as well as some jazz and pop standards, was a popular one.

Jamie Cullum, representing the world of jazz, gave a pared back and perfectly performed version of Pure Imagination as well as the roof raising Bond theme-like Edge of Something, opera tenor Noah Stewart, easy on the eye as well as ear, astounded with an emotive Recondita Armonia from Tosca and a goose-bump inducing Grenada.

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World-renowned violinist Jack Liebeck gave a snippet of Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto, harpist Catrin Finch (formerly Prince Charles Official Harpist) performed two beautifully melodic pieces, Bhangra artist Jaz Dhami accompanied by kohl and tabla players as well as the SSO delivered two full-blooded Bollywood movie classic themes and Claire Hastings BBC Radio Scotland Young Traditional Musician of the Year 2015 gave a lyrical version of Robert Burns The Posie and a stirring Johnny Ramensky.

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Local gal Lulu, appearing first across the water at the BBC HQ at The Quay crossed the river to deliver her 60’s movie hit To Sir With Love.

Less successful in a night of big-hitters were local pop stalwarts Deacon Blue who were woefully underpowered by an on top form SSO. Vocalist Lorraine McIntosh didn’t help proceedings by looking as if she would rather be anywhere else but here.

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That said, this minor blip did not ruin a magical evening of world class talent for a Glasgow audience in roof-raising form – truly breathtaking from start to finish.