CONDUCTOR John Wilson has had great success with his concerts of Hollywood and Broadway musicals, but this concert of British film music with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic was rather different. His eclectic selection concentrated largely on incidental music – only a handful of great themes – and varied from 1940s dramas to Carry On Up the Khyber.
Some great composers were featured, William Walton, Malcolm Arnold and Ralph Vaughan Williams among them, but they weren’t writing for the concert platform but often just to underline some on-screen action.
The result was some meandering scores – Arthur Benjamin’s Ideal Husband (1948) with shades of Elgar, Malcolm Arnold’s comical Hobson’s Choice (1954), etc – and some, like Richard Rodney Bennett’s love theme from Yanks (1979), inconsequential easy listening. Happily, there was enough good stuff to make for an interesting evening, much helped by Wilson’s commentary. And there were some big themes, notably Eric Coates’s Dam Busters March, written, according to Wilson, for personal pleasure, before he was offered the film job.
Pianist Ian Buckle did a fine job on the Warsaw Concert from Dangerous Moonlight (1941), credited to Richard Addinsell but with an uncredited Roy Douglas doing most of the work turning Addinsell’s tunes into a concerto. Walton’s Battle in the Air sequence from The Battle of Britain (1969) was the best example of music conjuring up mind pictures, while Richard Rodney Bennett’s suite from Murder on the Orient Express (1974) was the most glamorously exotic.
The large orchestra with five percussionists provided enthusiastic power to the scores and worked through some tricky musical moments with aplomb. Ultimately, it was good to hear some unfamiliar music often unjustly ignored by film-goers.