Last night the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra under the baton of ex-West End conductor Pete Harrison gave the penultimate rendition of their Heroes and Monsters concert. The performance displayed some moments of intrigue but the return to their home ground disappointingly lacked lustre and vivacity.

Pete Harrison © Andy Holdsworth
Pete Harrison
© Andy Holdsworth

The concert juxtaposed heroes and monsters in a journey through contemporary music, spanning the black and white filmic era through to the modern-day gaming industry. Despite all fragments of the concert being held together with a fantastical theme, on the whole the programming seemed to be in the middle of a crisis; it was unsure of its identity, who it was targeting and, as it wasn’t chronological, could not entirely pass as a journey through time. Additionally, the programming left it unclear as to how monstrous or heroic the music selection was supposed to be. It didn’t specifically relate to monsters or heroes, rather showcasing famous scenes from films which may have included a hero or a monster in some form. Furthermore, omissions were made in the programme without any explanation as to why. At least there was an amount of intellectual insight into the music from Harrison, who pointed the audience to the right section of the programme notes. 

An interesting element of the concert was the separation of music from its commercial counterpart. One of the most beautiful pieces performed was This is Going to Hurt from Hans Zimmer’s score to The Ring. The scoring may be scarce, however the BSO sustained and pushed dissonances with such sweet tension that the disturbing plot to the film was redundant and the music could be enjoyed as a separate entity. Principal cellist Jesper Svedberg performed the tedious cello solo with verve, musicality and theatricality; a much-needed elevation to the concert. The syncopation occurring in a duet between the violas and basses was played rhythmically and articulately, boosting the intrigue of the performance.

It has been said that orchestral music in video games would never take off as games are too unpredictable and orchestral music isn’t. However, the BSO successfully navigated the alternate dimensions and characters of Shrek Forever After by David Buckley, which was adapted by the composer from the game into a seamless suite for the BSO. Again, separating music from image allowed the music to breathe and be appreciated by people who would not ordinarily access children’s video games.

Stylistically, the BSO excelled itself in sweeping romanticism and melodious passages of music, such as that in The Abyss. They effectively conveyed the treacherous rescue mission against Russian vessels through painful, sorrowful and yet brave lyricism. Strong and unified, the serene melody was carried as if it were weightless, Harrison artistically bringing out the different depths of the score with the force of a full orchestra and an incredibly strong brass section. The contrasting styles on show throughout the concert made for easy listening and kept the focus of an audience not necessarily accustomed to classical music. The big band section of The Gremlins was handled quite well by the orchestra, but I would have liked to have seen it swung and played with a bit more energy, as the percussionists seemed to be pushing the pace on. Despite a few missed notes in the percussion and some misplaced notes in the trumpets, the concert had some memorable moments which elevated music which might not be so accessible when tied to their original mediums of film or game.

**111