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Subject: "Silent Movies and the RLPO's R+J" Archived thread - Read only
 
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Conferences What's Happening Topic #2651
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Brendan McCarthymoderator

20-04-02, 09:13 AM (GMT)
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"Silent Movies and the RLPO's R+J"
 
   According to today's Guardian, Carl Davis, intends to conduct the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic in a live performance of Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet, while the film version of the ballet with Fonteyn and Nureyev plays on a screen in the background.

"It's a gamble," Davis told the Guardian. He has previously conducted live performances of scores for silent movies. Davis went on: "It's a trapeze act - but then it always is when I do the silents. Even if I am not exact all the time, it will still bring the thing to life. It will be an amazing experience."

In my view the whole idea is wrong-headed and offensive. The Guardian story can be found on this link


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  Subject     Author     Message Date     ID  
  RE: Silent Movies and the RLPO's R J Helen 20-04-02 1
     RE: Silent Movies and the RLPO's R J pmeja 20-04-02 2
         RE: Silent Movies and the RLPO's R J Richard Jones 20-04-02 3
             RE: Silent Movies and the RLPO's R J pmeja 20-04-02 4
                 RE: Silent Movies and the RLPO's R J Jonathan S 21-04-02 5
                     RE: Silent Movies and the RLPO's R J Helen 21-04-02 6
                         RE: Silent Movies and the RLPO's R J Paul A 22-04-02 7
                             RE: Silent Movies and the RLPO's R J Helen 22-04-02 8
                             RE: Silent Movies and the RLPO's R J Paul A 22-04-02 9
  RE: Silent Movies and the RLPO's R+J AnnaM 22-04-02 10
     RE: Silent Movies and the RLPO's R+J Robert 22-04-02 11
         RE: Silent Movies and the RLPO's R J Helen 22-04-02 12
             RE: Silent Movies and the RLPO's R J Robert 23-04-02 14
                 RE: Silent Movies and the RLPO's R J alison 25-04-02 15
  RE: Silent Movies and the RLPO's R+J AEHandley 22-04-02 13

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Helen

20-04-02, 09:40 AM (GMT)
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1. "RE: Silent Movies and the RLPO's R J"
In response to message #0
 
   LAST EDITED ON 20-04-02 AT 09:43 AM (GMT)

I completely agree with Brendan - it seems like a denial of the whole subtle relationship between music and dance. I have connections with the RLPO - I was in the choir for a longish time - and have known about Carl Davis's bizarre idea for some time. What (I think) makes it even odder is that he is only going to do the first act. Whether they are showing the whole film isn't clear - it's part of a concert of ballet music. Much as I disapprove of the idea, I don't think I'll be able to resist going to see what happens! It isn't until the end of June.

Carl Davis, well known for his film and television music - which is often quite good of its type - is not a wonderful conductor, to put it politely. He tends to do the "popular", money-spinning concerts in the summer. The Liverpool Phil Hall is an Art Deco building with an original film screen that comes up through the floor, still in perfect working order, so films are a temptation. A while ago, he conducted his own score to the original silent Ben Hur, and he has done Charlie Chaplin films. But ballet - that's something new.

Originally, Lynn Seymour was going to do a pre-performance talk about the ballet, but this hasn't been mentioned recently. I was looking forward to that, so I hope it still happens.


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pmeja

20-04-02, 01:43 PM (GMT)
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2. "RE: Silent Movies and the RLPO's R J"
In response to message #1
 
   what a bizarre idea!!!!!!!


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Richard Jones

20-04-02, 09:17 PM (GMT)
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3. "RE: Silent Movies and the RLPO's R J"
In response to message #2
 
   LAST EDITED ON 20-04-02 AT 09:18 PM (GMT)

This sounds just like the kind of stunt Carl Davis would do. The one occasion on which I have seen him conduct was at a concert at the Barbican, which included The Sorcerer's Apprentice, Rakhmaninov 2nd piano concerto (with Moura Lympany as soloist), etc., etc. As a friend of mine said, she gave him the sort of concerto he wanted!...

A live performance of a film score is one thing, but classical ballet would seem to present other problems. I'll be interested to know how he manages to cope with the sections where the music starts before the action (e.g. the 2 bars of intro. to the Dance of the Knights, or the introduction to the last scene). The fact that he doesn't seem to think that precise co-ordination of music and dance will necessarily happen all the time does tell us rather a lot about his broad brush approach.


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pmeja

20-04-02, 09:21 PM (GMT)
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4. "RE: Silent Movies and the RLPO's R J"
In response to message #3
 
   not to mention his patently ridiculous statement that memories of them are "so distant" now. rubbish. i hope no one goes.


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Jonathan S

21-04-02, 10:43 AM (GMT)
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5. "RE: Silent Movies and the RLPO's R J"
In response to message #4
 
   Firstly, before this discussion runs away with accusations about Carl Davis's lack of ballet experience, it would be wise to remember that he has had a long association with dance - he wrote David and Goliath (1975) and Dances of Love and Death (1981) for London Contemporary Dance Theatre; A Picture of Dorian Gray (1987) for SWRB, A Simple Man (1988), Lippizaner and Liaisons Amoureuses (1989) and A Christmas Carol (1992) for NBT, not to mention Savoy Suite (1993) and Alice and Wonderland(1995) based on Sullivan and Tchaikovsky respectively, for ENB. Ballet.co diarist Cathy Marston is less sniffy about him than her readers, since she used his music for her Pride and Prejudice (see March diary).


Whatever arguments there may be about film not being the same as dance, or that there's no substitute for live performance, one thing will be distinctly to Davis's advantage: he can practise getting it right before the performance. Nonetheless, "precise co-ordination" (Richard's words) of music and dance doesn't happen all the time, except in cartoons. If anything, the difficulty may be to try and reproduce the randomness and elasticity of the relationship between dancer and music, not the precision.

I think the experiment with the film is an extremely interesting one. Whatever the result, doing it can only add to what we know about the relationship between music and dance, and I look forward to hearing what happens.


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Helen

21-04-02, 11:38 AM (GMT)
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6. "RE: Silent Movies and the RLPO's R J"
In response to message #5
 
   When I was at the Liverpool Phil last night (a perfectly normal concert of CPE Bach, Haydn and Mozart's Mass in C Minor - I have to point out that 95% of RLPO concerts are like this) I picked up a leaflet about the R&J programme. The programme consists of (first half) Prelude and Mazurka from Coppelia, Clog Dance from Fille, Lilac Fairy from SB, Berceuse and Finale from Firebird. The second half really does appear to be Act 1 only of the film with the live accompaniment. This is what I find strangest - you go to see R&J and you don't find out how it all ends? Very weird.

The leaflet also describes it as a "rare opportunity to see " the legendary partnership of Fonteyn and Nureyev. Since anyone can buy the video, that's a bit odd, too, but it's publicity-speak, I suppose. Still, I suppose it's a rare opportunity to see them larger than life.

I could swear I have a vague memory of doing a silly season concert with Carl Davis that juxtaposed the end of Mahler 2 with excerpts from Oklahoma, but I must be imagining that - mustn't I?


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Paul A

22-04-02, 12:14 PM (GMT)
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7. "RE: Silent Movies and the RLPO's R J"
In response to message #6
 
   What's the problem? Surely no worse than the danced extracts with orchestra we get sometimes at the Barbican.

Is Malcolm Stewart still with the RLPO?


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Helen

22-04-02, 01:06 PM (GMT)
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8. "RE: Silent Movies and the RLPO's R J"
In response to message #7
 
   Yes, Paul, Malcolm Stewart is still leader, though he isn't always there.

The problem to me is the lack of flexibility, I suppose - the crowd scenes don't matter too much, but the thought of the solos and pas de deux I find alarming - unless Carl Davis knows more about ballet than I think, which is quite possible. I don't like the thought that my idol Fonteyn might appear to be getting it wrong when it would in fact be the orchestra. Someone in "another place", as they say in Parliament, - i.e. another board - has said that the sound track on the video isn't all that accurate. Any thoughts on this, anyone?

It has struck me that it is the equivalent of dancing to taped music, only this is music to taped dancing. I think that dancers probably understand musical subtlety better than musicians understand balletic subtlety.

They are showing the film of Pavlova in The Dying Swan as well, I've just heard - with or without live music is not clear.


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Paul A

22-04-02, 01:35 PM (GMT)
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9. "RE: Silent Movies and the RLPO's R J"
In response to message #8
 
   I don't advocate live singers performing to taped backing - but here we have the orchestra being led hopefully to follow the dancers/ film. The idea seems a good one to get new people through two doors at once.

How is meant to be in live performances - who follows who?

My first hearing of Firebird was at the Phil - in a programme with Carmina Burana for which the management had unhelpfully provided a translation, revealing the banality of the words (much hilarity)- and mass page turning noises.


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AnnaM

22-04-02, 02:02 PM (GMT)
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10. "RE: Silent Movies and the RLPO's R+J"
In response to message #0
 
   Just like karaoke isn't it?!


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Robert

22-04-02, 03:46 PM (GMT)
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11. "RE: Silent Movies and the RLPO's R+J"
In response to message #10
 
   What are people grumbling about? Lots of people are going to Covent Garden to see 'In the Middle' danced to a tape recording of excruciating noises. At least Carl davis is conducting live music!!


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Helen

22-04-02, 05:28 PM (GMT)
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12. "RE: Silent Movies and the RLPO's R J"
In response to message #11
 
   In live performance I'd have thought ideally the dancers and conductor should co-operate - that's been the impression I've had in the rehearsals (not many) I've seen. For that, of course, you do need a really knowledgeable conductor, who knows how to shape a phrase, knows when the dancer needs to slow down a little or speed up a little; and a really musical dancer who doesn't just count beats but can express a phrase to his/her fingertips. There should be telepathy. It's a bit like the relationship between piano and orchestra in a concerto, or singer and accompanist. I do realise that is an ideal that isn't always reached, though I think it has been. (In practice, I think in less supremely musical performances the conductor does the following.) To me, this relationship between dance and music is one of the points of ballet, and I wouldn't be at a performance to taped music.

I do agree, though, that a one-off performance like this one doesn't really matter, and anything that gets people interested in ballet who otherwise would not be is a good thing.


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Robert

23-04-02, 03:53 PM (GMT)
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14. "RE: Silent Movies and the RLPO's R J"
In response to message #12
 
   I am afraid I did not know that Covent Garden now dances to a tape recorder, there should be a large notice in the brochure. Unfortunately it might have stopped me seeing Carmen, which for all its faults was worth seeing.


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alison

25-04-02, 01:07 PM (GMT)
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15. "RE: Silent Movies and the RLPO's R J"
In response to message #14
 
   I'm not sure how many of the audience realised it, either! Last Friday, when the conductor and orchestra were applauded before the start of Carmen, some of the applause from the amphitheatre was so enthusiastic that I think quite a few people were convinced that the musicians had been playing all evening, rather than not having played a note!


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AEHandley

22-04-02, 09:51 PM (GMT)
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13. "RE: Silent Movies and the RLPO's R+J"
In response to message #0
 
  
>
>In my view the whole idea
>is wrong-headed and offensive. The
>Guardian story can be found

?? Offensive?? It's a rather interesting experiment, I'd say! It would be even more interesting if we could see a series of attempts - from his first effort to coordinate orchestra with film through to when he was happy with the result.

Carl Davis has actually written some rather good stuff. Not great music maybe, but music that does what it sets out to do extremely well (I would give some examples of his TV scores that have impressed me and remained with me but I bet if I do I'll get at least one wrong...)


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