Does the UK possess a greater interpreter of classic film music than the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra? In their latest appearance at Bristol’s Colston Hall they once more reinforced their visceral and nuanced understanding of our favourite soundtracks, again under the lively baton of Pete Harrison (for whom this was something of a homecoming having recalled being wowed at the venue at the age of 12).
Given that film music must by necessity adapt to a host of different styles and narratives this was a show that made the same demands of its orchestra, as the programme leapt from whimsical family fun (the John Williams double-bill of Harry Potter and Hook) to sweeping, Far Eastern mysticism (Tan Dun’s Oscar-winning Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon). It offered breathtaking spectacle both in its broad sweeping gestures and lovely, nuanced touches, from the solo cello on the aforementioned Crouching Tiger to the warmly noble trumpets on Miklos Rosza’s seminal El Cid.
Certain pieces put the symphony through the wringer, notably Basil Poledouris’ thunderous Riders of Doom from Conan the Barbarian that interweaves three primary themes in a tour-de-force dialogue between brass and strings. Watching the orchestra’s dynamic playing was a more than fitting tribute to the late composer’s memory. It was also an evening that found time for local emphasis: Bristolian composer Tess Tyler arranged a special suite of her LEGO Marvel Avengers game, which in the hands of Harrison and the orchestra was transformed into a vigorously brassy and exciting assasult. Also warmly received was Ramin Djawadi’s signature Main Title March from Game of Thrones.
Even so it was the old classics that united the all-ages crowd in an infectiously magnanimous spirit. John Williams’ Raiders March is always a staple of these concerts but never fails to bring the house down, and the encore of Elmer Bernstein’s The Magnificent Seven brought it all home. It served as a pleasing reminder of how film music underlines so many of our formative movie experiences, not to mention the towering achievement of Harrison and the Bournemouth Symphony itself. Once again their enthusiasm and skill resounded from the stage, sending people into the night whistling and visibly happy.