Star Trek: Nemesis
The Last Castle (suite)
Twilight Zone: The Movie (suite)
The Sum of All Fears
Medley of Motion Picture Themes (The Sand Pebbles; Chinatown; Air Force One; A Patch of Blue; Poltergeist; Papillon; Basic Instinct; The Wind and The Lion)
Soarin Over California
London Symphony Orchestra
Reviewed by: Robert Seeley
Reviewed: 19 March, 2003
Venue: Barbican Hall, London
Just over 16 years have coasted by since I saw Jerry Goldsmith make his first appearance at the Barbican Hall, and the maestro has aged gracefully over the intervening years (thankfully, the once trademark ponytail has gone – “It’s the new me!” he confided playfully). Although illness has understandably shortened both his gait and his inter-reaction with the audience, he still cuts a dash on the podium, conducting with a vigour that belies his 74 years. If, rather like his more recent film scores, Goldsmith’s concerts have become solidly efficient, somewhat formulaic cut-and-paste affairs – i.e. interchangeable selections from latest assignments (which these days usually means the current “Star Trek” movie) peppered with a couple of lengthy medleys of old favourites – this predictability nevertheless provides some undeniable excitement.
Goldsmith’s overture was a short selection from “Star Trek: Nemesis”, which opens with an unexpected and beguiling quotation from Irving Berlin’s “Blue skies” before launching into the soaring main theme, with its resplendent horn writing interpreted with great panache by the LSO’s brass. Unfortunately, an overly generous 20-minute suite from “The Last Castle” (whose plaintive trumpet theme was later renamed, rather naively perhaps, “September 11 2001”) and “The Sum of All Fears”, both continued in the same relentlessly rabble-rousing vein and soon outstayed their welcome. Similarly, one rather than two repetitive excerpts from the otherwise memorably panoramic “The Edge” would have sufficed. Far more impressive was the compact suite from “Twilight Zone: The Movie”, which combined a radiant pastoral sequence with a scintillatingly demonic scherzo.
The second half was the much stronger half, not least because here at last was proof the composer is far more than just a highly proficient exponent of blood-and-thunder. The “Medley of Motion Picture Themes” has been expanded since 1987, and apart from vintage melodies like the limpid love theme from “The Sand Pebbles”, the hauntingly sultry theme for trumpet from “Chinatown”, the delicate “A Patch Of Blue”, Carole Ann’s lovely theme from “Poltergeist”, and “The Wind and The Lion” (whose bold exoticism closes the selection in genuinely spine-tingling fashion), now includes the darkly alluring “Basic Instinct”, and “Air Force One”, a further blast of testosterone which in this context felt both redundant and intrusive.
The innovative echoing trumpet fanfare that opens “Patton” was achieved on the soundtrack electronically, but placing two trumpets at the rear of the stalls was remarkably effective. This is one of the composer’s masterworks, and the confident march that forms the score’s backbone is treated to a series of intriguing developments. Bringing the concert to a dazzling close was the five-minute “Soarin’ Over California”; written for a Disneyworld extravaganza, it lived up to the high-flying promise of its title. Surprisingly, despite an enthusiastic reception, there was no encore, the composer confessing he had no more music to play; a comment which, he said, had prompted a wry punter at one of his Los Angeles concerts to shout out, “Well write some”!
The concert under review was due to be followed by one the following evening, perhaps one of Goldsmith’s last visits to the UK, so it’s a pity neither programme has revealed the variety, subtlety and humour that has made this composer one of the true legends of film scoring. However, even though the emphasis on the high-octane rather than the slow-burner is unlikely to have won over any new converts to either Goldsmith or film music in general, no one could possibly deny the consistently magnificent playing of the LSO. It is no stranger to film music of course, but tonight it embraced this idiom with an unbridled flair and élan rivalling that of the studio orchestras from Hollywood’s golden age, bringing a blazing richness to this music that was never less than exhilarating.