“John Wilson and his orchestra take us back to where it all began in a concert of classic songs and scores from the Warner Brothers studios. The programme features music by Korngold, Loewe and Steiner, including numbers from My Fair Lady and The Sea Hawk.” [BBC Proms website]
Mikaela Bennett, Louise Dearman, Kate Lindsey, Matthew Ford & Patrick Smyth (singers)
Maida Vale Singers
John Wilson Orchestra
Reviewed by: Chris Caspell
Reviewed: 9 August, 2019
Venue: Royal Albert Hall, London
For the second time on this day, the John Wilson Orchestra together with adorning singers indefatigably led us through music composed for Warner Brothers’ movies.
Scores by Erich Wolfgang Korngold bookended the show: the swashbuckling Sea Hawk to start – all the Straussian good bits included in this rip-roaring account – and the melodramatic ‘Tomorrow’ (from The Constant Nymph) with the delightful voice of Kate Lindsey; the Albert Hall organ also made its presence felt.
Harry Warren’s ‘We’re in the Money’, with Busby Berkeley’s remarkable choreography for Gold Diggers of 1933, impressed – Louise Dearman as a non-dancing Ginger Rogers and the Maida Vale Singers as the glorious troupe of chorines – American accents honed. Sigmund Romberg’s title number for The Desert Song welcomed Matt Ford and Mikaela Bennett. It began life as a hit Broadway operetta before transferring to the silver screen. His vocal demands were of no concern to Bennett, her plush soprano a joy, and Ford, who I have previously criticised for his unconvincing Yankee accent, has been working hard at it.
Max Steiner’s The Treasure of Sierra Madre, inventive and full of Mexican charm, was followed by Dimitri Tiomkin’s The Old Man and the Sea, well-crafted and colourfully orchestrated. Bronislaw Kaper’s Auntie Mame – a graceful and jolly waltz – preceded Max Steiner’s string-centric Strauss/Wagner-axis Now, Voyager (arr. Wilson), including a commendable solo from cellist Jonathan Aasgaard. By contrast, Alex North’s music A Streetcar Names Desire harnesses jazz in a way that hadn’t been done before in a Hollywood film; here the brass sassed disrespectfully.
Much from the Warner Bros heyday has slipped into the Great American Songbook. Harold Arlen, perhaps more famous for ‘Over the Rainbow’, also penned ‘Blues in the Night’ – sultry and smoky and excellently executed by Ford – and ‘The Man that got away’, Dearman excelled alongside a band that could easily have originated in a down-town New York bar.
For encores, Bennett returned for ‘I could have danced all night’, which complemented ‘Get Me to the Church on Time’ heard earlier – both from My Fair Lady. Bringing things up to date, John Williams’s music for Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone carried the journey to a magnificent conclusion.
- Broadcast live on BBC Radio 3 (available on BBC iPlayer for thirty days afterwards)
- BBC Proms www.bbc.co.uk/proms
- Doris Day
Playlist (composers first) (not edited for house-style):
Korngold: The Sea Hawk – overture
Warren/Dubin: Gold Diggers of 1933 – The Gold Diggers’ Song (We’re in the Money)
Romberg: The Desert Song – title song
Steiner: The Treasure of the Sierra Madre – suite
Tiomkin: The Old Man and the Sea – suite
Willson: The Music Man – Seventy-Six Trombones
Arlen/Mercer: Blues in the Night – title song
Kaper: Auntie Mame – main title
Arlen/I. Gershwin: A Star Is Born – Gotta Have Me Go With You; The Man That Got Away
Loewe/Lerner: My Fair Lady – Get Me to the Church on Time
Styne: Gypsy – overture
Steiner: Now, Voyager – Suite
Fain/Webster: Calamity Jane – The Deadwood Stage
Styne/Cahn: Romance on the High Seas – It’s Magic
North: A Streetcar Named Desire – main title
Loewe/Lerner: Camelot – If I Ever Would Leave You
Mancini/Mercer: Days of Wine and Roses – title song
Korngold: The Constant Nymph – Tomorrow, Op. 33