Classical review: BBC SSO: Christmas at the Movies, Glasgow

Picture: Donald MacLeod
Picture: Donald MacLeod
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Three problems with yesterday’s Christmas at the Movies programme. Firstly, don’t assume that a score, written for film, will automatically hold up as a concert piece; secondly, that a conductor skilled at laying down studio soundtracks will necessarily make a symphony orchestra work its magic live; and thirdly, don’t mistake an orchestrator for an arranger.

BBC SSO: Christmas at the Movies - City Halls, Glasgow

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The common element was Matt Dunkley. He’s been highly successful as an orchestrator working with Craig Armstrong in such well-known films as Love Actually and The Great Gatsby, the last of these scores currently up for a Grammy.

But brought in to conduct extracts from these, and from the likes of John Williams (Home Alone), Lerner and Loewe (Brigadoon), James Horner (Braveheart), as well as Dunkley’s own Christmas Film Fantasy medley, pinpointed more his weaknesses than strengths.

It was the strangest thing – everything seemed to come out at the same tempo. There was no heart-tugging ebb and flow to such classics as Tiomkin’s succulent music for It’s a Wonderful Life, or indeed Dunkley’s own reworking of Tchaikovsky for The Black Swan; Patrick Doyle’s music for Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire seemed banal and rudimentary excised from the film; the minimalist oomph was nonexistent in the Gatsby car race; and that final Christmas medley - with presenter Jamie Macdougall singing manfully – was a quick fire mishmash with uneventful transitions and awkward harmonies.

Thank goodness for Leroy Anderson’s Sleigh Ride. Nothing to do with the movies, but an encore that had the SSO buzzing.