BBC Encounters A Concert Report from London

Günther Kögebehn
November 2000

The Concert

The concert at the Queen Elizabeth Hall started at a quarter to eight with Tommy Pearson welcoming the listeners of BBC Radio 3 from his booth above the stage as the concert was aired live. Conductor Robert Ziegler, perhaps best known for his work with Ute Lemper and Patrick Doyle, entered the stage. The orchestra started with Ziegler’s own arragement of Nino Rota film themes medley consisting of material from Eight and a Half, Armacord, Roma and La Dolce Vita. All the films were directed by Rota’s long time partner Frederico Fellini, thus giving the concertized piece its name, the Fellini Suite.

The wisely chosen entry to the evening, was followed by a film music “standard”: David Raksin’s Theme from Laura. The BBC Concert Orchestra played this very well and will perform another Raksin related score, Chaplin’s Modern Times (orchestrated by Raksin) in March 2001.

The “Revelations” series features a work by a contemporary British composer paired with an extraordinaire solist. For the opening of the series they chose a work by Christopher Gunning, who studied with Edmund Rubbra and Richard Rodney Bennett and has a considerable reputation as composer for television and commercials in Britain. He wrote his Thames Rhapsody – Concerto for Soprano Saxophone for John Harle and the Manchester Camerata in 1998. Gunning revised the piece to “suit the larger forces available” for this occasion. It was the longest piece of the evening, running roughly twenty minutes. The Rhapsody is an excellent showpiece for Harle, one of todays leading saxophonists. Not just being a brilliant performer Harle is also a noted conductor and composer. He wrote several concert works, film and television scores. The audience celebrated Harle, the Orchestra, Mr. Ziegler and the present composer deservedly.

Christopher Gunning gives an autograph to Tobias v.d. Locht during the interval

Then the interval came and most of the audience went to have some refreshments, according to the “Radio Times” the home audience heard on the radio “how and why electronic music, atonality, serialism and, perhaps most significantly, jazz all found their way into the soundtracks of movies“. Ah yes.

After the interval the (for the author and his company) most interesting part began … music by Bernard Herrmann!

The North by Northwest Overture is a splendid piece to start such an occasion. Robert Ziegler utilized the orchestral force of the Concert Orchestra to it’s fullest effect. The fandango is actually the full “Wild Ride” cue from the film, where Cary Grant is escaping with the car, after being made drunk by James Mason and Martin Landau.

The next high point was the brilliantly played Taxi Driver suite arranged by Christopher Palmer. The timpani player (Stephen Webberley) took the advise Bernard Herrmann gave to his predecessor on the original sessions literally: “Hit’em arder! If ya break the damn things, I’ll buy you a new pair!“. The whole orchestra shined. John Harle, who regulary performs the piece as performer and conductor, made a slight mistake during the cadences. This can happen at a live performance, but Mr. Harle found it necissary to apoligize to me later on for it. A real gentleman and a great saxophonist.

Excerpts from the 1969 Psycho Suite followed next. Originally it was not on the concert schedule but the Rosenman bit turned out to be shorter than expected and so Mr. Ziegler added a shortened Psycho suite to fill up the second half of the concert. The selections included: Prelude – The City – The Rainstorm – The Madhouse – The Murder – The Cellar – Finale. During the suite a mobile phone went off, ruining the experience a bit, but this was not audible for the radio listeners thankfully, so I was told.

It is quite a difference hearing the pieces on CD or experience them performed live, as not the best equipment can reproduce the 180 degree sound an orchestra in the class of the BBC CO can produce.

As last piece of the evening Leonard Rosenman’s short suite from Rebel Without Cause followed. For Herrmann afficinadios an interesting choice, as Rosenman’s main title theme has some similarity to a theme Herrmann used later on in 7th Voyage of Sinbad and Marnie. The suite consists of: Main Title – Planetarium – Love Scene – Death of Plate – Finale.

The enjoyable concert was over far too early, but Mr. Ziegler and the Orchestra provided the audience with a varied repertoire and splendid performances. Hopefully this can be repeated in the not too distant future.





The concert programme

Tuesday 24th October 2000 7.45 pm Queen Elizabeth Hall

BBC Concert Orchestra
Leader: Cynthia Fleming

REVELATIONS with John Harle

Nino Rota (1911 – 1979)
Fellini Suite (arr. Robert Ziegler)
David Raksin (b. 1912)
Theme from Laura
Christopher Gunning (b. 1944)
Thames Rhapsody: Concerto for Soprano Saxophone and Orchestra


Bernard Herrmann (1911 – 1975)
North by Northwest: Overture
Taxi Driver: A Night Piece for Orchestra (arr. Christopher Palmer)
Psycho: A Narrative for Orchestra (excerpts)
Leonard Rosenman (b. 1924)
Rebel Without a Cause

John Harle – saxophone
Robert Ziegler – conductor

BBC Encounters – A Concert Report from London
Günther Kögebehn • November 2000
Orchestra/ensemble: BBC Concert Orchestra
Location: London, UK