24 May 2009 (gig)
02 July 2010
Composer Trevor Jones is arguably a respected but an under-rated artiste. His portfolio in film soundtracks is vast and diverse; contrary to what many may think, his realm goes beyond classical music--he has also forayed into pop with the likes of U2, Sting and David Bowie.
Thus, when Malta's National Philharmonic Orchestra performed seven pieces from his soundtrack compositions they had an uphill task facing them. This performance, which formed the first part of their Movie Spectacular was all the more challenging because it featured none other than Mr. Jones himself as guest of honour. He was in Malta for a few days, during which he lectured and also mixed with members from our National Philharmonic Orchestra. The Movie Spectacular is nowadays regarded as an integral feature in the Orchestra's annual commitments. Time and again, the Orchestra has arrangements and songs from various soundtracks. Most of its performances have been very good, bar a few slip-ups but this year's performance was arguably the best ever. The National Philharmonic Orchestra was literally galvanized and its performance was unflawed and near-perfect, and to sum it up in one word-formidable!
Their minimalist take on Cliffhanger, the oboe and violin arrangements on Roseanne's Grave created a poignant imagery and there was also an equally poignant ambiance in their rendition of Notting Hill. These were just impressions of what a highly co-ordinated orchestra did on this occasion. However, the NPO's presentation offered a lot of scope to those who really wanted to delve more into soundtracks and their appreciation. As Trevor Jones stated in his talk at the University of Malta on the previous day, 'composing for films can be a very detailed, ornate and often a meticulous task. One can easily concoct a soundtrack from a few pop songs, but then it is like buying a ready-made suit, in contrast to ordering a tailor-made bespoke one.'
The NPO managed to address a few details in some of Trevor Jones' celebrated soundtracks. There was a fine guitar solo in Notting Hill. It was so timely and pleasant. The oboe and French horn arrangements in Merlin conveyed a sense of wonder, which was in turn complemented by the harp arrangements, which on their part, brought about an air of stillness and mystery typical of Celtic ambiance to which the legendary Merlin belonged. Perhaps the NPO reached its highest point with its rendition of The Last of The Mohicans, a soundtrack that also proved to be one of Trevor Jones' biggest commercial successes. The orchestral parts were executed so beautifully, rising to intensive heights and conveying an impression of conflict only to smoothen out with Marcelline Agius' impeccable violin playing towards the end. The second half of this performance was comprised soundtracks written by other composers. Once more the NPO delivered tactfully and creatively. Hans Zimmer's Gladiator was beautifully executed with staccato, bass and violin arrangements featuring in wonderful unison. There were also wonderful moments in their interpretation of John Williams'/ John Otman's Superman Returns and Danny Elfman's Batman.
Narnia also caught the audience's attention, not least the younger ones. Now, Harry Gregson-Williams' arrangements do convey a sense of magic, a sense of childhood precociousness, fit (be-spoke tailor style of course!) for children and those who want to recall their own childhood precociousness, a way of developing one's intelligence, if such precociousness is properly used. I feel that the Chronicles of Narnia was in some way based and influenced on Jim Henson's Labyrinth, (which also featured Trevor Jones' compositions, including a David Bowie song on its soundtrack). The NPO should take note of this soundtrack as time and again, it has been overlooked and indeed, it has been under-rated.