The Magic and Majesty of Alexandre Desplat. Performed by the London Symphony Orchestra and Conducted by the man himself; Desplat, was filled with as much charm as the concert title suggests. It all began with a pre-concert talk that took place in the Barbican Hall, which would later be filled with the music of the genius Composer. The interviewer was the Orchestras’ principal flute Gareth Davies, who had been involved in many recordings of Desplat’s Scores, so he was very much qualified to ask the questions. It was an intimate and informative hour, in which Desplat began by asking everyone to put their phones away as he wanted his words to be heard through the ears of the people, rather than their cameras. He spent most of the time complimenting the Orchestra, and their unbelievable ability to “instantly perform the music and not just play it. They give it an instant emotion.”

After a few jokes about Directors and their working habits, he had to dash off to prepare for the night, which was fast approaching. Everyone took their seats and the anticipation heightened as the Orchestra came out as one and then proceeded to produce the sound that makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end; they tuned their instruments. The man responsible for everyone being there, walked then on-stage. An immediate applause broke out and after he spoke, giving a short thank you to us all for attending, he raised his hands and the first notes sounded from one of the most famous Orchestra’s in the world. He began with The Twilight Saga: New Moon; something he described as “a collection of love themes, which I had to scatter throughout the film to follow whatever dark or light moment was on-screen.” It was just what we have come to expect from the master of love; sweeping strings and tender piano. It was a marker that he and the Orchestra set for the night to come. It was pure serene enchantment. A meditation that you cannot experience elsewhere. His music quickly puts you into a state of complete relaxation. He was setting us up for the bombastically bookended second act, which was dead-set on waking you up from your profound absorption.

Following the prologue, he arranged a suite from the Score that really put him on the map of Hollywood; Girl with a Pearl Earring. He was known for his footprint in French cinema, but after he ventured outside that medium, everyone wondered how they had never heard of him before. He made sure after he introduced himself to the rest of the world, that he was going to keep their attention, and he did that completely. Next up was my personal favourite music he has ever written, which is for the dreamlike and beautiful film; The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Again it was a suite, and it was my highlight of the night and a joy to finally hear played live.

As the concert went on he revealed some esteemed guests of which were connected to the music he was showcasing, such as Stephen Frears, who he described as “a great co-worker, because he leaves you in peace.” Then he performed a suite from their many collaborations, including The Queen and Philomena, which he wonderfully encapsulated in the same way musically, “I Scored them both in the perspective of the title character, but different tones of course, one tragic and one more fun and with no melodrama.” The Suite that followed was reflective of his articulate summaries.

After the intermission, which seemed like the eye of the storm, part two got underway with Godzilla, blowing us out of the Hall with great force. “It was about going all-out. I wanted to give the familiarity of Akira Ifukube,” he explained, “but make it a contemporary take on something so ancient.” The applause was the largest of the night so far, as we all showed our appreciation for the power of the musicians and the excitement of Desplat’s conducting, which was more akin to a swashbuckling sword-fighter, rather than a controller of sound.

With the second act well under-way, the Orchestra settled back into the relaxing and flowing nature of the harp, the piano, the woodwind, and the soft strings of Birth and The King’s Speech. The latter of which had its Oscar winning Director Tom Hooper in attendance. “I adore scoring silence in movies. The thought of having to fill or leave a space musically is fascinating to me.” You could feel that in the piano performance of Dave Arch, the pianist for the LSO. Even the times between notes you could feel the weight of the orchestra as they waited and softly filled the interludes.

The best thing he said all night was why he always chose to use such a big orchestral arrangement for his scores, when he very rarely does a large scale film. “I like the sense of power without having to use it. You can feel the volume of the Orchestra, even though you never hear them all at once. It’s like having a fast car; you don’t drive it fast but you know it can go fast. My music is always restraining itself, holding back.”

He followed his fantastic review of his own work by smiling as he went against everything he just said and gave us a huge, twenty minute suite of his work from both parts of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. It shook the Hall and everyone in it. He gave us the sweeping love themes and solemn character themes of loss and devotion as well as the John Williams-esque grandiose and franticness, all in one big collection of brilliance. “I was terrified of living up to John, who is my hero. So I had to ignore him and go in a different direction entirely. It helped that they were darker than the earlier films. I could explore deeper meanings in the characters.”

After the epic scale of the finale, he bowed and walked off-stage. Of course the night was not done because he gave us a few of his smaller Scores to French films as the encore. It was a welcomed change to be at a concert that ended with something so small and intimately presented. What a wonderful night in the wonderful company of such a humble and generous man, giving us the thoughts and emotions in his head in musical form. It was a pleasure to hear him speak of his work, but an even bigger pleasure to hear his work for myself. A huge thank you to Maestro Desplat and the incomparable London Symphony Orchestra.

You find more info about composer Alexandre Desplat on IMDb, Wikipedia and his website.

Posted by Lee Allen

Film and Television Score enthusiast. Podcast Host at Bombad Radio. World traveller.

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Matthew Quick Carrier
Matthew Quick Carrier