Chances are if you’re a big movie fan you’re a movie soundtrack fan to. The two really go hand in hand, a fave soundtrack giving you a slice of film delight even when you can’t plonk yourself down in front of a screen. James Horner, John Williams et al have entertained me during long hours of writing and kept me company on many a long journey. One of their most prolific stable mates in recent times is the German music magician Hans Zimmer.
Breaking into the industry with a number of standout soundtracks, Black Rain (1989), Driving Miss Daisy (1989), Backdraft (1991), Zimmer has come to the fore as the top soundtrack maestro at a time when the film soundtrack has finally broken away from film fandom to gain additional well deserved appreciation amongst classical music circles. The seal of approval finally came when the Proms added a movie soundtrack evening into their annual program of classical music sessions at the Royal Albert Hall. So it was fitting that on April 5th FilmsFilmsFilms made their was to the same venue for a unique presentation of one of Zimmer’s most famous soundtracks; a screening of Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003) with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra sat directly below the screen playing the full soundtrack live.
For some of us it was our first visit to the Albert Hall, so we spent the pre-show staring up at the ceiling from our floor seats in wonder; it was a truly stunning venue. It wasn’t long before we got to experience the Hall’s aural delights to as the orchestra quickly struck up the opening bars as the impressively large screen flickered into life. An early hiccup with a video and dialogue sound delay brought some traditional Albert Hall slow clapping, but both crowd and orchestra cheered when it was quickly rectified. What quickly became apparent was the choice you had to make between watching the orchestra in action or the action on screen. Choosing the latter, you almost forgot that there was a live performance in front of you, so note perfect was the performance. In the end I choose to watch the stand out movie moments on the screen, and the orchestra during the less memorable passages. It was a perfect compromise.
Close as the performance was to the original, conductor David Firman still managed to pull out a number of cues that none of the FilmsFilmsFilms members had noticed before, despite having seen the film a number of times before. Most noticeable of these was the clever insertion of Rule Britannia that Zimmer slid into the early running, perhaps a leitmotif that stood out all the more hearing it in a venue so twinned with that particular classic. The differences between the themes running through the soundtrack were also more prominent, though not to the point of distraction for those that wanted to get lost in the movie. The final flourish was the closing credits, during which the orchestra turned all the way up to eleven and roused the Hall to a final standing ovation; even the handful of Jack Sparrow costumed super fans were moved to take to their feet in admiration. It was a remarkable way to view a movie, and inspired of the Hall to put on such an event. We waltzed out of the Hall humming the main theme, swishing our make-believe batons and hoping that the Hall puts on many more such performances.
Zimmer moved on from Pirates to form a Williams / Spielberg-esque multi-film partnership with Christopher Nolan. It’s a relationship that has served both artists well, their efforts elevating each others work. The Royal Albert Hall return to Zimmer territory at the end of May with Gladiator (2000), another of the man’s great works, replete with those typical sweeping suites and waltz time-signature action pieces. If you want to experience a thumbs-up performance of the movie and its all-time-great soundtrack, grab yourself a ticket; they will sell fast.