Uncanny Concept, Outstanding Execution: RSNO’s live soundtrack for Amadeus Screening

United KingdomUnited Kingdom Amadeus Live: Royal Scottish National Orchestra, RSNO Chorus / Ludwig Wicki (conductor), Usher Hall, Edinburgh, 19.5.2017. (SRT)

Film music has increasing become an important part of the RSNO’s season over the last few years. They’ve been running a very popular John Williams night for several years now, and a growing strand has been for them to play the soundtrack live while a full feature film is presented on a big screen. The Snowman is a fixture of their annual Christmas concert, and recently they have collaborated with the Edinburgh International Film Festival in presenting hits like Back to the Future or Raiders of the Lost Ark.  So their live accompaniment of Amadeus is by no means new to them.

Amadeus is a particularly good choice, considering its subject matter, and I loved seeing it so well presented on the big screen. Seeing it with a crowd changes your experience completely: we laughed together at the jokes (there are many more than I remember!), felt Salieri’s growing jealousy all the more palpably, and felt the rush of emotion at moments like the arrival of the masked stranger, or when Constanze’s mother is transformed into the Queen of the Night.

A couple of technical issues aside, such as several minor skips in the soundtrack, the presentation passed without a hitch. Conductor Ludwig Wicki is well experienced in this field, and he had technical paraphernalia on hand to keep his beat accurate and to bring him off at the exact second needed, all of which worked very well and with great discipline, except for the closing credits when it didn’t matter any more.  The chorus seemed to be having a great time, and the brief orchestral solos for extracts like the Flute & Harp Concerto or the fifth violin concerto sounded good, as did the extended piano part for the closing credits, the Romanze from the D minor concerto.

I found the experience a little uncanny at the start, balancing the speech coming from the speakers and the live sound coming from the stage, but I tuned into it after a short while, and as a whole I loved both the concept and the execution. In fact, the bit that impressed me most was the moment where Salieri flicks through several of Mozart’s compositions and we hear half a dozen pieces blending into one another, here done as though it were all in a day’s work, and without a single technical edit.

Next season they have two evenings dedicated to Star Wars and to Gene Kelly, and they give the same live accompaniment treatment to Psycho (for Hallowe’en) and Brief Encounter (for Valentine’s Day). For full details click here.

Simon Thompson

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