Friday, 6 July 2012

Cheltenham Music Festival - day 3

Festival Director, Meurig Bowen, posing for this photograph at the end of the interval in tonight's rather splendid Town Hall concert, said, "I bet it'll be up on your blog within half an hour!" Well, it's been a little longer...

That's because we've only just returned from a second event this evening. A silent film may seem an odd choice for a music festival, but this showing of the 1923 Salomé (with its lavish Beardsley-based costumes) was something special. You could sense it upon entering the Parabola, the screen flanked by two scaffolding towers, giving platforms for four percussionists: they played throughout, the score (including a vocal tape) composed by Charlie Barber.

The story line takes little time to relate, but every twist of the plot was here played out in ultra slow motion, like a Noh play almost. Without music it could have been risible, and perhaps even with a conventional piano accompaniment. But the tension created by the quartet of musicians, and clever lighting changes, made it a gripping 70-odd minutes. There were some astonishing performances in the film itself, not just from Alla Nazimova in the title part. I had vowed never to see Salomé performed again after the last time I went to the Strauss version (at ENO), but am now glad that I'd forgotten this when booking the tickets for this evening!

Earlier, I'd been apprehensive about paying £35 for a bench seat to hear a bunch of young amateurs from Singapore tackling a programme that included Delius and Holst, hardly my favourite composers. But my ear warmed to the sound of the Orchestra of the Music Makers, and Holst's Oriental Suite was a genuine surprise - a pleasure to hear.

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