Tuesday 20 February 2018

How Tchaikovsky was given a new lease of life by Clint's twist

The premiere of Swan Lake on March 4, 1877, at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow, was widely regarded as a catastrophe.

Unfortunately Tchaikovsky's masterful score was lost in the debacle of the poor production, and most considered it to be far too complicated for ballet.

Darren Aronofsky's 2010 film Black Swan depicted a demented Natalie Portman as the haunted ballerina striving for perfection. English composer Clint Mansell was given the unenviable task of creating something new out of Swan Lake, one of Tchaikovsky's most well-known scores.

Mansell has admitted that he struggled with the idea of deconstructing a classic to create a modern take, respecting the original yet exposing something new and exhilarating. He was also composing music for a film that featured a new story but had the original tale at its roots.

I feel he did an impressive job, tipping his hat to Tchaikovsky's score but giving it a twist. In the same way that our leading lady can't escape the pressure of her performance and the music, the same could be said for the score; Tchaikovsky is ever present.

Tchaikovsky is credited on the soundtrack -- "Music from Swan Lake by Tchaikovsky adapted and arranged by Clint Mansell and Matt Dunkley" (Dunkley acted as orchestrator and conductor).

Speaking of slightly deranged ballerinas, I was delighted to see the release by Chandos of The Film Music of Brian Easdale, whose most noted score is that for the 1948 film The Red Shoes.

Hans Christian Andersen's fairytale provides the centre piece around which a tale of love and betrayal is built. Moira Shearer is stunning as the girl who puts on magical red ballet shoes that never allow her to stop dancing.

Manchester-born Brian Easdale (1909- 1995) captures both the ballerina's love of ballet and the final horror of the dance leading to her demise. His use of the eerie-sounding electronic instrument the ondes martenot was a perfect choice.

This recording features The BBC National Orchestra of Wales with the BBC National Chorus of Wales conducted by Rumon Gamba and also includes music from Black Narcissus and Gone to Earth. Well worth checking out.

Aedín Gormley presents Movies and Musicals Saturday and Sunday 2-4pm and My Tunes Friday at 7pm on RTÉ lyric fm

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