THE BBC SSO's movie-themed Christmas concert is invariably one of the classiest on the musical advent calendar, and yesterday afternoon's more than lived up to those expectations.
Attracting a capacity crowd which included many young children, the show – presented by the affable Jamie MacDougall – was the usual selection-box mix of music from Hollywood through the decades, but this year on a theme of Oscar winners.
It's lucky then that John Williams is not short of Oscar statuettes: his iconic themes are usually amongst the most popular on the programme, as well as the most spine-tingling – and it wouldn't be a Christmas At the Movies gig without at least one of his marches. In the case of yesterday's concert it was Darth Vader's Theme, AKA the Imperial March, from The Empire Strikes Back which was given an electrifying treatment by the BBC SSO, with Stephen Bell conducting.
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Hairs on the back of the neck also received a work-out thanks to the similarly thrilling performance of a recently exhumed (after 20 years), condensed arrangement of Miklos Rozsa's magnificent score for Ben-Hur, and the colourful march, written by Williams's key inspiration, Erich Wolfgang Korngold, for The Adventures of Robin Hood. But the stand-out of the afternoon was undoubtedly the John Williams piece which breaks with his usual superhero fanfare style: the heartbreaking theme from Schindler's List which featured the mesmerising and masterful solo violin of Laura Samuel.
As for the songs, the highlights were Jamie MacDougall's charismatic On the Street Where You Live and his jovial duet with soprano Pamela Hay (a late replacement) on Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.