BWW Review: SPACE SPECTACULAR, Royal Albert Hall
Space Spectacular is a musical celebration of music associated with space and beyond. Featuring well-known classical pieces, along with iconic film soundtracks set to an impressive laser show, it is clear why the show has been revived for a fifth season at London's Royal Albert Hall.
With 250 conducting performances at the Royal Albert Hall, the enigmatic Anthony Inglis relishes his role as both conductor and compère. Despite some slightly awkward moments of audience participation, Inglis is warm and natural with the audience, explaining the backgrounds and foundations of the various pieces. There are also some amusing moments with a toy figure of E.T and a clever switch where Inglis conducts as Darth Vader.
The incredibly versatile London Concert Orchestra is on sparkling form, making the most of the extraordinary acoustics of the hall.
The show begins with the classical 'Sunrise' from 'Also sprach Zarathustra' by Richard Strauss, used to such great effect in Stanley Kubrick's film 2001: A Space Odyssey in 1968. Inglis savours the sustained double low C and the fifth rising to an octave, which is now so iconic. It is easy to see why one hundred and fifty years after its composer's birth, that five-note fanfare remains one of the most powerful and recognisable moments in classical music.
A brilliant version of Gustav Holst's 'Mars' from 'The Planets' shows the orchestra attacking the relentless percussion and highlighting Holst's genius in expressing the threat of Mars with the foreboding and darkly oppressive drums.
There follows a celebration of various film themes and recognisable titles. Steven Price's 'Suite' for Gravity shows the orchestra's talent for subtle but expansive chords and James Horner's main theme from Apollo 13 is a celebration of American patriotism with its soaring strings and evocative solo trumpet section.
Veteran film composer John Williams is celebrated with instantly identifiable renditions of his work on Close Encounters Of The Third Kind, E.T, Star Wars and Superman. Whether you are fans of this genre of film or not, hearing the music live is a reminder of the incredible talent of composers such as Williams who create such iconic soundtracks that endure for decades.
Williams was a pianist and composer for the U.S Airforce band and was therefore very familiar with musical marches. The iconic theme from Superman celebrates the heroism and might of the Man of Steel with the triplet rhythm that adds a militaristic quality. Inglis brings out the brilliant brass melody and the subtle, but dramatic, timpani roll.
Williams was also inspired by the work of Strauss and Wagner, frequently using a leitmotif, or a short, constantly recurring musical phrase, to quickly associate with a character. Think of the characters of Superman or E.T and you will instantly think of the music too.
Richard Rhys Thomas' magical lighting design makes the most of the vast space of the hall, with ethereal light projections, impressive laser displays and sparkling pyrotechnics during the finale.
Photo Credit: Paul Sanders