PROM 36 A SPACE ODYSSEY: LPO/GARDNER REVIEW
(Tim Ashley’s article appeared in the Guardian, 8/13. )
Royal Albert Hall, London
Intense and finely focused performances of the Ligeti and Strauss pieces used in Kubrick’s sci-fi epic revealed every detail of their unearthly majesty and awesome extremes
Like many, I first heard György Ligeti’s music on the soundtrack of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey when I was a teenager, and for some years after was unable to dissociate its unearthliness from Kubrick’s ambitious vision of human evolution as a product of alien intervention. Edward Gardner’s London Philharmonic Prom marked this year’s Ligeti centenary by acknowledging 2001’s grip on our imaginations, placing his Requiem and Lux Aeterna alongside Strauss’s Also Sprach Zarathustra. It’s hard to dissociate the Strauss from some of the film’s most iconic moments, either.
Bleak and sparse despite the awesome volume of sound it can generate, the Requiem, completed in 1965, offers no comfort for the fear and violence it evokes, and hearing it complete (Kubrick only uses the Kyrie) can be unsettling. Gardner’s interpretation was a thing of extremes. The quiet, penumbral opening Introit seemed to hover on the verges of sound and silence. Later, the roaring brass of the Dies Irae pinned you to your seat. The combined forces of the London Philharmonic Choir, Royal Northern College of Music Chamber Choir, and Norway’s Edvard Grieg Kor (Gardner is also their chief conductor) sang with furious intensity. Jennifer France and Clare Presland were the hieratic soloists, their voices finely blended in the ambivalent closing Lacrimosa, its oscillating vocal lines fading away in irresolution.
Prom 36: A Space Odyssey
Live at the BBC Proms: Edward Gardner conducts the London Philharmonic Choir & Orchestra, RNCM Chamber Choir and Edvard Grieg Kor, in music by György Ligeti and Richard Strauss.
Presented by Georgia Mann, live from the Royal Albert Hall.
György Ligeti: Requiem
c. 8.05 pm
Interval: Matthew Sweet, presenter of Radio 3’s programme Sound of Cinema, joins Georgia Mann to discuss the use of music in film by Stanley Kubrick.
c. 8.25 pm
György Ligeti: Lux aeterna
Richard Strauss: Also sprach Zarathustra
Jennifer France (soprano)
Clare Presland (mezzo-soprano)
Edvard Grieg Kor
Royal Northern College of Music Chamber Choir
London Philharmonic Choir & Orchestra
Edward Gardner (conductor)
György Ligeti was one of the boldest voices of the 20th century – a composer whose radical vision brought wit as well as invention to the world of contemporary classical music. Tonight, we hear two of his most famous works – the dramatic Requiem paired with the shimmering Lux aeterna, both of which featured in Stanley Kubrick’s sci-fi epic 2001: A Space Odyssey. Also featured in the film was Richard Strauss’s Also sprach Zarathustra, with the iconic brass opening that calls to mind the image of the sun rising over the Earth and Moon.