Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the shower… the sound of those slicing, dicing, violin glissandi – halfway between screams and flashes of cold steel – sent ripples of recognition and nervous laughter through the Albert Hall and a vision of Janet Leigh caught in her Edvard Munch moment.
Yes, the BBC Film Music Prom had begun with the two H’s – Hitchcock and Herrmann – and of all the music featured during the course of the evening none stood more independently from the images and yet inseparable from them than Bernard Herrmann’s grainy, eerie, monochromatic, string only, score for Psycho. Herrmann called it a black-and-white score for a black-and-white film but that was modestly to downplay the amazing half-shades – like the muting of that pulsing ostinato which sets the movie’s nervy pulse whilst suggesting a stifling anxiety.
But since this was the Albert Hall – the scene of the crime according to one Hitchcock thriller The Man Who Knew Too Much – the dramatic opener for this Prom was an all-out blast with an added touch of irony as we waited for the fateful cymbal clash and a body plummeting from the upper tier. Strangely enough the BBC stopped short of that.
But they did manage to field a world premiere: Robert Ziegler’s arrangement of Jonny Greenwood’s score (he of Radiohead) for Norwegian Wood. More Psycho strings here but pared down to a rapt minimalism. You kind of needed the film for this one – whereas memories would suffice for those enduring themes from Cinema Paradiso (Ennio and Andrea Morricone) and Schindler’s List (John Williams). Violinist Chloe Hanslip’s sweet-toned enticements hit all the right notes of vulnerability and poignancy. And speaking of poignancy, is there a more evocatively scored love theme than the one John Barry penned for Out of Africa?
Equally durable was Walton’s perennially stirring Henry V with Rory Kinnear crisply delivering the Shakespearian grouting in that invitingly colloquial way of his – and we were reminded just how much Walton (and Holst’s The Planets) there is in John Williams Star Wars.
But the name was Bond, James Bond, and Barry was back on Her Majesty’s secret service with Keith Lockhart and the BBC Concert Orchestra ripping out the wha-wha trumpets for the odious Goldfinger and making us wait expectantly for the 60s twang and flaring trumpets of that theme.