Abel in the City

Still on a high after this weekend’s screening of Abel Gance’s silent masterpiece, Napoléon (1927), with composer/arranger Carl Davis conducting the Philharmonia orchestra.  Volumes have been written elsewhere about the film’s revolutionary fervour in terms of technique and innovations (multiple overlays and the triptych finale being the most obvious): surely the ultimate movie as trainset, pace Orson Welles.  But what a score!  And so what if Davis composed relatively little of it, amongst the Beethoven symphonies, Coriolan overture, Mozart 25, Haydn 95, Méhul, Marseillaise and Tarantella?  He still wrote a great original theme (‘The Eagle’, you might call it), and arranged over five hours of music, and those musicians played their hearts out.  The packed Festival Hall was duly grateful, with a ten-minute ovation!