Old wine in new wineskins

The impression was immediate. The music was a reflection of the Scottish mountains through which I was driving – big, bold, imposing and unforgettable. It confronted my hearing in the grand manner of the Scandinavian symphonies of Anton Bruckner and the Germanic orchestral music of Richard Strauss.
Whilst I failed to comprehend all that was said by the presenter immediately after the music finished, I caught sufficient of the information conveyed to realize that the music was somehow related to the subject of “queen”.
I decided to follow-up and research the music when I returned home. This process enabled me to discover that the music that had made such an impression on me was a symphonic composition based on the music of Freddie Mercury and Queen. How glad I was to pursue my musical inclinations.
I purchased the CD/DVD of the music as soon as I was able and, with subsequent and repeated hearings, the piece has proved itself to be the personal musical surprise of recent years. It is a symphonic composition that shows to me that the Romantic Tradition in music is alive and well!!
Not that all of the music in the symphony is quite like that described above – big, bold and beautiful. There are a number of quieter, more subtle and subdued passages that are appreciated by the musical taste buds much in the same way that the taste palate responds to a gracefully matured wine. So too, it should be remembered that between the mountains there are valleys and, in the case of the Scottish glens, places that are still and quiet, as calm and mysterious as the deep and enchanting lochs they often harbour.
There is no questioning, however, that Tolga Kashif, the London born composer of the “Queen Symphony”, has pieced together the original music of Freddie Mercury and Queen to present a most impressive musical offering, music that “inherently contains the language of the modern classical genre.”
The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra plays the piece as if to the manner born, indeed, as if the music were an integral part of the discography of classical music and of concert scheduling – both of which I would wish the music to become. The sophistication of the orchestra is equal to the task of extracting, indeed reinventing, full measure of the original essence of the music composed by Queen. Both the music and its orchestral rendition are most distinguished.
Listeners to this music should refrain from trying too hard to identify all of the original Queen songs used by the composer, as this could detract from an appreciation of the way in which the various tunes have been transformed, with various choirs and soloist musicians, into a more classical character and consistency.
However, some songs are more identifiable than others and aficionados of Queen’s music will have little difficulty in recognizing such gems as Radio Gaga, The Show Must Go On, We are the Champions, Killer Queen, We will Rock You and, of course, the incomparable Bohemian Rhapsody.
There was some personal disappointment in that Tolga Kashif., the composer-organizer of the music and the orchestra’s director, did not include that most poignant of pieces The Days of Our Lives in his composition. The tune would have made a beautiful and most appropriate adagio, alongside that other sublime song Who Wants to Live Forever (which is included on the CD).
So too, it is pity that room could not be found for such Queen classics as that outstanding hit Somebody to Love and the yearning ballad I Want to be Free. When it comes to Queen’s music there can never be “too much of a good thing”, so perhaps a second composition is to be hoped for! Still, the composer obviously feels “no need to use whole songs, or even whole melodies, unless he feels like it at any one moment.” He paints his “own musical pictures” and “he takes the music of Queen to new places.” Tolga Kashif has “a unique view of and a new dream for this music.”
The CD version of this recording comes singularly or as a special edition which includes the DVD of the symphony’s performance. Both facilities offer a most engaging and successful synthesis of Queen’s outstanding music, as well as excellent value for money.
On the back cover of the case containing the discs Queen’s Brian May states the following: Imagine a composer of the imagination and daring of a Tchaikovsky, a Holst or a Mussorgsky. Imagine him let loose with the entire Queen catalogue of melodies, atmospheres and textures, and a vast orchestra and a huge choir. Then you’ll be close to imagining where this work begins. This is something monumental and quite outrageous.
Since producing this recording the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra has gone on to provide the orchestral backing for re-recordings of albums by, amongst others, Elvis Presley, The Beach Boys, Genesis and Roy Orbison. Each of these has the original singer(s) as well as the re-recorded backing music.
The recording of the music from the Queen songs by Tolga Kashif and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra is, however, the only attempt at composing a genuine piece of symphonic music from the music accompaniments to popular songs. The undertaking has been highly successful and is hugely enjoyable.
If ever the old saying “Old wine in new wineskins” could be given a fitting context it is the Tolga Kashif and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra’s recording of The Queen Symphony – a symphony in six movements inspired by the music of QUEEN. This is music appropriate to any and all of the days of our lives!

About stewculbard

I am a retired secondary school teacher of Humanities, having spent a major portion of my working life as a Minister of Religion with the Baptist denomination. I would now describe myself as a secular humanist and a socialist. I am married to Vicky and we have three children - two sons and a married daughter - all of whom are in their thirties. Formerly of Melbourne, Australia, we are all now living in England. My academic studies have been undertaken in Australia, the UK and the USA. I have a doctorate in religious studies from the San Francisco Theological Seminary. In retirement I enjoy reading, listening to classical music and writing. I am a member of Republic, Sea of Faith, Dignity in Dying Campaign and the National Secular Society. As well, I have a subscription to a number of cultural and political associations, including Amnesty International and, as a committed European, The Federal Trust.
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