Friday was a special occasion for many who had waited for the live orchestra event to the Oscar-winning film, Amadeus (1984).
The Royal Albert Hall was full to the brim of spectators seeking a Friday night thrill with Mozart’s grand music, taking them back to 17th century Vienna through the ears and eyes of maestro Ludwig Wicki, pianist extraordinaire Patricia Ulrich and the fascinating orchestra who recorded the soundtrack of the film, the Academy of St. Martin in the Field.
The screenplay, originally written for the stage, by Peter Shaffer, saw success on London’s West End and New York’s Broadway during the height of the 80s. It was here that the production caught the attention of producers Saul Zaentz and director Milos Forman as casual audience members who decided to reinvent the show into a film.
Fleshing out the complicated and often curiously-studied relationship between the two composers, Salieri and Mozart, Amadeus shows a wittier and child-like side to Mozart, which moves off from the original play. Moreover, it was a phenomenal opportunity to piece together the music of Mozart which made him the legendary composer and devoted music-maker as we know him today.
History provides proof suggesting that a 35-year-old Mozart died of Miliary Fever and that both composers had a healthy rivalry. Yet there are myths surrounding a supposed jealousy and disdain for Mozart by Salieri, who poisoned him to death.
In the film, Shaffer takes an interesting turn with this myth and takes the murdering of Mozart to an abstract level, through a third character, arguably the most important character in this feature film – his music.
In 1984, Amadeus became a box office success and won eight Oscars, and a Golden Globe, after its premiere in Los Angeles including ‘Best Picture’, ‘Best Director’, and Best Actor in a Leading Role’ (F. Murray Abraham). The stunning pictures and scenery goes back to Prague, and given the then communist rule at the time of shooting, the center of the old Czechoslovakia seemed an ideal location to depict old Vienna; there wasn’t the slightest sight of modernity, the only things needed included gas lights and snow.
Back at The Royal Albert Hall, this evening’s event was dedicated to the orchestra’s founder Sir Neville Marriner who sadly passed away this year. He conducted and performed the original soundtrack of Amadeus back in the 1980s, and Wicki did an exceptional job, tonight, keeping the music fresh and alive for an excited audience. Wicki has conducted many live performances of various blockbusters, such as Fantasia, Pirates of the Caribbean, and the Fellowship of the Ring, internationally, including the Royal Albert Hall and Radio city Hall in NYC.
Sir Neville Marriner once described Tom Hulce (Mozart) as being note perfect in every scene as both he and Abraham’s (Salieri) had to learn how to play the piano whilst filming. The soundtrack altogether plays an emotional and impactful part in the film, adding to the drama between the composers, the festering anger within Salieri and the conflicts developing in Mozart’s personal life, with his father (Roy Dotrice) and his wife, Constanze (Elizabeth Kerridge).
The recurring motifs performed throughout the movie derive from the ominous chords from the Overture and finale Commendatory scene from Mozart’s opera, Don Giovanni, which is commonly associated with Mozart’s father and the masked messenger who requested he write a Mass Requiem. There’s also a grand scene to his magical and mythical opera, The Magic Flute, which saw a younger Simon Callow singing as Papageno, in English, in a Vaudeville theatre.
Throughout the evening, the hall’s audience laughed and giggled to the charming dialogue between the Emperor Joseph II and Mozart, and the rest of his court composers and music directors by his side, also misjudging the Salzburg-born maestro. The winning words, however, go to Abraham for depicting a disgruntled and unsatisfied Salieri, gone mad.
The audience were completely blown away by the careful instrumental and passages shown through the Academy of St. Martin in the Field and the Philharmonia Chorus who steadily presented Mozart and Salieri composing roles in the mighty Requiem Mass. Watching the tenors, altos, basses, clarinet, oboe, strings, and timpani work singularly to then progress into a masterful harmonious collaboration was a true reminder of what they had been waiting for. It was a heroic moment for those performing at the pit to show what Shaffer wanted the audience to understand about Mozart’s love for music, and if not necessarily the truest way he composed his Requiem Mass, it proved the intricacies of Mozart’s musical mind and how he had developed a beautiful relationship with musical notes, ever since he had learnt them as a three-year-old boy.
This event has ended, more information can be found here. The Royal Albert Hall will be presenting Michael Morpurgo’s War Horse on October 27th and E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial with live Orchestra on December 28th. Hover for more information and to purchase tickets.