Review – The Planets: An HD Odyssey, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Royal and Derngate, Northampton, 7th June 2019

The Planets: An HD OdysseyThis is the first time that I’ve seen precisely the same concert twice. Three years ago, the Royal Philharmonic brought their Planets/Odyssey show to the Royal and Derngate and I didn’t realise at the time that it’s obviously constructed as an off-the-peg package. Watching it a second time, not only was the film accompaniment to the performance of the Planets identical, but also the other short classical works in the first half of the concert were exactly the same, played in exactly the same order, and, I think, with exactly the same expression. Even the audience’s reaction was the same, including the embarrassed chuckles at the words “Saturn – the bringer of old age”.

RPOgroupTherefore, gentle reader, there’s not a lot of point my re-writing my comments of three years ago because they still apply, so can I point you towards my review of their performance on 26th June 2016, and please just ignore my bitter post-referendum ramblings at the time (unless you still feel the same way that I do about that subject – that’s up to you).

Nick DaviesWe did, however, have a different conductor for this performance: Nick Davies, a dapper little chap, resplendent in his shiny black suit, revelling in his work, and generously giving the members of the orchestra all the attention and respect that they deserve. Funny how Mr Davies and John Torode of Masterchef fame are never seen in the same room together…. I think we should be told. We’d enjoyed watching Mr Davies conduct the orchestra here twice before, for two of the regular Last Night of the Derngate Proms concerts. He must be more at ease with the jolly/gala kind of nights than the seriously cerebral classical concerts.

Two extra observations in addition to my three-year-old review; this time round, I enjoyed all the film sequences much more. Yes, they can get a little repetitive, but you have to admire the artistry and the technological knowhow that got those images to that screen; pretty mind-blowing if you think about it. However, the screen itself is, frankly, a nuisance in the first half. Its constantly scrolling through messages with details of the RPO’s social media pages and an advert that you can buy the CD in the interval is unnecessarily distracting from the performance. Mrs Chrisparkle thought they should have somehow lessened its impact. A conversation in the Gents toilet I overheard in the interval was more blunt: “I wish they’d get rid of that ****ing screen!”

I’m sure this concert will continue to tour and turn up every few years in all the usual places. And there’s no reason not to go again, as it’s a very enjoyable treat for both ears and eyes.

8 thoughts on “Review – The Planets: An HD Odyssey, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Royal and Derngate, Northampton, 7th June 2019

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  1. You’ve reminded me that I’ve got to catch up on viewing the BBC2 prog (June 1st) with Prof Brian Cox talking about Holst’s musical representation of each of the planets – Holst’s music being, of course, astrologically inspired rather than based on scientific knowledge as was believed in the early 20th century.
    Perhaps I should watch that before commenting here but I’m intrigued to find out what he says about the disparities between the two settings, none moreso than Venus, which we now know in reality is the entire converse of ‘Peace’. (I’ve been an Astronomy ‘nerd’ since about 9 years old, and I try never to miss a programme on the subject).

    I’ve just read your review of 3 years ago and, though I’d find the programme rather indigestible with all those bon-bons one after the other, it is the kind of thing that draws in the masses, and there’s nothing wrong with that – a guarantee of healthy box office takings!

    • You’re exactly right Ray, these concert programmes that are peppered with Classic’s Greatest Hits can be very hard to swallow. But very popular, which is great!

      I recorded that Planets programme… still to watch it, but I’ve heard good things.

      • I’ve just viewed that Brian Cox/Planets performance. I thought he made a brave attempt, at least for the first three movements, to link what we now know about the rocky planets and their history with the music, which was at times a bit of a stretch. When it came to the four gas giants I think he sensibly gave up on that perspective as the gap between them is just wide to make sense. Still, as a one-off, it was an interesting angle.
        I think your own experience would have been very similar though without the at times jarring incongruities between images and music which Cox’s elucidations point up. Like that irritated member of the audience I might have felt that the screen would have gotten in the way of the music.

        Btw: I found that ‘Bodyguard’ isn’t available on BBC TV catch-up. which, I’d imagine, has something to do with contract conditions with other bodies such as Netflix etc. I don’t know if a further series is intended or the first will be repeated (which is likely to be late night anyway, thus putting it out of reach again) but in any case since the demise of the old video system I’ve not had the means to record TV programmes (I’ve never used Netflix or the like in any case). So unless I find a means whereby I can watch your strong recommendation it remains unwatchable. 🙁

      • It’ll be interesting to compare the two Planets experiences, as and when I get around to watching it! At least Cox should be intelligent with his observations… some of the NASA staff who comment on the RPO film feel like they’ve been asked to consider something way outside of their comfort zone!

        Shame about Bodyguard. It’s possible there might be a second series, although it wasn’t deliberately set up for it, like Killing Eve.

        In other news, I have placed issue one of the History of the English Speaking Peoples on my desk and am looking at it with quizzical uncertainty….

  2. I’ve reached all the way to Part 4 of the ‘History’, every single morning studiously reading one of ALL the related contributions but the Churchill chapter first and then for a second time at the end. (Serious business, this!) My sole concern is that at this rate, with just 108 magazines to go, I’ll probably be about 85 years old by the time I get to the final one. Can but give it a shot.

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