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  • Stephen Daltry

Two in a Bar


Now musicians: take 2 in a bar, 3 in a bar, 4 in a bar, 5 in a bar, they all manage to leg it back to the concert hall in time for their entry. Except the French horn player. The conductor glares at the composer and says "I see he's taken you literally".

'What do you mean?'

"The French horn part says 'Play as if from a distance!'"

That is based on a true story. Conductor Simon Whiteside said those words to me during a tense studio recording session; I had written that very instruction on the French horn part of a score I composed for a BBC documentary by Dutch director Niek Koppen, 'The Hunt'. I won't suggest he was imbibing ale in a public house but he didn't show up!

As a film composer you can spend a good few days writing an intense, beautiful dramatic theme - in C sharp minor perhaps- which, you believe, is going to cause the angels to rouse Liszt from his sleep to listen to, adoringly, passionately.

Come the day, nervously, excitedly, you play the piece to the director with the picture, only for him to say 'No, it's not working for me. When Maurice starts slowly chewing his bagel I think it needs something different, you know, he's in real tears. I've brought this Einaudi piece for you to listen to' ....

So at times I am inclined to echo Bizet's words : "Ah music! What a beautiful art! But what a wretched profession!'


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