Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare, music by Erich Korngold

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Afternoon on 3 on BBC Radio 3

BBC Radio 3, 18 April 2012
Erich Wolfgang Korngold (1897-1957) was most remembered for his film scores in Hollywood in the 1930s and 1940s. Before he came to the United States, however, he was a celebrated composer of concert and chamber music in his adopted home of Vienna. His incidental music for Much Ado About Nothing was originally composed in 1918 for a production at the Burgtheater and premiered two years later.
In this semi-staged production, performed by the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Ryan Wigglesworth with Stephen Chambers as tenor soloist, the score came across as lush and vivid - an ideal accompaniment to a sharp, youthful and exuberant production that treated Shakespeare's play as a battle of the sexes. Benedick (Liam Brennan) came across as supremely proud of his verbal abilities, as well as his ability to charm women; however it seemed that he had met his match with Beatrice (Daniela Nardini). The two of them duelled feverishly, but there always seemed to be an undertone of good fellowship; the two of them would inevitably come together in the end.
Their spiky relationship was contrasted with that of Hero and Claudio, both played by members of the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, who rushed to the altar with almost indecent haste. Their breathy style of delivery suggested that their entire knowledge of love had been gleaned from courtly love manuals: they believed in the ideal of romance, but did not realize the problems involved. They were no match for the unscrupulous Don John (Iain Robertson), who made his best to break up the marriage. However this potentially tragic plot was undercut by Korngold's music, whose jaunty rhythms assured us that all would be well.
The Dogberry scenes were treated almost as comic routines in themselves, with the nice-but-dim constable (Jimmy Chisholm) doing his best to assert his authority, but falling further and further into the verbal mire with every single utterance. The audience thoroughly enjoyed his interludes.
Recorded live in May 2011 in Glasgow, this charming production was both good-hearted and beautifully played.