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41 of 43 people found the following review helpful
Flawed, but interesting
on 17 November 2002
As Queen's Brian May says in the liner notes "Anyone who's expecting to hear mere orchestral arrangements of Queen songs is in for a big shock!!!" Kashif's composition is a symphony in six movements based on thirteen of Queen's songs... in a rather more complex way than the Track Listings here suggests. Here's a full breakdown:
- I. Adagio misterioso - Allegro con brio - Maestoso - Misterioso - Allegro (Radio Ga Ga - The Show Must Go On - One Vision - I Was Born To Love You)
- II. Allegretto - Allegro scherzando - Tranquillo (Love Of My Life - Another One Bites The Dust - Killer Queen)
- III. Adagio (Who Wants To Live Forever - Save Me)
- IV. Allegro vivo - Moderato cantabile - Cadenza - A tempo primo (Bicycle Race - Save Me)
- V. Andante doloroso - Allegretto - Alla marcia - Moderato risoluto - Pastorale - Maestoso (Bohemian Rhapsody - We Will Rock You - We Are The Champions - Who Wants To Live Forever)
- VI. Andante sostenuto (We Are The Champions - Bohemian Rhapsody - Who Wants To Live Forever)
(Sometimes the source is obvious; sometimes obscure!)
I've been a Queen fan at least since my eighteenth birthday when I was given a copy of "Jazz" (represented here by 'Bicycle Race') . I have all their studio albums. I know many of the songs pretty well. So it's difficult to come to this work and review it on its own merits.
In fact it can be quite frustrating that the melodies often don't develop as you expect them to, or suddenly segue into a different song altogether. But that's why this is different from previous "mere orchestral arrangements". And the more you listen to this work, the more it takes on its own identity.
The first movement takes the "All we hear is radio ga ga" phrase from Roger Taylor's 1984 song, but the melody that first emerges is from Freddie Mercury's 1991 'The Show Must Go On' - a very poignant piece foreshadowing Mercury's death later that year and one that lends itself to an orchestral treatment. The movement ends on a more optimistic note with the melody from Mercury's 'I Was Born To Love You' (from his solo album, and re-worked as a Queen song after his death for the "Made In Heaven" album). This reminded me of early Sibelius... "Kullervo", perhaps?
The second movement starts with Mercury's 1975 'Love Of My Life' with a harp carrying the melody, rather more up tempo than the Queen and Extreme/May versions. Motifs from John Deacon's 1980 'Another One Bites The Dust' and Mercury's 1973 'Killer Queen' intrude in brash opposition... reminiscent of Strawinsky's "The Rite of Spring".
The third movement is a faithful development of May's 1986 'Who Wants To Live Forever' from the soundtrack for "The Highlander". This was (partly) an orchestral piece from the beginning, arranged by May and Michael Kamen, and performed by the National Philharmonic Orchestra. Here violin and cello share the haunting melody.
The fourth movement is perhaps the most interesting, a frenzied development Mercury's 1978 'Bicycle Race' with piano and brass in a style reminiscent of Gershwin's "Prelude for Piano no. 2" or Berstein's "Symphonic Dances...". May's 1980 'Save Me' provides the calmer moderato.
The fifth movement starts with Mercury's 1975 'Bohemian Rhapsody', following the piano introduction and "operatic" segment fairly faithfully. In place of the "heavy rock" segment, Kashif rather abruptly brings in May's 1979 'We Will Rock You' on timpani, then returns to the final piano segment before seguing to a subtle interpretation of Mercury's anthemic 1979 'We Are The Champions'.
The final movement carries on directly from the fifth, inteweaving the three main melodies from '... Champions', '... Rhapsody', and '... Forever'.
Does it succeed as a symphony? A "a usually long and complex musical composition for symphony orchestra typically of three or four movements in contrasting forms and keys"? Brian May says "It breaks most of the 'rules' of symphonic form." To my mind, it is more a suite than a symphony, perhaps most like Bernstein's "Symphonic Dances from 'West Side Story'". Perhaps it would be best described as a "symphonic suite".
Nevertheless, I think Kashif can be commended for rising to the challenge.