at St. Donats Arts Centre
It requires a bit of nerve to take on the like of Georges Auric and Eric Satie, but composer Charlie Barber has proved over the years that he’s equal to any challenge. Jean Cocteau’s film Le Sang d’un Poète is a classic of the early cinema and Auric’s music was crucial to the realisation of its surrealist aesthetic. In his new score, Barber explores Cocteau’s surrealist world with his own brand of poetry and panache and, on 7 November, this showing of the film with music performed live on stage offered both homage and a new perspective.
Barber himself directed his four musicians and their combination of oboe, bass clarinet, viola, marimba and timps, together with keyboard, was more productive of a variety of sound possibilities and dramatic atmosphere than might have been expected. In the sequence, The Statue and the Mirror, the harpsichord timbre gave it a nicely baroque aura, while Nick Williams’ oboe brought a haunting quality to Flying Lessons. Barber’s rhythmic energy is always a prime characteristic of his writing and it was felt particularly strongly in the dynamic pulse of the Snowball Fight.
Le Sang d’un Poete was preceded by René Clair’s Entr'acte, a Dadaist roll of cinematic honour. Barber’s music for this shorter film parallelled Clair’s bizarre yet hedonistic juxtaposition of images with his own appropriate balance of respect and two-fingered irreverence.