Armistice: Maudite soit la Guerre review – a cinematic anti-war requiem | Classical music

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Film has always been an integral part of Olga Neuwirth’s career as a composer. Her work list is studded with pieces in which video is combined with the vivid imagery of her music, or an existing movie is used as the starting point for a whole composition, whether in the score she wrote to accompany a film version of Ray Bradbury’s story The Long Rain or in the music-theatre piece she created from David Lynch’s Lost Highway.

Four years ago Neuwirth composed scores to accompany two silent classics, both of which are receiving their British premieres in London this month alongside screenings of restored versions of the films.

Evocative score … Olga Neuwirth.
Evocative score … Olga Neuwirth. Photograph: Harald Hoffmann

The first of them, Maudite soit la Guerre (English title: War Is Hell), Neuwirth’s “film music war requiem” based upon Alfred Machin’s 1914 anti-war protest, was introduced by the London Sinfonietta, conducted by Gerry Cornelius. Machin’s prophetic film, its scenes of aerial warfare anticipating what would soon become all too real over Europe, and using colour tinting to sharpen the distinction between domestic and battlefield scenes, dwells more on the social and personal consequences of war than its carnage or cruelty.

Despite the tragedy implied, the film has a core of sentimentality and Neuwirth’s score – using an instrumental ensemble that includes sampled sounds as well as a keyboard conjuring bells and honky-tonk piano – is very good at evoking those softer edges, with echoes of genteel drawing rooms and family life. For all its wide-ranging imagination and wealth of stylistic references, the music is always tactful, always allowing Machin’s images to speak for themselves. It sometimes seems almost too self-effacing for its own good.

  • Neuwirth’s score for HK Breslauer’s Die Stadt ohne Juden will be performed at the Barbican, London, on 15 November.

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Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Armistice: Maudite soit la Guerre review – a cinematic anti-war requiem | Classical music

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