I haven’t yet seen Amadeus, Peter Schaffer’s play currently undergoing a revival at the National Theatre, but I decided to go to an In Focus event about the music involved in the production. Led by composer and musical director Simon Slater, it was a fascinating talk about the unique demands made on the musicians. He spoke about the challenges he faced, composing music to feature in a play about one of the greatest composers of all time, and ensuring that the resulting pieces fit into the play.
Participating in the talk were a number of musicians from the South Bank Sinfonia, the orchestra who play on stage during the production. They played a number of snippets as Slater explained what he was going for during the piece.
Talk attendees asked some good questions, and the answers were enlightening. For instance, many of the musicians found the hardest part of the experience to be having to play and move at the same time – something classical musicians are not often required to do. They had to learn to follow each other and the actors rather than having a conductor to rely on, and learn to dance during ballroom scenes without damaging their instruments! Another challenge was to play the music as part of the drama: they are used to playing particular pieces straight through, but here they have had to learn to play snippets, focus on telling the story, and often to play without drowning out the actors who are talking.
I really enjoyed the talk, and I’m looking forward to seeing Amadeus at the beginning of December.