Review: The World of Hans Zimmer @ Manchester Arena

The World of Hans Zimmer invaded the Manchester Arena with a symphonic army of cinematic musicality on Wednesday.

The silence that fell when the conductor, Gavin Greenaway, raised his baton was interrupted by a percussive boom as music from The Dark Knight encapsulated the room.

Smoke, white lights and a climatic orchestral crescendo accompanied Hans Zimmer’s name in the Bat signal on an enormous screen on the stage. Beginning on such a note meant the crowd’s expectations were high right from the start.

During the first half of the performance, the audience’s grateful ears were met with a Celtic melody and triumphant battle theme from King Arthur, plus music from Mission Impossible II, Rush, Pearl Harbour and The Da Vinci Code.

Along with lighting techniques that echoed the atmosphere and mood of each piece, the screen behind the orchestra displayed visual projections of the movies to give cinematic context.

Although regrettably absent, this also provided Zimmer with a platform by which to introduce each of his compositions in an intimate way.

Recorded from his private studio in Los Angeles, Hans explained how the audience was about to hear parts of his score that had never been presented before. This was particularly noteworthy in last night’s rendition of The Da Vinci Code, which the eight-time Oscar-nominee described as the version “with all the experiments in it”.

Soprano soloist, Katharina Melnikova, left hairs standing on edge with her haunting melody, accompanied only by a sotto voce choir. It was raw, bare-boned and oozed drama.

Demonic, agitated music followed as the lighting turned red and strings plucked aggressively on their fingerboards to create a percussive effect, intensified by the Latin-singing choir. As chilling, chromatic scales persisted, the orchestra continued to build before a host of multiple silhouettes filled the screen.

The second half began considerably more light-hearted, boasting animated movie scores, including Madagascar, Spirit and Kung Fu Panda.

Although children’s films, each is a fantastic composition in its own right, particularly the latter which was dominated by the woodwind soloist, Pedro Eustache, who powerfully recaptured the ascent of Oogway from the movie.

Hans explained how he would never only do serious projects because he and all composers were children when they “played with music”.

Now, the crowd was totally under Greenaway and the orchestra’s command.

Emotion was powerfully evoked as music from the rom-com The Holiday followed. Rekindling magical memories from the film with familiar clips, what began as a simple yet beautiful piano solo by Eliane Correa, built up into the incredible celebration of sounds we all associate with Cameron Diaz bounding through the snow to get back to Jude Law.

If tears had not yet begun to be shed, The Lion King unfailingly had the crowd reaching desperately for their tissues.

The level of raw emotion was only heightened after Hans explained how the score was and always had been, a requiem for his father, echoing the demise of King Mufasa from the film, which most children will never forget.

Pedro Eustache once again took centre stage with a woodwind solo, progressing through themes from the movie until the climatic Circle of Life, when he was joined by singers, Asda Kadrić and Marie Spaemann, in addition to Luis Ribeiro on solo percussion.

The audience erupted, many rising to their feet in applause.

The concert finished with an enchanting vocal solo from Gladiator by Lisa Gerrard, who Zimmer introduced as the woman who originally recorded on the movie with him. Her command was astounding and the sheer balance between her soaring vocals and the orchestral score had the whole crowd in awed silence.

An excerpt from Inception followed, which had the symphony accompanying a clip on the screen of Zimmer playing the piano from his private studio.

Risky but effective, this technique meant that the intimacy of a composer sharing his work was felt at true impact. It was easy to forget that Hans wasn’t actually present in the arena.

The evening united all generations in a common appreciation of the diligence, detail and depth required to colour our cinematic experiences with powerful emotional impact.

Zimmer’s tour is a masterpiece that takes its audience on a powerful emotional journey into film and feeds their love of for the muscular, yet vulnerable scores Hans has produced.

The encore undoubtedly could be one composition and one alone – the theme that accompanies a certain famous pirate whose music has become as iconic as the character himself.

Yes, the night went out with a cannonball of a tribute to Pirates of the Caribbean and the audience drank it up, me hearty, yo ho.

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