Classical Music

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The Independent Culture
Classical music got its teeth into vampires long before Dracula and his various literary and cinematic manifestations were even shadows on the bedroom wall. All but dead and buried until its recent resuscitation as a BBC TV serial, Heinrich Marschner's Der Vampyr, the first ever vampire opera, hit the boards in Leipzig in 1828 - almost 70 years before Bram Stoker's Transylvanian count ever bared a fang.

When it came to transferring Stoker's 1897 novel to the screen, Germany was once again out in front: something about the legend clearly strikes a chord deep in the Teutonic soul. Nosferatu, F W Murnau's 1922 silent film, blatantly pirated Stoker's story - the plot remains the same, only the names and locations have been changed. Whitby became Bremen, Harker became Hutter, and Dracula became Orlock (portrayed with eerie eroticism and skeletal sex appeal by Max Schreck, right). As its subtitle Eine Symphonie des Grauens ('A Symphony of Horrors') suggests, Nosferatu is simply crying out for orchestral realisation - and on Monday, as part of the South Bank's Deutsche Romantik festival, the Harmonie Band will in fact be accompanying a special Hallowe'en screening of Murnau's spooky classic (together with Arthur Robison's 1923 Warning Shadows) with a new live score by Paul Robinson.

Apart from a hint of Weill, Robinson has rejected any notions of period authenticity - 'You could argue that the only 'authentic' accompaniment would be a toothless octogenarian playing an out-of-tune upright,' he observes. Nor does he hold with the current French orthodoxy - 'that silent films should be just that, silent'. Instead he's gone for what he calls an 'uncompromisingly contemporary approach - where contemporary means more Steve Martland or Michael Nyman than Birtwistle or Stockhausen'. Unashamedly amplified, with acoustic winds and strings extended by synths and samplers, Robinson's score promises to be loud enough to wake the dead, and funky enough to make a vampire turn in his grave.

Mon 31 Oct, 7.45pm, Queen Elizabeth Hall, South Bank Centre (071-928 8800) pounds 9 (Photograph omitted)

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