Charlie Chaplin's golden notes

Michael Church
Friday 31 December 2010 01:00

What better film to celebrate the season with than Charlie Chaplin's The Gold Rush, particularly when it comes with orchestral accompaniment and Carl Davis?

On Monday, Davis will pick up his baton at the Royal Festival Hall and give this work its first London airing for ten years. Chaplin reworked the film in 1942 to fit it for sound-cinema, and Davis has gone back to the Chaplin archives in Vevey to see how he conceived it musically. He has also extracted memories from the last surviving movie organists in America.

Chaplin put this score together fast, under pressure to earn money after the Nazis had proscribed his films and forced him out of the European market. Davis describes it as a "cleverly handpicked compilation score", but stresses that as a composer tout court – as in City Lights and Modern Times – Chaplin should never be underestimated. "The great lesson to me is how apt his music is – he knows exactly the right thing for each character and scene. It's a textbook lesson to all the film composers who have come after. For me he's one of the three great cultural heroes of the twentieth century – Picasso, Stravinsky and Chaplin. Those are the giants."

Royal Festival Hall, London SE1 (; 0844 875 0073) 3 January

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