This month, at London’s Royal Festival Hall, the BBC Concert Orchestra performed some of the finest music ever to grace the films of Shakespeare’s works

[Images: BBC Concert Orchestra]

Shakespeare’s work has inspired a variety of classical composers and has fascinated film makers from Olivier to Branagh. At the start of the concert conductor Keith Lockhart tells us that Shakespeare’s language is “in itself music” and speaks of his admiration for the composers featured this evening.

We are treated to a couple of extracts from scenes of Shakespeare’s plays recited by four actors, including the brilliant Sam West. It’s great to hear how differently composers chose to highlight certain points in a speech. Michael Nyman wonderfully conjures up the sounds of magic for Prospero in his score to the 1991 film Prospero’s Books.

Patrick Doyle, in his 1993 Much Ado About Nothing, places a romantic melody beneath Benedick’s speech, with stabbing dissonant strings on the words Here comes Beatrice”. The strings brilliantly reflect the comedy of the scene and the passionate tension between the two soon-to-be lovers.

The most revealing moment of the evening is William Walton’s 1948 composition for Hamlet. The opening chords immediately recall the sound of a classic ’40s film. Walton’s soft, warming brass generates a slightly uneasy feeling, suggesting a powerful yet volatile atmosphere where things are not quite at peace.

We are played a lot of Walton’s score and it’s at its most powerful when underscoring Hamlet’s “To be, or not to be” speech, recited here by West. Walton beautifully underpins the fraught tension going on in Hamlet’s soliloquy. The orchestra attack certain moments with powerful and sharp crescendos echoing Hamlet’s struggle.

Lockhart conducts the BBC Concert Orchestra with aplomb. The orchestra’s rendition of Nino Rota’s 1968 score for Romeo and Juliet is particularly poignant, and the evening has a moving finale with the suite from Stephen Warbeck’s 1998 score to Shakespeare in Love.

Go here for the official BBC Concert Orchestra website.