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Review of The Planets: An HD Odyssey by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra at Royal & Derngate (Derngate), Northampton

I very nearly wasn't at The Planets, as following a tremendous lack of understanding of the popularity of the show, less than two weeks before show night, I was without ticket and languishing upon the sold out waiting list. However the stars (or planets) aligned and a precious seat, and a good one, became available. Therefore when I wasn't in the Derngate foyer being mistaken as staff and asked about food options or help to carry peoples instruments, I sat transfixed in my seat in row N.

The line-up for this show was what I happily described as my desert island classical selection, all well known to me, all favourites. As well as Holst's The Planets themselves, we had a warm-up pre-interval act which featured Richard Strauss' Also Sprach Zarathustra, Johann Strauss II's Blue Danube, Toccata And Fugue In D Minor from Bach, Beethoven's Symphony No.7 Allegretto and John Williams' Star Wars main theme. Possibly a few of the names might not be familiar to you, however pop them into YouTube and I assure you, all will become clear. Mostly I will imagine like myself, you will have heard them in a film or two. They are all well used, and really quite brilliant. Hearing them live was something else.

Back at the podium, following his lively presentation at last years The Music Of John Williams, was conductor Robert Ziegler. He is a very lively personality and as last years pre-show talk showed, knowledgeable of the material and fully encompassing of being inventive with a classical concert to bring a different type of audience to the venues. It worked last year and clearly by the demographic in the theatre on this night, it had clearly worked again.

The show piece of this event was the after interval presentation of The Planets and its HD accompanying images of the planets themselves. I myself, while I enjoyed every moment of the music, was most absorbed oddly by the pre-interval music as the second half did drift away somewhat in enjoyment by what sadly turned into the distraction that was the HD presentation, rather than a delight. The opening piece of Mars was where is peaked and shot its bolt, as the overwhelming wealth of footage of the red planet could never be matched as we progressed through the solar system. The images became a rather garbled mess of colours and spinning images at times, which while I don't doubt represent well these alien worlds, were poorly presented occasionally. The timing however was second to none, as at suitable peaks and switches in the music, the images shifted on screen.

So yes, the music was sublime. The largest orchestra I have seen to date, 91, filled the Derngate auditorium with gorgeous sound under the briskly waved baton of Ziegler and the music is where the show worked brilliantly. Saying that the HD presentation was a failure would be wrong, as it had clearly created an absorbed new audience across the ages, and packed the Derngate to its very edges. It just at times seemed a little flimsy compared to the pure musical background of previous concerts.

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Performance reviewed: Sunday 26th June, 2016 at the Royal & Derngate (Derngate), Northampton.

The Planets: An HD Presentation was a single night performance at the Royal & Derngate on Sunday 26th June, 2016 and ended its tour.

For further details visit the Royal & Derngate website at http://www.royalandderngate.co.uk/

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