Added on 07-Nov-2002
LONDON (Reuters) - The rock anthems of supergroup Queen got a standing ovation on Wednesday from 2,000 classical fans at a world premier performance of the Queen Symphony.
The concert, at London's Royal Festival Hall, put a smile on the face of late lead singer Freddie Mercury (news)'s mother Jer Bulsara and brought unstinting praise from guitarist and group founder Brian May (news).
"I very much enjoyed it. It was very moving indeed," May said after the concert by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. "He has weaved new tapestry from old threads."
Rising British film music composer Tolga Kashif spent two years spinning the strands of 13 of Queen's most memorable tunes into a six-movement integrated orchestral and choral symphony for record company EMI.
"It is rhapsodic in its structure. It is a symphonic poem," he said after the final rehearsal.
"We Will Rock You," "Bohemian Rhapsody" and "We are the Champions" are among the songs the London-born composer plucked from the vast catalog of Queen music owned by EMI.
Throughout the work, the unmistakable themes recur, sometimes crystal clear and sometimes just a whisper.
But the result is less a coherent piece than a stylistic patchwork quilt that roams from Gershwin to Beethoven and back via Rachmaninov and Carl Orff.
"There are a lot of styles in there. It does not really stand on its own, but it is a celebration of Queen and as such is very good," Royal Philharmonic cellist Tim Gill told Reuters.
Kashif himself admitted that his work was in a stylistic no-man's land.
"It is stylistically nowhere in particular," he said. "It is neither classical nor popular."
Nowhere is the fusion of the two genres clearer than in the third movement adagio -- dubbed the yearning -- where a soaring violin carries Mercury's trademark "Who wants to live forever" to new heights.
It is a tune the composer, who has already worked with stars such as Elton John, David Bowie and U2's Bono, returns to at the finale, which carries the unofficial title of Homage.
Kashif, whose favorite songs are "Bohemian Rhapsody," "Who wants to live forever" and "We are the Champions," said Queen songs were fundamentally emotional ballads with a rock veneer.
It was a sentiment endorsed by 58-year-old audience member Ruth Bodman and her husband Derek, 62.
"I have never been to a Queen concert, but I have been a fan forever. Their music is wonderful," she told Reuters.
Mercury -- whose real name was Freddie Bulsara -- died as a result of AIDS in November 1991, effectively drawing down the curtain on one of Britain's most consistently successful rock bands.
But that fact does not seem to have had much impact on the group's popularity.
The three surviving members -- May, drummer Roger Taylor and bassist John Deacon -- have a hit West End musical of their work and top selling CDs and DVDs of their greatest hits.
"For a band that does not really exist any more, we are having an incredible year," May said after the concert.