“A Symphonic Celebration”
Hans Zimmer can be seen as a rock star of film music. Even people who are not really into soundtracks know him and have heard about, or even attended, his two concert tours. The first one was Hans Zimmer Live where he was performing with friends and fellow musicians, as well as an orchestra and a choir. I attended this concert before I founded this website in 2016. It was an amazing experience, but earplugs were necessary since the music was so loud at times that it almost felt like a metal concert. The second concert series is called The World of Hans Zimmer: A Symphonic Celebration, which is more focused on his symphonic work. It is also a show that is usually performed without him being there. I attended the first concert of this tour in Hamburg, which was an amazing experience that included some of my favorite Zimmer pieces, stunning visuals and a fantastic all-round performance. Since the tour was such a success, more concerts were announced in 2019, including a concert on November 11 in the Ziggo Dome in Amsterdam.
I was having reservations about attending the concert again. It is a two-hour drive from my hometown and would take place on a weekday, which means I’d have to take some time off from my regular job. I could stop thinking about it when the announcement came that the concert was sold out. However, when SoundtrackFest announced that they would be accompanying the tour, I regretted not buying tickets. I really had a great time at the show in Hamburg. Luckily, with the kind efforts of my friend, and mentor, Gorka Oteiza from SoundtrackFest, as well as the assistance of Semmel Concerts and Tomek Productions, I received two tickets and guest passes for the concert in Amsterdam, giving me the opportunity to attend the concert again, but also giving me the chance to meet and talk to some of the very talented musicians after the show.
The program has not changed since my last attendance, and therefore, I will not focus on the program this time (You can read all about that in The World of Hans Zimmer in Hamburg), but instead I will tell you about the differences and new experiences, and trust me, it is definitely still worth a read.
As with the Hamburg concert, Hans Zimmer was not present. The introductions of each piece were done by him on the big ‘screen,’ which is a collection of smaller vertical parts, and, since we were not in Germany, all the introductions were done in English with the man himself talking to the camera or to a friend from the industry on-screen. Traditionally, conductor Gavin Greenaway likes to address the audience in their own language. I was told that he prepares this all by himself using Google Translate. Knowing this I really paid attention to his Dutch introduction, which was quite impressive. I could understand each sentence.
I was really looking forward to hearing the music from MI:2 again during the concert. Guitarist Amir John Haddad did another amazing improvisation at the start of the piece. For most concerts in a big venue I like to sit all the way in the back on the balcony. It gives me a good view of the stage and at that distance I have the feeling that sounds come from the orchestra rather than from the speakers. For this concert, however, our seats were in the front with an amazing view of the stage. While Haddad was playing his solo, we could hear his fellow Latin American musicians yelling in Spanish to him to give it his all, which was an outstanding detail and something you would definitely not notice sitting in the back. The second half of the piece was gorgeous as well – and this time I was prepared for Lisa Gerrard singing her part in “Injection.”
Rush was one of my highlights in Hamburg, and this evening’s version was also amazing. Unfortunately, cellist Marie Spaemann was not able to attend all the 2019 concerts, so Tina Guo, another amazing cello player from Zimmer’s inner circle, took over for her, and her introduction for this piece was as amazing as expected. Beforehand on the screen, Zimmer had explained to Ron Howard that the movie is very loud, and so was this piece. I really had to use my earplugs to keep enjoying the music. Luckily, this was the only suite on the program during which the earplugs were necessary.
The final piece before the intermission was Zimmer’s sketchbook of The Da Vinci Code. I mentioned in my Hamburg report that there was some weird drum pattern in the background of “Chevaliers de Sangreal,” which was luckily missing in this version, making the music so much better. When Greenaway returned to the stage after the break, he was preparing to conduct the orchestra on a grand scale, but, to the surprise of the audience, instead of a massive orchestral sound, you could hear the joyful start of the suite from Madagascar with only guitars and whistling. Also, the waving of the lights, that the musicians use to illuminate their music, was a nice touch, to which the audience responded by shining with their smartphones as a response.
“To Every Captive Soul” from Hannibal was Tina Guo’s time to shine, and she had changed into a beautiful red dress for it. While she was supported by the orchestra, the other musicians from the band were having a small break during her amazing performance of this delicate piece. Lion King was amazing once again. Pedro Eustache was going wild on his flutes and percussion, while the orchestra, choir and band were also delivering an impressive performance.
The suite for Gladiator was different from what I remembered from the last concert. It started with a fantastic solo by Juan “Snow Owl” Garcia-Herreros, who created sounds on his bass guitar by just tapping on the wooden board in combination with a foot pedal, before using its six strings for an amazing improvisation. “The Battle” part was glorious, but I was missing the fire effects they had used on stage in Hamburg. Lisa Gerrard was also just coming from backstage for “Now We Are Free,” instead of walking through the aisle from the back of the venue. What I liked the most was that afterwards all the band members were highlighted by Greenaway and shown on the screen, giving them the credit they deserve.
The official program ended with “Time” from Inception, with Hans Zimmer starting the cue from the big screen on the piano in his studio. The encore was, of course, Pirates of the Caribbean, where not only almost all band members were at the front of the stage playing, but also the orchestra was allowed to have their fun with the trombone players standing while they were playing their solo in the suite.
I have no regrets seeing this show a second time. It is like a good book or movie. When you experience it for a second time, you discover new things, and you can relive the amazing parts with anticipation, as I did for MI:2 and Rush. I also love the fact that concerts like this one are selling out. It means that many people are experiencing film music in concert-form, and I hope that, with this positive experience as a gateway, they are beginning to want more.
While most of the concert was unchanged, there were some subtle differences. The biggest was that, while Hans Zimmer’s music was the main highlight of the night, the band members were the ones who stole the show for me. You could really see the joy, the experience, their bond with each other in their performance. You could see their growth after having performed with each other for so long on this tour, and since I was able to speak with them after the show, I got personal confirmation of that. If the show is playing near you, I would strongly encourage you to attend. If that is not possible at all, you can also enjoy this concert at home by buying or listening to the album that has been released.
Where: Ziggo Dome, Amsterdam
When: November 11, 2019
Orchestra: Symphony Orchestra of the Bolshoi Theatre, Belarus conducted by Gavin Greenaway
Choir: Belarus Radio and Television Choir
Special Guest: Lisa Gerrard
Soloists: Gan-ya Ben-gur Akselrod (soprano), Asja Kadrić (singer), Rusanda Panfili (violin), Tina Guo (cello), Pedro Eustache (flutes), Eliane Correa (keyboards), Aleksandra Šuklar (percussion), Luis Ribeiro (percussion), Lucy Landymore (percussion), Amir John Haddad (guitars) and Juan “Snow Owl” Garcia-Herreros (bass guitar)
- The Dark Knight
- King Arthur
- “Seville” and “Injection” from MI:2
- Pearl Harbor
- “Lost But Won” from Rush
- The Da Vinci Code
- “Homeland” and “Run Free” from Spirit – Stallion of the Cimarron
- Theme from Kung Fu Panda
- The Lion King
- The Holiday
- “To Every Captive Soul” from Hannibal
- “Time” from Inception
- Pirates of the Caribbean (Encore)