Recently I found myself in the venue De Doelen in the city of Rotterdam again to watch the movie Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 with the music performed on stage by the Rotterdam Philharmonic. If you have been following my reports, you may have noticed I have been to that venue frequently, each time for a movie with live music. The movie Crash with the music of Howard Shore is the only one on that list that is not a Harry Potter movie. I have in fact seen most of the Harry Potter films in De Doelen, from the third one up to this year’s The Deathly Hallows Part 1.
What I love about the Harry Potter films is that the story progresses over many years, with the characters changing because they grow up and get more experienced in life. Their narrative is supported by music that is written by different composers. Since the third Harry Potter movie was the first one that I saw with a live orchestra, my first Harry Potter live experience was focused on the gorgeous music by John Williams. For the following films, Patrick Doyle and Nicholas Hooper took over writing the music, and this year, I could hear the Rotterdam Philharmonic perform Alexandre Desplat’s music for his first Harry Potter movie.
The evening started with conductor Justin Freer welcoming us. He asked the audience if all Hogwarts houses were present in the audience. As in previous years, I had seen many people wearing all kinds of house colors in the lobby, but I was quite surprised about the number of people cheering for the Slytherin house. After this introduction Freer faced the orchestra to start conducting when the movie appeared on the big screen.
The story gets darker and more serious with The Deathly Hallows Part 1, and that is reflected in Desplat’s music. We are no longer in the wondrous world of innocent magic that Williams wrote his music for. Instead, the movie starts with the gorgeous theme Desplat had created for this film, which can be heard on the soundtrack album in the track “Obliviate,” taking you right back into the wizarding world during these darker times.
As happens often for me while watching movies with a live orchestra, I fell into the trap of enjoying the movie and listening to the music, without paying much attention to the orchestra performing it. That should be seen as a compliment, though. Film music is meant to support the movie, and if it blends perfectly with the visuals, especially when performed live, it is a job very well done. There was one moment, though, when I did pay attention to the orchestra, and that was during the sky battle. It is impossible to ignore the orchestra performing all these fast patterns and gorgeous melodies during that scene.
Desplat has written a superb score for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1. It captures the dark tone very well but still keeps the music beautiful and not too pessimistic. It was brilliantly performed by the Rotterdam Philharmonic, who are quite experienced in performing Harry Potter concerts after doing them for so many years. I look forward to witnessing the orchestra concluding this epic story next year with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2. See you in 2024.
Where: De Doelen – Rotterdam, The Netherlands
When: November 18, 2023
Orchestra: The Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Justin Freer