Kashif: The Queen Symphony

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

WORKS: The Queen Symphony
PERFORMER: London Voices, London Oratory School Schola, RPO/Tolga Kashif
CATALOGUE NO: 5 57395 2
Quite who is likely to be enthralled by chunks of warmed-over Queen songs quaintly embalmed as a dated Romantic symphony can only be guessed at. Queen’s guitarist Brian May believes Kashif’s composition ‘will become an immortal favourite in the repertoire of symphony orchestras’, but like many a ‘crossover’ piece, it’s more likely to suffer from its hybrid provenance and get filed, and forgotten, under Curiosities, Misc. In the same way that Beatles fans would much rather listen to ‘Back in the USSR’ than McCartney’s interminably dreary Standing Stone (shrewdly rechristened by cynics as ‘Stumbling Block’), Queen’s devotees would surely prefer the flamboyant melodrama and thunderous rock beat of the original. Kashif’s bland and syrupy string-writing, droning choirs, Richard Clayderman-style piano interludes (I would draw your attention to the opening of the second movement) and occasional bald restatement of Queenly themes – usually ‘We are the Champions’ – sounds more like a requiem for a rock band than a celebration of its outrageous lifestyle and comically bombastic stage performances. Love ’em or not, Queen’s members were musically literate and created their own distinctive sound-palette. Seeking to lend it spurious legitimacy by turning its songs into light orchestral schmaltz from the era of Eric Coates seems an act of criminal folly. Still, thank heavens for small mercies – at least they didn’t get Ben Elton to write new lyrics. Adam Sweeting