Monday, July 2, 2012

Aram Kchachaturian and Onedin Line

Norwegian Christian Racidh in calm seas
I wonder if anyone who followed the British BBC TV series Onedin Line (1971-1980) and hears today the Adagio in Kchachaturian's Spartacus ballet can avoid seeing in his or her mind's eyes that magnificent white Tall Ship crossing the foamy blue waves on her way to the free open seas.

Rarely, if ever, have producers of a TV series or a movie succeeded to such extent in combining a world famous piece of classical music with an alternative mental vision.

Ivan Vasiliev in Spartacus during
re-opening gala of the Bolshoi Theatre,
28 October 2011
Aram Kchachaturian (1903-1978) composed the Adagio of Spartacus and Phrygia to express the feelings of lovers united after awful tribulations.  No doubt many ballet lovers see that scene in their mind's eyes when listening to the amazingly beautiful Adagio.

The music matches in my humble opinion much better the magnificent Tall Ships challenging open seas when the wind blows free than the moving emotions of two desperate lovers. The rolling orchestral background for that unforgettable melody and the instruments cutting sharp sea bird like sounds into the flow of music is so perfect for beginning yet another adventure on the oceans!

There are many other successes in combining classical music and cinematic art. For example, the use of Strauss's Blue Danube waltz when Hal and the astronomers orbit planet Earth in Kubric's non-verbal Space Odysseus 2001. But in this case classical music seems to maintain its original place in our minds and hearts as a wonderfully rotating dance and song-along in a magnificent space setting.

Onedin Line, on the other hand, transfers the mental images raised by Kchachaturian's immortal music from ancient Rome to Victorian Britain - and that is not a small achievement for a mere TV show!

It is interesting that wikipedia makes a special honorary mention of "appearing in Onedin Line" while describing each of the seven Tall ships that were used during the filming of the series:

Among the historic ships and boats featured in the series was the steam pinnace 'Hero', then owned and lent by John Player & Sons, and the following tall ships:

  • Statsraad Lehmkuhl
  • Charlotte Rhodes
  • Christian Radich
  • Sagres
  • Soren Larsen
  • Danmark
  • Sir Winston Churchill - one early episode
  • Gorch Fock
  • Thorso


I do not know which one of the ships among these seven was in the opening scene.

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