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Saturday 23 Aug 2014

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Revolutionary film The Battleship Potemkin with original score performed live by BBC SSO

Sergei Eisenstein's classic milestone of silent cinema The Battleship Potemkin is to be featured together with its original score for the first time in Scotland as a climax to this year's Merchant City Festival.

Accompanying a restored 35mm print of the film, the 1926 soundtrack by Edmund Meisel will be performed live by the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra in Glasgow's City Halls on Sunday 27 September 2009.

Described as "the most celebrated work of propaganda in the history of film", The Battleship Potemkin is an influential landmark in 20th-century cinema, as well as being nominated as Eisenstein's greatest work.

A revolutionary film in every sense, it tells the story of the 1905 mutiny on the Russian ship Prince Potemkin, pride of the Tsar's navy.

Banned in many countries, including Nazi Germany, Britain and France as inflammatory, it was only given a BBFC certificate in the UK in 1954.

The film was commissioned to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the failed 1905 revolution, and its rousing, humane propaganda stands in sharp contrast to the sophistication of its technique.

Battleship Potemkin's enduring reputation was cemented by the scene of the massacre on the Odessa Steps, an incident that Eisenstein invented. This magnificently edited sequence is one of the most enduring in all cinema, and homage has been paid to the scene by artists as different as Sam Peckinpah and Francis Bacon.

The ambitious original score was composed by Edmund Meisel, a regular artistic collaborator of Bertolt Brecht's.

Composed in just 12 days, Meisel's accompaniment was so spectacular that, at the time, the New York Herald Tribune declared the score to be as "powerful, as vital, as galvanic, and electrifying as the film".

The music proved so effective in its original performances that it was singled out for criticism in Germany's right wing press. Meisel responded to his critics by stating: "This, generally speaking, is the first time that political charges have been brought against a musical composition."

Eisenstein declared a wish that the music should be rewritten every 20 years, in order to retain its relevance to each new generation. Versions now exist by such diverse musicians as Shostakovich and the Pet Shop Boys, but it is Meisel's original and vital score that is presented here, shown with the film for the first time in Scotland.

The BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra will be conducted by Principal Guest Conductor, Ilan Volkov – a musician who is no stranger to multimedia collaborations having previously conducted another classic of Soviet cinema, The New Babylon in 2006.

Notes to Editors

BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra
Sergei Eisenstein's Battleship Potemkin
Sunday 27 September 2009,7.00pm
City Halls, Glasgow
Part of the Merchant City Festival 2009
75 minutes approximately. Film rated: PG
Tickets: £12 (unreserved seating), students and school pupils £6 (no other concessions)
City Halls Box Office, Candleriggs, Glasgow G1 1NQ
Tel: 0141-353 8000
www.bbc.co.uk/bbcsso.

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