Tolga Kashif’s ‘Queen Symphony’ is one of the cleverest pieces of modern day orchestral music. It combines over a dozen of the most famous Queen songs in an instrumental setting and is exhilarating, awe-inspiring, emotional and a work of genius.
I made contact with Mr Kashif and told him that I wanted to study his orchestration, having listened countless times to the piece, and purchased a study version of the orchestral score.
And it is with his express permission that I am able to reproduce sections of this phenomenal score to demonstrate examples of orchestration that inspire me:
QUEEN SYMPHONY – Movement 1
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The section between bars 33-40 drew my attention. I loved the richness of the strings and the way that the harps flowed with the piano.
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Bar 53 introduces the oboe taking the melody against the semi-quavers in the 2nd violins, which is a very unsettled feeling background texture for the piercing tone of the oboe to play against. It feels ominous.
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Bar 112 sees the two harps and the clarinets shimmering with rhythmic unison semi-quavers against a very simple yet rich string section. It’s a lovely texture and allows the horns and cor anglais melody line to shine through.
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Bar 133 is the first time in the piece that Kashif pulls out all the stops. The texture is dense, rich, exciting and very emotional. The addition of the chorus gives me goosebumps.
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Bar 169 sees the flutes really stand out amongst the rest of the orchestration, especially against the relatively low brass. It’s really effective, and I like the cross-rhythms too.
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Bar 178 is utterly glorious – the trombones play a suspension that pull through the rest of the orchestration; I was surprised at how effective it was and how clearly you could hear it.
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Bar 206 is where we hear the basset horn. I can’t remember learning about this instrument and this was the first time I had seen it in a score. Here it sounds very eerie and I initially mistook it for a clarinet. The harps in bar 208 also sound very mysterious.
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Bar 228 has a special sound effect that I only noticed when studying the score; it can easily be missed if just listening. It’s a coin scrape on a suspended cymbal! A really creative effect that must have taken some experimentation to come up with. Aside from low strings, bassoons and bass clarinets (all low in timbre and rich in tone), the texture of the orchestration is really bare. If there had been more going on it wouldn’t be heard at all. It’s unusual and quirky.