The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Queen anthems reincarnated in classical symphony

London, Nov. 5 (Reuters): A selection of some of the most memorable anthems of rock supergroup Queen and its iconic singer Freddie Mercury has found orchestral incarnation as the Queen Symphony.

We Will Rock You, Bohemian Rhapsody and We are the Champions are among 13 songs taken by rising British composer Tolga Kashif as inspirations for his orchestral and choral work.

“In seeking to reinvent rather than purely orchestrate it, I have found that Queen’s music inherently contains the language of the modern classical genre,” he said in sleeve notes to the EMI compact disc of the symphony.

“I think Queen’s music will always be remembered because it become part of the human consciousness. You only need to hear two notes,” Kashif added in a statement.

Throughout the six movements, the unmistakable themes recur, sometimes crystal clear and sometimes just a whisper.

Nowhere is it clearer than in the third movement adagio — dubbed The Yearning — where a soaring violin carries Mercury’s trademark Who wants to live forever to new heights.

It is a tune the composer, who has already worked with stars such as Elton John, David Bowie and U2’s Bono, returns to at the finale, which carries the unofficial title of Homage.

“Anyone who is expecting to hear mere orchestral arrangements of Queen songs is in for a big shock,” Queen guitarist Brian May said on the eve of the symphony's world premier at London’s Royal Festival Hall.

“This is something monumental and quite outrageous,” he added.

“Tolga Kashif is a man with his own agenda in this symphony, based on the body of work Queen built up over 30 years or so but taking the material to an entirely new place.”

Mercury — whose real name was Freddie Bulsara — died of AIDS in November 1991, effectively drawing down the curtain on one of Britain’s most consistently successful rock bands.

But that fact does not seem to have had much impact on the group's popularity.

The three surviving members Ä May, drummer Roger Taylor and bassist John Deacon who will be at the symphony's premier on Wednesday — have a hit West End musical of their work and top selling CDs and DVDs of their greatest hits.

The Queen were also involved in a different kind of project with Hollywood legend Robert de Niro.

They joined forces to produce a musical called We Will Rock You. When the show opened on May 15 in London, it left the audience cheering and stomping their feet for more.

De Niro, the show's producer, flew into London to attend the star-studded West End premiere of the $7.5 million musical, six years after he first discussed the idea with Queen’s surviving band members at a party in Venice.

De Niro and Queen were joined on the opening night by the musical’s writer, comedian Ben Elton, and a host of celebrities including US singer Donny Osmond and British actress Brenda Blethyn.

We Will Rock You tells the story of a world 300 years in the future, where globalisation has gone mad and manufactured pop music is handed out to the masses in strictly controlled doses.

Musical instruments are banned but resistance is growing and the show weaves in lyrics and characters from some of the band’s best known hits — Bohemian Rhapsody, Radio Ga-Ga, I Want To Break Free — to show rock and roll will never die.

Queen member Brian May said: “I’m so excited, this is a dream come true.” But he added that the night was tinged with sadness because of the absence of Queen frontman Freddie Mercury.

“There’s always sadness looking back, but this is exactly Freddie's cup of tea. He’ll be chuckling down on us in his usual naughty way.”

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