On 27 April Orchestre Philharmonique du Luxembourg and Anthony Gabriele perform a double-bill of Carl Davis scores – Hal Roach’s 1920 silent High and Dizzy, starring Harold Lloyd, and Behind the Screen, Charlie Chaplin’s 1917 film studio comedy.

Roach’s High and Dizzy sees Lloyd play an unnamed doctor treating a girl who suffers from sleepwalking. After a powerful dose of home-brewed whisky, he stumbles into a high-rise hotel, all the while trying to avoid a policeman enforcing the restrictions of Prohibition.

One of the 25-minute score’s key motifs is the plaintive melody of ‘Ah! non credea mirarti’ from Bellini’s La sonnambula; in the opera the aria is given by the grief-stricken Amina as she recalls her betrothal and rejection. It reaches its apotheosis in the hair-raising sleepwalking scene in which Lloyd’s character encounters a beautiful sleepwalker on a high window ledge, and tries to save her from falling – a scene that anticipates Lloyd’s later antics scaling skyscrapers in Safety Last! Davis’ score is for single winds and brass, two percussionists, piano/celesta, and pairs of strings.

Behind the Screen sees Chaplin recast the story of David and Goliath in a movie studio; Chaplain plays the former, a nimble stagehand who helps a girl disguised as a boy to get a job, facing off against the latter, a towering and censorious head carpenter. David and Edna, the girl, thwart the machinations of villainous strikers, and become involved in a custard pie fight – Chaplin gently poking fun at the work of Keystone Studios, his former employer.

Davis’ 24-minute score for Behind the Screen was premiered by the London Philharmonic Orchestra in 2003, conducted by the composer, and has since received over 40 performances, from ensembles including the Orchestre National de Lille, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra,  Welsh National Opera, and the Nürnberger Philharmoniker. It is scored for small orchestra with single flute, oboe, bassoon, trumpet, and trombone, pairs of horns and clarinets, one percussionist, piano, and single strings; watch and listen to an excerpt here.

The Orchestre Philharmonique du Luxembourg gave the world premiere of Davis’ score for High and Dizzy in 2012, with the composer conducting. Davis debuted with the OPL in 1997 with his score for Rupert Julian’s 1925 adaptation of The Phantom of the Opera, and subsequently developed a rich artistic relationship across just over a quarter of a century, with Davis returning to the orchestra to conduct annually.

Davis’ final visit to the Cinémathèque de la Ville de Luxembourg was in March 2023, where he conducted Chaplin comedy The Rink, Buster Keaton’s One Week, and Douglas Fairbanks’ swashbuckling tale The Iron Mask, after Alexander Dumas.