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Life Experience

Philharmonia - psychological thriller on All4, on demand

Philharmonia is a French six-part psychological drama. We are watching it on All4 via our phone and chromecast but there are other ways to access All4 free on demand series.
The story is set in Paris, mainly in the concert hall of a top French orchestra. The cast comprises mainly members of the orchestra as they try to cope with a difficult new female conductor, Hélène Barizet.

Ruthless musical director

 Hélène begins her relationship with the orchestra by firing the top player, the “first violin”. By doing this she immediately turns the whole orchestra against her, so the scene is set for many conflicts.
Added to this problem, the French horn player is having an affair with her husband and Hélène is stressed because she fears she may have the same incurable degenerative disease that her mother has. Further anxiety is caused when a super-rich financier is called in to bail out the near bankrupt orchestra. It appears that this individual had an abusive and frightening relationship with Hélène sometime in the past.

Common human problems

So the drama is not simply gripping but it does explore human problems, including the difficulties of managing a creative team.
One critic (in The Guardian) describes the drama as over the top. Perhaps it is, but if it were just everyday real life it would not have the same excitement. Hélène’s conducting is not very convincing either, but that’s not the main point.

Orchestras, with their extraordinary collection of huge musical talent and their astonishing cooperation in the pursuit of sublime music, are wonders to behold.

For me, seeing and hearing the orchestra at work and struggling with relationships and personal problems on and off stage makes for fascinating and rewarding viewing.

David Roberts 11 August 2021

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David Roberts

Writer, publisher, music promoter

Born in 1942, I now have time to enjoy life more widely and reflect on my experience, interests, and contemporary events.

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