The Cherry Orchard (1961)


‘The Cherry Orchard’, directed by Michel Saint-Denis and featuring the acting talents of Judi Dench and Ian Holm, utilised seven weeks of rehearsals, a significant amount of time that Saint-Denis saw as necessary to allow the full range of the play to emerge. This included two weeks of detailed analysis of the text. While a frustrating experience for some of the actors, who wanted to get on with the business of acting, the approach paid off, resulting in a production noted for its highly detailed approach to tempo and mood.

Roberto Gerhard contributed sound to ‘The Cherry Orchard’, with Brian Priestman composing the musical accompaniment. Gerhard’s production notes contain hundreds of ingredients for constructing background and incidental sounds, including instrumental samples and recordings from the everyday – birds, dogs, wind, shouts, radio noise, folk songs – which he assembled in different combinations. Gerhard’s soundtrack, while underscoring the action of the play throughout, was carefully articulated to punctuate key points of drama in the production. Most notably, at the finale of the play, the axe sounds emanating from the clearing of the cherry orchard punctuate the elderly manservant Firs’ speech and movement, aligning the felling of the orchard with the death of the character, uniting both the realistic with the symbolic.

022Electronic sound assemblages by Gerhard for his soundtrack for the theatre production of ‘The Cherry Orchard’
402Electronic sound assemblages by Roberto Gerhard, as well as recordings of Pierre Schaeffer’s ‘Etude aux sons animés’, Ivo Malec’s ‘Dahovi’ and a fragment of Karlheinz Stockhausen’s ‘Gesang der Jünglinge’
488Electronic sound assemblages by Roberto Gerhard of piano and strings, and birds and electronics
489Electronic sound assemblages by Roberto Gerhard comprised of piano and strings
509Electronic sound assemblages by Roberto Gerhard, potentially related to his soundtrack to ‘The Cherry Orchard’