This album should have
been called ‘The John Williams Show’.
He has seven compositions in a total
of eleven, although admittedly six of
them are from his score for the film
Star Wars. We are talking here,
of course of John Tower Williams the
American composer and not John Williams,
the classical guitarist and sometime-rock-band-leader,
we in Australia claim as our own because
he was born in Melbourne although he’s
lived most of his life in Britain. Certainly
both need no introduction.
However the Williams
we are concerned with has more than
one bow to his ukulele, he also conducts
and has composed two symphonies, a violin
concerto, a flute concerto as well as
the fanfare used in the 1984 Los Angeles
Olympic Games. Of course, he is better
known for his film scores and they are
as plentiful as they are varied in thematic
quality. There is the grinding look-over-your-shoulder
theme for Jaws, the adventurous
themes for Raiders of the Lost Ark
and Indiana Jones and the Temple
of Doom, the orientally haunting
Empire of the Sun and many more
for which Williams has received more
than a handful of Oscars and BAFTAs.
He won the 1982 Oscar and BAFTA award
for his score of ET - The Extra Terrestrial.
Having said all that his most famous
compositions are the ones for the Star
He is joined on this
album by American composers who have
also scored music for award-winning
science fiction films. The list includes
a jazzed-up arrangement of Richard Strauss’s
much-used cameo from his 1896 tone poem
Also sprach Zarathustra which
featured in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001:
A Space Odyssey. Frankly, this album
could have well done without the Richard
Hayman arrangement. Many have tried
but no one has yet managed to improve
on the original.
In fact the majority
of the inclusions on this album leaves
one wondering why they were originally
recorded in 1989 let alone re-issued
this year. Except for the question of
budget pricing and the fact that these
sci-fi themes have been collated in
one album, the originals I have heard
are streets ahead in terms of quality
and presentation. Even the latest release
on Decca of Zubin Mehta and the Los
Angeles Philharmonic’s version of Star
Wars Suite has more immediacy and
clarity. Perhaps the best on this Naxos
recording is Williams’s theme from his
Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
Hayman’s version is suitably haunting
and compact. The rest left me wishing
I was enveloped by the silence of space.
One other small point.
I am a great admirer of what Klaus Heymann
and his Naxos ideal of bringing the
best in budget-priced CDs to the world.
But I wish the dates they print were
double-checked a bit more thoroughly.
For example, the albums comprising Sir
John Tavener’s music have him born in
1945 – he was born in 1944 – and in
this album they show John Williams being
born in 1937 when all my records show
his date of birth as 1932. It’s all
enough to age you prematurely.