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REVIEW Plain text for smartphones & printers

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John WILLIAMS (b. 1932)
A John Williams Celebration
Olympic Fanfare and Theme (1984) [5.18]
Soundings (2003) [15.27]
Schindlers List* (1993): Remembrances [6.04]; Jewish Town: Krakow Ghetto 1941 [4.17]; Theme [3.47]
Fiddler on the Roof* (1971) - Cadenza and Variations [5.13]
Catch Me If You Can (2002) Escapades: Closing In [3.01]; Reflections [7.26]; Joy ride [8.20]
Star Wars (1977) Throne Room and Finale [10.23]
and encores:
Amistad (1997) Dry Your Tears, Africa [4.39]
Jaws (1975) excerpt [2.44]
The Empire Strikes Back (1980) Imperial March [3.06]
Bonuses: Interviews with John Williams and Gustavo Dudamel [13.45] and Itzhak Perlman [3.44]
Itzhak Perlman* (violin)
Los Angeles Philharmonic/Gustavo Dudamel
rec. live, Walt Disney Concert Hall, Los Angeles, 30 September 2014
High Definition; NTSC 19.9; PCM stereo DTS 5.1; Region Code 0 worldwide
C MAJOR DVD 730308 [103:00]

This DVD gives a representation of John Williams' diverse compositions. It is also artfully charming in so many of its visuals. My big reservation is that it too often treads a too familiar path - it would have been nice to see another side of his talents, including his music for The Accidental Tourist, for instance.

The Olympic Fanfare and Theme provided a spectacular opening to the concert with seven U.S. Army Herald Trumpeters, in dress uniform, adding their glory. Soundings is an intriguing composition commissioned for the opening of the Walt Disney Concert Hall in 2003. Williams wanted the music to be "a dialogue between the orchestra and the hall". The music is modern in style - but accessible - as befits the hall's spectacular, skyward thrusting architecture. The movements evoke the hall's awakening, its glistening (with intriguing shimmering effects and percussion), response, singing and rejoicing. In parts I was reminded of Williams' music for Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

Itzhak Perlman gave intense heart-felt renderings of the Schindler's List music - dramatic and tenderly nostalgic; plus John Williams's additional original music for Fiddler on the Roof.

One of the most interesting inclusions was the three jazzy excerpts from the Catch Me If You Can score. Williams was probably recalling his younger self as a jazz pianist? 'Closing In' is a humorous fast-moving little piece underlining the episodes relating to the Tom Hanks character's in-vain detective work and chasing. The quieter, more introspective 'Reflections' music is for Abagnale's (Leonardo DiCaprio) discordant family relationships. The 'Joy Ride' music is for Abagnale's world-wide escapades before he was caught.

The Star Wars finale music needs no introduction and was given the full noble, heroic treatment.

There followed a series of brief encores - all a visual treat with much humour. Amistad's 'Dry Your Tears, Africa' was sung affectingly by a choir of school children. They remained on-stage to be scared stiff by the music from Jaws. To great applause John Williams, himself came on stage to conduct his Imperial March from The Empire Strikes Back. Behind him, to the delight of the audience, strode on-stage Darth Vader and a line of his robot-like storm troopers.

The bonus interviews were interesting with Williams turning Dudamel's sometimes none-too-clear questions into informative answers. I was particularly impressed with the composer's description of how he started in the film scoring business working for such composers as Bernard Herrmann and Alfred Newman and getting his break by orchestrating a little of Dimitri Tiomkin's music for The Guns of Navarone.
An entertaining concert showing so many sides of John Williams' great talent.

Ian Lace


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