Stories » John Williams - A Life in Music, a fantastic product and highly recommended / StageandCinema

Top 10 for Aug

John Williams - A Life in Music, a fantastic product and highly recommended / StageandCinema

Bookmark and Share

In a childhood home largely devoid of classical music, it was Walt Disney's Fantasia and film composer extraordinaire John Williams that got me hooked, as they say, on the classics. It was over forty years ago that Williams recorded Star Wars with the London Symphony Orchestra, which of course made me gnaw into all things LSO, which pushed me deeper into a world of classical music that has become a touchstone in my life. Williams has retained close ties to the sterling band, so it's apt that a new release includes newly recorded themes from Williams' most iconic film scores, including "Hedwig's Theme" from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, recorded here by LSO for the first time.

One of the things that makes Williams' scores immediately accessible are the character-specific leitmotifs that are not only used throughout any given film but their many sequels as well. While it's clear that Williams has been inspired by the classical world's greats, such as Dvořák, and Jurassic Park‘s theme sounds like the old commerical "See the U.S.A. in Your Chevrolet," it's almost unbelievable that this Los Angeles native - with his searing melodies that can bring tears to your soul - isn't reincarnated directly from Tchaikovsky. This is especially true with a new arrangement (and world premiere recording) of the theme from Schindler's List, the soloist of which is now cello, replacing the violin part once played by Itzhak Perlman.

But for real adventure, some of my favorite melodies come from the two other films here: Superman and Hook. The latter is pocked with spacious, sweeping, swarthy themes because Williams wrote about eight songs with lyricist Leslie Bricusse when Spielberg thought of making a musical ("We Don't Wanna Grow Up" and "When You're Alone" made it into the film). And the pounding, pulsating, piercing, pride on Superman‘s theme far outshines the original take, which was originally recorded with LSO in 1978. (Bricusse also co-wrote the love theme recorded by Maureen McGovern, "Can You Read My Mind?") I can't honestly say that this collection is a necessity, especially given it could have been much more in depth, but it's such a fantastic product that I can't give it anything less than a "highly recommended."