Hollywood Bowl, Hollywood, CA
Friday, September 2 & Saturday, September 3, 2005
The Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by JOHN WILLIAMS
“John Williams: The Master of Cinema”
Concert Review by Hector J. Guzman
Sporting a slimmer figure this time around, John Williams conducted the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl in his annual appearence at the outdoor venue, welcomed by a warm applause, he opened the concert, after the National Anthem, with his own Liberty Fanfare followed by excerpts from Close Encounters of the Third Kind, here Williams conducted the usual eight-minute version of the recording he made with the Boston Pops.
Next came the eagerly awaited concert premiere of the music from Spielberg’s latest War of the Worlds. Williams programmed this contrasting the two different kind of films that this and Close Encounters are, the theme of aliens arriving on Earth. The contrast is more than just the pairing of these films, but also in music and the actual merits of both films: Close Encounters is perhaps the best score Williams has written for cinema and the film is one of Spielberg’s best. Whereas War of the Worlds, while not a bad score, it certainly lacks inspiration but this is not Williams fault, it’s still an entertaining score to listen if you have the patience for it, but the film is one of Spielberg’s weakest efforts in his career. “Escape from the City” a piece that from the get-go had an ominous sound begins with low bassoons and bass, slowly timpani creeps in and the orchestra bursts into the action music from the album track “Escape from the City”, the piece moves on to some music that I didn’t recognize from the soundtrack and ends with the loud bangs from the track “The Confrontation the Ogilvy” on the soundtrack album. The second piece, “Epilogue” is the actual piece from the soundtrack, I didn’t notice anything different. In reviews I’ve written before, I have noted the lighting on the show how it turns into something that “reflects” the music, if you will, for example something sad turns into a light blue or green, themes for evil characters like Darth Vader have a red tone, a western has yellowish and orange tones and space music has blue and purple colors; this time for the first piece on the War of the Worlds suite we got a light show much like tripods searching around, the light hit you very strongly in the eyes and was a wee bit distracting, but nonetheless it gave meaning to the term “Weekend Spectacular”.
At this point Williams took the microphone to welcome the audience and send best wishes to the people on the gulf that were just hit by hurricane Katrina earlier in the week. “Hopefully some of the magic here goes out to them” he said. Moving on, Williams talked about the loss of the three giants of the film music community that passed away last summer: Jerry Goldsmith, David Raksin and Elmer Bernstein. He also refered to them as “my former employers” and joked that he must have been like 12 when he played piano for them. Particularly on Goldsmith he said he had a great sensibility for what was needed on film and of Bernstein a great human being that had a love for life. The mention of Goldsmith’s name and Star Trek brought a great wave of applause that Williams acknowledged. This was one of the greatest highlights for me personally as I had always wished and often write to the Hollywood Bowl management to get Mr. Goldsmith to conduct there but never got a response, now with Goldsmith gone there will never be that chance again so at least we got the second best thing: John Williams conducting Jerry Goldsmith. Also this is my first Goldsmith piece at a live concert so this was a special moment. The piece was performed flawlessly by the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Next was the theme from Laura by Raksin, one of the most beautiful pieces written for film, here Williams conducted Wally Stott’s wonderful arrangement for violin and orchestra (the arrangement was recorded on Sony Classical’s “Cinema Serenade 2” with Itzhak Perlman and the Boston Pops). The final piece of the tributes was Elmer Bernstein and his monumental theme for The Magnificent Seven, a classic of the western genre that has been ripped off enough, like Goldsmith once said.
Miklós Rózsa’s “Parade of the Charioteers” from Ben-Hur ended the first half of the program. Although not part of the tribute I always thought this was a nod to another great composer of the Golden Age that died exactly ten years ago.
The second part opened with a video segment titled “Monsters, Beauties and Heroes” synchronized with the orchestra by Williams. The video is actually movie stills that move and change to the music. The segment includes excerpts from Max Steiner’s King Kong and Williams’ own Jaws as the monsters; “As Times Goes By” from Casablanca and “An Affair to Remember” for the beauties; Korngold’s Robin Hood and Williams’ Supermanended the segment with heroes that people would cheer as they appear like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Lassie and Christopher Reeve who received the loudest applause, he also died last summer.
Returning to his own music Williams conducted a spectacular performance of the suite from Far and Away which is actually the opening bars from “Joseph’s Dream” (not County Galway, althought they sound very much alike) and the end credits. The finale had the amphitheater lighting in the colors of the U.S. flag. Cal State Fullerton University Singers were next in hand for the first selection with chorus, “Dry Your Tears, Afrika” from Spielberg’s Amistad. The performance and Williams’ conducting were full of energy, the audience gave this one the loudest applause they had given all night. For those of you interested in the concert version of this piece, the City of Prague Philharmonic’s recording on “Close Encounters: The Essential John Williams Collection” is the only one I am aware of.
Each year, John Williams makes space to showcase the beautiful artistry of the Philharmonic’s associate concertmaster Bing Wang, Williams own concertmaster at the Bowl concerts. This year was no exception with the theme from Laura in the tribute part of the program and here with the conductor’s own theme from Steven Spielberg’sSchindler’s List.
I have to add one embarassing moment from the audience: right before the piece from Far and Away, someone yelled real loud, “Star Wars!”, to which Mr. Williams graciously smiled accepting it as a cute moment at the Bowl, but then before the theme from Schindler’s List started, someone else was trying to be funny by yelling again something similar the very moment Williams had raised his arms to begin the piece, which made Williams turn, as gentlemany as he is, and gave the guy a “quiet please” sign (index finger in front of lips).
Ms. Wang played beautifully, as always. Then came the moment most people were waiting for: Star Wars music. As the first bars from Revenge of the Sith‘s “Battle of the Heroes” played, faithful fans, who brought their electronic lightsaber toys, raised them and at least a couple of them began a “dueling” and running through the stairways chasing each other. Williams conducted the piece for the first time this weekend, the chorus sounded great. The next piece was the sincere “Luke and Leia” from Return of the Jedi. It’s curious that Williams chose this piece for his premiere of Sith music but he did not use it on the film, as I was expecting the theme to be featured prominantely to finally wed the mother to the twins and when we hear it “again”, in the revelation scene, we get a more emotional response to it and, in my humble opinion, becoming perhaps the third or fourth most important theme on the series. Beautiful theme, gorgeous music.
And at long last, the final piece of the program, we got to hear for the first time the “Duel of the Fates” long version with chorus (this piece was performed in the shorter 2-minute version back in 2003 as part of the “Grand Suite”). The performance was exhilarating, energizing, and it certainly pumped blood into people who absolutely went wild giving Mr. Williams, the orchestra and the chorus a thunderous applause, and as the final piece of the program Mr. Williams left the stage only to return moments later with Mr. John Alexander, the chorus director of Cal State Fullerton, to accept the applause.
The Maestro returned to the podium to conduct the first of four encores. He usually does two or three, although the first time I saw Mr. Williams live in the year 2000 he did conduct four encores. The first selection, as he announced it, was “Yoda’s Theme” from The Empire Strikes Back. He left the stage and return immediately to conduct the “Raiders’ March”, a favorite of the public that together with the following encore, the main theme from Star Wars, never fail to be performed.
One curious, unfortunate thing that has happened this and last year is that people have not stood up after the final piece of the program like in the past where the last piece and all encores would recieve a standing ovation, this time around in 2004 and 2005 it wasn’t until Star Wars that people stand up to give a well deserved ovation to Mr. Williams.
After such ovation, Williams conducted the last encore, “Flying” from E.T., and another ovation to end another magical evening of music under the stars.
— Hector J. Guzman
Concert Review by Alex Mayer
Being a JW fan for over 18 years it was a treat finally to see him conduct live, it was just luck that I happened to be on holidays here in LA and that Williams was conducting the LA Phillarmonic at the Hollywood Bowl, the setting is very impressive (for those who have never been there) as the auditorium is enclosed in a hill side that can sit up to 18000. I think there were about 15000 people this night to see the master of cinema give an excerpt of what has been a very impressive career.
The concert started with the US National Anthem and then followed by Liberty Fanfare, then Williams conducted 3 pieces of atonal music, first the Excerpts from Close Encounters of the Third Kind (which was brilliantly conducted and played) and then came the premiere of 2 concert suites from War of the Worlds which were also very good. After came Mr Williams’ tribute to the 3 composers that passed away last year (Golsmith, Raskin, Bernstein) the pieces were very beautifully played by the orchestra: Star Trek, Laura‘s theme and The Magnificent Seven. Following that, to finish the first part of the concert was the Parade of the Charioteers from Ben-Hur.
The second half was basically all Williams except for the first piece, which he arranged, where he did a potpurri called “Monsters, Beauties and Heroes”, the music selection was from Steiner’s King Kong toJaws, Casablanca and Superman. Then came a beatiful suite from Far and Away which the orchestra played excellent. After that was “Dry Your Tears, Afrika” from Amistad which together with the chorus sounded impecably.
Then the theme from Schindler’s List was played, the Philharmonic’s lead violinist played it very well and with a lot of feeling and restraint. Then came three pieces from Star Wars: “Battle of the heroes”, “Luke and Leia” and “Duel of the Fates”. All music was played with a lot of energy and gusto from the orchestra.
The Encores were very good, all together they were four. I think the biggest surprise was “Yoda’s Theme” instead of the Imperial March, many kids brought light sabres and it looked very cool to see them througout the audience.
All in all a wonderful concert that everybody enjoyed to the max.
— Alejandro Mayer
– US National Anthem
– Liberty Fanfare
– Selections from Close Encounters of the Third Kind
– “The Ferry Scene” from War of the Worlds
– “Epilogue” from War of the Worlds
– Theme from Star Trek: The Motion Picture (Jerry Goldsmith)
– Theme from Laura (David Raksin/arr. Williams)
– Theme from The Magnificent Seven (Elmer Bernstein)
– “Parade of the Charioteers” from Ben-Hur (Miklós Rózsa)
– “Monsters, Beauties & Heroes” (Arr. Williams)
(King Kong – Jaws – Casablanca – An Affair to Remember – Robin Hood – Superman)
– Selections from Far and Away
– “Dry Your Tears, Afrika” from Amistad
– Theme from Schindler’s List
– “Battle of the Heroes” from Revenge of the Sith
– “Luke and Leia” from Return of the Jedi
– “Duel of the Fates from The Phantom Menace
– “Yoda’s Theme” from The Empire Strikes Back
– Main Theme from Star Wars
– “The Raiders March” from Raiders of the Lost Ark
– “Flying Theme” from E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial