Warner Grand Theater, San Pedro, CA
Saturday, June 13, 2009
Golden State Pops Orchestra conducted by Steven Allen Fox
‘An Evening of John Williams Music’
Review by JWFan member ‘KingPin’
I figured I’d write a review of the concert, something I don’t think I’ve done before on this website. This was my first time seeing the Golden State Pops Orchestra, and for my date, it was her first orchestral concert ever. The program was well-selected, covering a good variety of films. The orchestra itself, though smaller than most renowned orchestras, still packed a good punch for the most part.
The Cowboys Overture
Always a great way to open a concert, and a great showpiece for the orchestra. One of the best live performances I’ve heard of this piece.
Two Pieces from Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
First was Marion’s Theme, which was executed beautifully. The opening was played extra quietly, slowly building momentum as the piece builds to the full, lush statement of the theme. Second was The Adventures of Mutt, which was a bit shaky from the start, but quickly pulled itself together. I think there were some tempo disagreements going on, some of the violins playing the rapid passages slightly faster than the conductor was directing them to. Also, the timpanist missed the first note of the solo riff that precedes the final note in the piece.
Theme from Born on the Fourth of July
This was a lackluster performance. The trumpet solo was decent for the most part, but it was obvious that nerves were getting in the way. The cadenza at the end of the piece suffered a few minor intonation problems, as well as a few problems with articulating some of the notes adequately. But what this piece really would have benefited from, in my opinion, was a larger string section. The entire string section of the GSPO is 27 players strong, probably about half of what a orchestra of the Boston Pops’ size would contain.
Theme from Angela’s Ashes
It was nice to hear this piece again in concert as I’ve only heard it a few times previously. Whatever was missing from Born of the Fourth of July somehow made it back into the performance for this piece. This piece was conducted by the assistant conductor, Jason Livesay.
Three Pieces from Happy Potter Children’s Suite
Quidditch came first, featuring the excellent brass section. I believe this was my first time hearing this movement live, and it was exhilarating. Great feature for any brass choir really. Second was Nimbus 2000 for the woodwinds. The tempo was slower than I’m accustomed to hearing, but aside from that, the piece was played very well. The first half of the concert ended with Harry’s Wondrous World, which brought great cheer to the people sitting around me. This suite was also conducted by Mr. Livesay.
The Flag Parade from The Phantom Menace
Another piece that isn’t played as much as other Star Wars pieces, but a fun opener for the second half. There were a few balance issues, but it think it was mainly due to the nature of the theatre. The timpanist again messed up a couple of measures, coming in too early at one point. One small, green lightsaber did arise out of the crowd for this one.
Three Pieces from Schindler’s List (Samuel Fischer, violin)
The Main Theme, Jewish Town (Krakow Ghetto – Winter ’41), and Remembrances, performed in that order. A few balance issues, again, likely due to the setting, but also to the sound design. The English Horn accompaniments in the beginning of Main Theme, although being on of my favorite aspects of the piece, were too loud. Also, the soloist’s microphone was placed at a distance on the stage just close enough to pick up the sound of the soloist, but just far enough away as to barely amplify it. I think he suffered a few intonation problems throughout. Mr. Fischer performed the entire suite from memory, which served him well until he missed four notes in the cadenza of Remembrances. This wa my first time hearing the entire suite as a whole at a live concert, so for me the treat was hearing Jewish Town, which so brilliantly captures the experience and hardships of those depicted in the film.
The Flight to Neverland from Hook
Easily one of my favorite Williams’ pieces to hear live. The performance was right on target, except the timpanist (again!) came in a beat too early in the last measure, which took away from the piece’s big crescendo at the end.
Throne Room and Finale
The closer for the second half of the concert brought the green lightsaber out from hiding again. This was only my second time hearing the Throne Room live – the first being at Tanglewood, and on that occasion, Williams had conducted the original shorter version. The piece was executed brilliantly, and resulted in a big standing ovation from the crowd. But it wasn’t over yet. While the conductor was taking his bows, I saw the stagehand bring out a handful of conductor’s scores to the podium, which treated us to…
The Planet Krypton and March from Superman
The have to admit, I didn’t recognize Planet Krypton right away. It wasn’t until the trumpets came in with that great majestic theme that always makes me think of Also Sprach Zarathustra in 2001: A Space Odyssey. After the big crescendo, the piece moved directly into the march, which brought applause from the audience when they realized what the music was from.
Devil’s Dance from The Witches of Eastwick (Samuel Fischer, violin; Lars Clutterham, piano)
This was a treat for me hearing it live for the first time. This was the same arrangment Williams had prepared for the Gil Shaham Devil’s Dance compilation, and this performance was just as equally exciting. I definitely appreciated the difficulty of the piece now having seen it performed live and watching both players exhibit extreme technical grace and athleticism.
The Mission Theme from NBC News
Conductor Steven Allen Fox, prior to conducting this final piece of the night, stated that this concert was officially the longest ever done by the GSPO. He then said that in the tradition of John Williams, he would conduct the NBC News Theme because we would all get home too late to catch the news. Once the horns entered with the fanfare, the audience got a good laugh. Great performance of this piece, and overall a highly entertaining night.