Hector J. Guzman tells you everything you wanted to know about the 12-movement Grand Suite from Star Wars, and much more!
Hollywood Bowl, Los Angeles, CA
Saturday, August 30, 2003
The Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by JOHN WILLIAMS
All music composed by John Williams, except where noted:
– HOORAY FOR HOLLYWOOD (Richard A. Whiting)
– TRIBUTE TO THE FILM COMPOSER
- WARNER BROS FANFARE (Max Steiner)
- CASABLANCA (Frank Miller, Adapt. Max Steiner)
- CITIZEN KANE (Bernard Herrmann)
- 20TH CENTURY FOX FANFARE (Alfred Newman)
- STAR WARS (John Williams)
- THE SEA HAWK (Erich Wolfgang Korngold)
- SPELLBOUND (Miklos Rozsa)
- TITANIC (James Horner)
- PSYCHO (Bernard Herrmann)
- JAWS (John Williams)
- THE PINK PANTHER (Henry Mancini)
- EXODUS (Ernest Gold)
- OUT OF AFRICA (John Barry)
- DOCTOR ZHIVAGO (Maurice Jarre)
- THE BRIDGE on THE RIVER KWAI (K.J. Alford, Adapt. Malcolm Arnold)
- PATTON (Jerry Goldsmith)
- ROCKY (Bill Conti)
- THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN (Elmer Bernstein)
- THE NATURAL (Randy Newman)
- CINEMA PARADISO (Andrea Morricone)
- THE GODFATHER (Nino Rota)
- E.T. THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL (John Williams)
- GONE WITH THE WIND (Max Steiner)
– ESCAPADES FOR ALTO SAXOPHONE AND ORCHESTRA FROM ‘CATCH ME IF YOU CAN’
- CATCH ME IF YOU CAN
- THE FLOAT
- RECOLLECTIONS (THE FATHER’S THEME)
– SUITE FROM ‘HARRY POTTER’
- HEDWIG’S THEME
- FAWKES THE PHOENIX
- NIMBUS 2000
- HARRY’S WONDROUS WORLD
— INTERMISSION —
– GRAND SUITE FROM STAR WARS
Featuring narration by James Earl Jones
- 20TH CENTURY FOX FANFARE
- STAR WARS MAIN TITLE
- DUEL OF THE FATES (Instrumental) (Episode I – The Phantom Menace)
- DUNE SEA OF TATOOINE (Episode IV – A New Hope)
- ACROSS THE STARS (Episode II – Attack of the Clones)
- THE IMPERIAL MARCH (Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back/ Wide use in Ep.III?)
- CANTINA BAND (Episode IV – A New Hope)
- PRINCESS LEIA (Episode IV – A New Hope)
- THE ASTEROID FIELD (Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back)
- YODA’S THEME (Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back)
- PARADE OF THE EWOKS (Episode VI – Return of the Jedi)
- THRONE ROOM AND FINALE (Episode IV – A New Hope)
— ENCORES —
– NOW VOYAYER (Max Steiner)
– THE RAIDERS MARCH FROM ‘RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK’
– THEME FROM ‘SUPERMAN’
Concert Review by Hector J. Guzman
We were there, once again, a beautiful southern California evening, the stars were shining brightly, and Mars even more! It always feels like the first time, very special, the orchestra is tuning, the lights dim, but the lights on stage get brighter and from the left side of the stage the Maestro makes his entrance to a huge applause, he waves cheerfully as always, the orchestra stands up and Williams conducts, as always in outdoor concerts, the national anthem. Everyone takes their seat, and the first selection from the program begins very fitting for where we were, “Hooray for Hollywood”, an arrangement by Williams himself of the classic song which also quotes the songs “There’s no business like showbusiness” and “That’s entertainment” and with this you get in the mood for the wonderful things to come. The second selection is actually a selection of selections, if you like, called “A Tribute to the Film Composer” a special collection of little quotes from different films made by Williams for the first Academy Awards show at its new home, the Kodak Theater in downtown Hollywood, which is just a couple of blocks down from the Hollywood Bowl. This was a nice part of the program as people reacted to their favorites like Williams’ own Star Wars, and laughter when Herrmann’s Psycho and Williams’Jaws theme were played.
Then it came time for the first Williams piece, his short sort of concerto “Escapades for Alto Sax and Orchestra”, which Williams described as a wonderful opportunity to go back to a language which he was very familiar which is the progressive jazz, as Spielberg noted in the linear notes from the soundtrack from where this music comes, Catch Me If You Can, a prevalent idiom in the 50s and 60s. At this point he talked a little about Spielberg and this being their 20th collaboration on film, and how he remembered when they first met and thinking he was just a kid, and he still thinks of him as being just a kid, and when talking about his work with Henry Mancini and arranging for Mahalia Jackson and Vic Damone and others, he said he wanted to think that at the time he was just a teenager, which made the entire audience laugh. He then introduced the soloists, which were the same musicians on the soundtrack recording, Dan Higgins on alto sax, Alan Estes on vibraphone and Michael Valerio on bass. They made their way in and started away with the first movement “Closing In”, as Williams described, the animated opening sequence on the film which relates to the cat and mouse chase of Tom Hanks’ and DiCrapio’s characters, then the piece called “Reflections” which describes the family turmoil and the relationship of Frank Abagnale Jr.’s and his father. The closing movement, “Joy Ride” a very exciting piece which describes the adventure of Abagnale’s deeds, not as a dangerous criminal (as Williams said), but the exciting stuff the teenage Abagnale must have felt when he got away with his scams. The music was played flawlessly, Williams, of course makes a couple of changes here and there, more notably in the last movement. only thing I know is that we must be dealing with geniouses here. This is my take, either Higgins was improvising, or Williams made it feel even more spontaneous than in the soundtrack recording which makes this a genious out of Williams and Higgins for being able to play all those notes and make it seems as if he were inventing them all the way. It was just amazing.
Rounding up the first part of the program was a small kind of suite from the Harry Potter films. The first selection from this was the End Credits “suite” from the first film, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone called “Hedwig’s Theme”, which at the beginning I thought I was going to hear “Hedwig’s Flight” the short theme that appears as “Prologue” on the soundtrack. This was followed by the magnificent “Fawkes the Phoenix” from the second film Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, perhaps my favorite part of the whole thing. But the most curious and very welcome one came after this one, a short little fugue called “Nimbus 2000”, appropiately for woodwinds, if you know the reason. It was the cutest thing, I guess from the concert. And closing the “suite” and the first half of the program was the musical collection “Harry’s Wondrous World” and with a very appreciating crowd applauding, Williams, the orchestra and us went for the intermission break.
For the second half of the program, Williams brought a friend, Mr. James Earl Jones. Mr. Jones, famous for his powerful, distinctive voice was the voice of Darth Vader in the original Star Wars trilogy. Williams adapted his themes from all currently released films in something he calls Grand Suite from Star Wars for which Mr. Jones was serving as narrator. He began talking about the enormous success of the films, and the inspiration it has had on people, and the influence on film making, and so begins the Star Wars saga, as moviegoers first experienced it back in 1977 with Alfred Newman’s famous “20th Century Fox Fanfare”. Then Mr. Jones proceeded to announce the most famous introduction in film history, “A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…”, which was loudly cheered by the Star Wars fans who had brought along their lightsaber toys, some of them double edged! This was followed by the “Star Wars Main Title” music, also cheered loudly through the intro. The main title music was played until the piccolo part and then it faded away. Mr. Jones proceeded to talk about the struggle between the Jedi and the Sith, this is represented by “Duel of the Fates” from Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. Next was “The Dune Sea of Tatooine” (from Star Wars: A New Hope) as Anakin Skywalker is introduced to the story. The music describes the desert-like planet. This was the only cue of music which had narration over it, almost at the end where Mr. Jones talked about Anakin and the prophecy about him, and how he met Padme Amidala and he fell in love with her despite not being allowed to, and this took us to a love “Across the Stars” (from Star Wars: Attack of the Clones), as the narration called. The music was played beautifully, delicate in some parts, dark and somewhat disturbed in others as Mr. Williams conducted with a lot of passion.
The turn of Anakin to the dark side is what follows, this was represented by the ominous percussion and brass-driven “Imperial March”, definitely a highlight of the evening for me as this was one of the very few of the remaining pieces by Williams I had yet to hear live in concert. The Los Angeles Philharmonic shined brilliantly, as every year it does, really amazing. While Darth Vader gained power across the galaxy, another Skywalker was beginning to take part in the fight against the Empire, and with R2D2 and C3PO and Ben Kenobi they started their quest. And as Mr. Jones pointed out, this epic battle for freedom began in the most curious of places, a cantina in the port of Mos Eisley and thus, “Cantina Band” is played. I was very excited Williams had included this piece into the suite, I never thought I would hear it played live, and also was wondering what kind of arrangement he made to it. Turns out this is the same arrangement you will find on the album with the Skywalker Symphony, minus the electronics and synthesizers. It was performed only by woodwinds, percussion (drum set), bells instead of calypso and a lone bass player at the other end of the stage, which to me seemed kind of funny how everything was going on on the left side, and the bass player all the way to the right. For this selection Williams asked the three saxophone players to stand up and bow, the only time they did it in the middle of the Star Wars suite.
On the other side of the galaxy working with the Rebel Alliance was Princess Leia, as Mr. Jones narrated, a very intelligent and wise person beyond her years as her mother Padme Amidala before her. The orchestra played inspired, and Mr. Williams conducted even more passionate, perhaps the most energetic display of conducting I’ve seen from Mr. Williams in all the concerts I’ve attended, in fact one of the people I attended with said he looked very athletic through out the concert, and when he left and returned many times walking pretty fast and lifting his arms thanking the crowd.
Somewhere else in the galaxy, the Millennium Falcon tries to escape with Han Solo and Chewbacca and the galactic Empire behind them. This led to one of the funniest parts on the narration as Mr. Jones quoted the odds of making it alive through “The Asteroid Field” (from The Empire Strikes Back), one of the most popular and funniest scherzos Williams has ever written. Elsewhere someone who knows plenty about the force is making his return to help our friends, the 800 year old Jedi Master Yoda teaches Luke about the force. His theme depicts the goodness and calmness of this small in stature, green colored creature. For every piece the lights on stage turn to a particular color to reflect the mood of the music playing, and for “Yoda’s Theme” they glowed very green. Mr. Jones proceeded to talk about the final battle for the liberation that took place in the moon of Endor, inhabited by small furry creatures, the Ewoks who help our friends defeat the army of the Empire. “Parade of the Ewoks”, a very playful sort of march represents these primitive culture using in the orchestration plenty of flutes, woodblocks and percussion.
To end the suite, very appropriately, was “Throne Room and Finale” from Star Wars. A very elegant march worthy of any official ceremony. Too bad he skipped the english horn solo of the force theme, I guess because of time concerns, and when the end title music started some people applauded. When the music ended it received a very loud standing ovation. Mr. Williams, as he always does, thanked the members of the orchestra by section and asked Mr. Jones to come to the center of the stage (he was narrating in the left side of the stage), and they left, and returned again and left. That was the end of the program.
Of course, no one took their seat, and the cheers and applause got louder, and Mr. Williams returned once again and told us that one of his favorite movies growing up was Now, Voyager from 1942 by Max Steiner, and featured a violin solo, and this was going to be performed by (the very cute) Bing Wang, the concertmaster of the concert. The sometimes sweet, sometimes sad theme was played beautifully (this version can be found with John Williams and Itzhak Perlman on Sony Classical’s Cinema Serenade 2) by Ms. Wang. It got a polite applause. Next, at the opening fanfare it got a wild cheer for it was Superman, the orchestra played very energetic and at the end got a standing ovation. Mr. Williams left, and returned for a third encore. Now this has always made me laugh at the reaction of people because this one has two moments. The people that now the intro applaud and cheer, then when the theme is introduced by the brass it gets a new cheer by the people that did not recognize the opening, which is more loud than the first one. And of course I’m talking about “The Raiders March”, the theme for adventurer Indiana Jones. Another standing ovation, and Mr. Williams bows, he leaves, returns and makes one of his famous gestures that he makes like he grabs the whole applause with his two hands and drops it over the orchestra, and the other gesture that people know when they’ve seen him in concert, the “gotta go to sleep” sign, and with that he takes Ms. Wang by the hand and they leave, as does the orchestra and so it ends a most wonderful evening.
– Hector J. Guzman