John Williams at the Boston Symphony Hall – Full Audio, Reviews and Photos

June 7 & 8, 2013, Boston Symphony Hall, Boston, MA
The Boston Symphony Orchestra conducted by JOHN WILLIAMS

(Listen on the WGBH website)

  • The Cowboys Overture
  • Excertps from Far and Away
    (County Galway, June 1892 – The Fighting Donellys – Joseph and Shannon – Blowin’ Off Steam (The Fight) – Finale)
  • Three Pieces from Lincoln
    (The People’s House – Getting Out the Vote – “With Malice Toward None”)
  • Two Pieces from Indiana Jones
    (The Adventures of Mutt, Marion’s Theme)
  • Flight to Neverland from Hook
  • A Tribute to the Film Composer
  • Theme from The Accidental Tourist
  • Techniques of Film Scoring
    (The Circus Train Chase from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade)
  • Theme from Laura (Julian Lee, violin soloist)
  • The Duel from The Adventures of Tintin
  • Three Pieces from Star Wars
    (The Imperial March – Yoda’s Theme – Main Title)
  • Luke and Leia from Return of the Jedi
  • Flying Theme from E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial
  • Stars And Stripes Forever


  • Amanda Kocz – When Williams introduced the final (minus two encores) pieces – from Star Wars – he noted that since a new addition to this movie set was being planned for 2015 he’d “better eat my wheaties”.  The Star Wars themes Throne Room and Imperial March were magnificent. – Full review
  • ReadJunk – “Flight to Neverland” from Hook was played with an excellent montage of movie clips of people flying planes, or in Hook’s case, Peter Pan flying. The biggest laugh out of the clips was Otto from Airplane. – Full review


Concert Review by Marcus Lewis

The Cowboys Overture

The overture was a wonderful way to open the concert, especially for someone like me, who has never seen this work performed live. I found this performance particularly stunning because it was unlike any of its recordings that I have heard before. As I will mention throughout my “review”, the Maestro has slown down very much over the past ten years, in terms of tempo. His energy is still high, but he has taken a few ticks off the metronome, especially when compared to recordings from 20+ years ago.

However, a wonderful part about the slower tempi is that it allows the music to flow more freely and, I think, his musicianship has only improved over the decades. For example, the A section of the overture (both A and A-prime) is not nearly as fast (or exciting) as his previous recordings of the work, but the B section is fantastically more expressive and provides the audience with an opportunity to appreciate the lovely orchestration, the contrapuntal textures, and allowed the Maestro to use agogic drive to great effect throughout the performance. It was stunning.

Excertps from Far and Away
(County Galway, June 1892 – The Fighting Donellys – Joseph and Shannon – Blowin’ Off Steam (The Fight) – Finale)

I remember when I first heard the Pops play this work on PBS in 1999. I thought, then as now, that it was some of the Maestro’s best “ethnic” writing that he has ever done (with deference to Angela’s Ashes, Memoirs of a Geisha, and others). The performance is similar to the concert suite that appears at the end of the Far and Away album, with the exception of the beginning, which is the first cue from the aforementioned album. The work was well-played and provided the audience with its first real “foot stompin’” music of the evening.

Three Pieces from Lincoln
(The People’s House – Getting Out the Vote – “With Malice Toward None”)

First, let me begin by saying that I love the music for Lincoln, even if it is not the Maestro’s most “original” music of his career. Nevertheless, I find it stirring and, in some respects, deeply moving and poignant. With regard to the three pieces played at the concert, they all differ from their Lincoln album counterparts greatly. “The People’s House” does not begin with the same clarinet opening that John Williams aficionados will expect, but it was a great performance by the Pops other than the principal trumpet player fracking a note during the solo (from “The American Process” approx. 3:15). In general, the principal trumpet and the principal tuba were awful on Friday night’s performance.

“Getting Out the Vote” was the work that differed most from the original motion picture album. The arrangement is less intimate than it was written for the film, and at first I wasn’t buying it. However, as the work progressed, I began to appreciate the tutti performances (not so much the flutter brass interludes that replaced the folk-elements of the cue) in particular. I would like to hear the version again on a recording, just to have another few listens to it. It wasn’t what I expected, but it was entertaining nonetheless.

“With Malice Toward None” ended the selections from Lincoln and it was a nice performance and a fine concert arrangement. The principal cellist performed very well and received some love from the Maestro after the performance, as he asked her to stand. Good performance, although the work itself isn’t one of my favorites.

Two Pieces from Indiana Jones
(The Adventures of Mutt, Marion’s Theme)

I had not had an opportunity to hear the “Adventures of Mutt” in person, so this was a particular thrill. It was well played, though I don’t think the orchestra had as much fun playing the work as was intended. It sounded a little too technical and not as playful as it did on album. Nevertheless, it was masterfully played and the crowd enjoyed it, too.

“Marion’s Theme” was a real treat. I thought the Maestro’s arrangement was fantastic and also interesting. I am always fascinated by his orchestration and by his abilities to stretch a simple eight bar melodic idea into an entire concert arrangement. The orchestra swelled and the Maestro’s musicality had an opportunity to show itself once again as he played with the tempo and gave the performance some much-needed “push and pull”. “Marion’s Theme” was definitely a highlight!

Flight to Neverland from Hook

The montage of film clips (all about flying) was a great addition to the performance, although I would have been fine just hearing the orchestra play. It still amazes me how well that piece is “cast” in the sense that every instrument beautifully compliments the color of another. It was great to FINALLY get to hear it live.

A Tribute to the Film Composer

This was a thrill for me because I loved it ever since I first heard it performed at the Academy Awards in 2003 (for the year 2002). It, too, had a slower tempo than its debut performance and I could see the Maestro struggling to keep up with the film in some points (I was watching his monitor and he seemed surprised, at times, by how quickly the streamer went by). But all in all, it was great to hear this work and I enjoyed the new clips that accompanied the film.

Techniques of Film Scoring
(The Circus Train Chase from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade)

As an aspiring film orchestrator/studio conductor (not so much a composer-wannabe), this was a particular highlight. It was great to listen to the Maestro discuss how he went about scoring the cue and the way in which he and Spielberg discuss when there should be a textural change in the music. In particular, I enjoyed the explanation of the “empty measure” of music. Fans in attendance (and fans of the scene) will know what I mean! I remember the Maestro describing the scene in the 2003 DVD release of the Indiana Jones series and mentioning there were 50-some sync points in the cue. The Maestro missed several that night, but got about 40 of them spot-on!

Theme from Laura (Julian Lee, violin soloist)

Well performed and warmly received by the audience.

The Duel from The Adventures of Tintin

The Duel was set to several clips from swashbuckling films ranging from several Errol Flynn films, to Indiana Jones (with a very funny placement at the end), to Tintin itself. It was almost as if the Maestro saved his energy for this piece because he synced it with the picture perfectly. This is one of my favorite cues from “Tintin”, so it was great to finally hear it live.

Three Pieces from Star Wars
(The Imperial March – Yoda’s Theme – Main Title)

The selections from “Star Wars” were great. In particular, “The Imperial March” was great. I heard the Maestro conduct that work ten years ago in his debut concert with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Ten years later, it’s still a real gem and, like the “Main Title”, an absolute master class in orchestration. “Yoda’s Theme” was pleasant, and the “Main Title” performance was fine, too. “The Imperial March” stole the show, in my opinion.


Luke and Leia from Return of the Jedi

One of John Williams’ forgotten gems was performed as an encore and it was great to hear “Luke and Leia” at the concert. I was disappointed that the arrangement was edited and a little shorter than the Greatest Hits 1969-1999 (the “bridge” was cut out/severely shortened), but it was still great. Again, the Maestro’s adept understanding of the orchestra was in full display for the crowd. Good performance all the way around.

Flying Theme from E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial

Great performance! So great to hear this in person. Flawless performances from the orchestra and the crowd loved it, too. You could tell who the “real” JW fans were because we recognized the work right away, whereas many in the crowd had to wait until the main theme comes in 15-20 seconds into it.

Stars And Stripes Forever

It just wasn’t really a Pops concert until this moment. As great as it was to hear the Pops play all evening and to see the Maestro conduct, the preeminent Sousa march was a perfect close to the evening. The clapping by the audience was OK, but I could have done without it. I like the way JW cut the crowd off during the trio and I could almost see a look of “that’s enough now” come across his face. The crowd resumed the clapping after the dogfight and the flag was unfurled and a beautiful wall of stars was projected for the crowd. It was brilliant.



Lows: I thought it’d be great to go to the Pops and sit on the floor section, be with the crowd, and maybe order some food. Little did I know that the very experience I craved would end up annoying the heck out of me. I sat at a table with a family, complete with two young boys. They both ordered candy with super noisy wrappers and asked questions throughout the entire first set. I know they’re only kids, but the parents should have known better “…we’re only here for Star Wars” they kept saying. Thankfully, they relocated after intermission, haha.

I was particularly disappointed with the trumpet and tuba principal players. As a trained tubist myself, I couldn’t believe how many notes Mike Roylance missed on Friday (and Wednesday at the Pixar concert, too!). He missed entrances in a couple pieces and crapped the bed on several sections throughout the evening, too. Looking back at the Maestro’s “Fanfare for Fenway” performance from last summer, Roylance fracked his entrance at the outset of that work, too. I have been to masterclasses of his, and he is a great player, but he was having a rough, rough week.

Highs: This was my very first Boston Pops concert, but it won’t be my last! I have seen JW conduct in concerts before, especially in Chicago. But the opportunity to see him conduct at Symphony Hall was such a thrill. It was like watching your favorite football team play away games over and over again before finally getting the opportunity to see them play at their home stadium. The Boston crowd loved him and he had great affection for them, too.

For a musician like myself, it was a great experience and I was particularly moved to see his musicianship at work, in person. I have long appreciated his work as a composer and as a master of orchestration. I have found him to be an adequate conductor the times I had seen him conduct (either through video or in person) until last Friday. He took liberties, took risks, and they all paid off. Perhaps the average audience member didn’t notice the freedom he employed in his music making, but I did, and it was such a special treat and surprise. My trip to the Pops was easily the best concert I’ve been to yet!

Concert Review by ‘dfenton85’ (original post)

Well, that was a wonderfully enjoyable evening and well worth the trip across the Atlantic. I had not expected to get his autograph but I decided to wait at the stage door before the concert with the other people from JWFan and I was able to get The Phantom Menace signed. I was the last person he signed an autograph for so I feel very lucky. Meaghan got Jaws signed and the front blue and white cover with his signature in black across the front looks awesome so I might try for that next year. A really great way to start the evening, despite the presence of a slightly overzealous security guard who probably thinks he’s Clint Eastwood from In The Line of Fire!

As in New York a few years ago, I was seated at the front row only a few feet from JW. Once again, I thought he was in great shape for his age and was in good humor throughout the evening. It was fantastic hearing Lincoln live and it sounded amazing. His concert arrangement of Marion’s Theme was another beautiful highlight from the first half and I hope someone records that radio broadcast of the concert in a few weeks purely for that piece. There were also a couple of nicely edited montages and I especially liked the “Flight” montage accompanied by Hook which JW said he got a kick out of. It was interesting that the shot of Abrams’ Enterprise at the very end of that clip got a little cheer.

I found his “film scoring techniques” segment fascinating as it gave us a just a small glimpse into the type of discussions he has with Spielberg. The audience seemed to respond well to it also especially when he said “that is our assignment”.

I always find these concerts a little surreal because film music is such a niche and knowing anyone in your offline life who knows anything about film music is such a rarity; so seeing an entire symphony hall filled with people who want to see JW was nice, especially the immediate standing ovation he got the instant the Star Wars main theme finished. Of course, there is a considerable difference between the general public who wants to hear old favorites such as ET, Star Wars, Indy  to hardcore fans to scour video game files for unreleased music but it was still nice to see so much admiration for him.

I noticed a few little moments during the concert. Firstly, at one point a women to my right was removed for recording with her phone. Later at the end of the evening, JW pointed to her and made a little camera gesture while smiling. I didn’t notice him seeing her leaving but he was probably looking at the cellos / double bass when it happened and saw it. I’m sure that little moment with him softened the blow for her of being escorted out of the hall! Secondly, at about 4 times during the Star Wars main theme, the first and second violinists laughed. They both laughed at exactly the same times and it looked like they were noticing something on the music sheet. None of the other violinists were laughing so I was wondering what the hell they could be seeing?

This was my first time attending a Pops concert. I was very impressed by Symphony Hall which looks stunning, but I wasn’t too keen on the serving of food during the show. Thankfully the people at my table didn’t eat anything so I wasn’t distracted except for a women two tables over who was opening cookies wrapped in the noisiest known to mankind, but that only lasted about a minute or so. I actually found the sight of the waiters darting between tables a little more annoying.

It was a pleasure meeting everyone, including Jason even if it was just a brief handshake and Meaghan who I had already met in New Year a few years ago. I hope to return to Boston next year and I’ll definitely attend any JWFan dinner.