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Fabulin

OST vs Concerts. Interpretations and Quality

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I have a question cluster to those who have attended some concerts of John Williams' music. 

 

Is the music better than the recorded versions when he conducts it himself?

Are there some interpretations by conductors other than JW, which in your opinion sound better than the original versions?

 

Recordings of concerts available online are obviously not on par with the quality of music from the studio, so they do not sound as good to me in that regard. Nonetheless I also feel like something is always missing emphasis-wise, even if interpretations have their unique strengths. The only exceptions for me are one BBC Proms recording of Hedwig's Theme and this magnificence:

I have read generally positive impressions regarding concerts in other threads already, but I would like to hear your opinion in direct comparisons. Maybe you have some interesting links to share?

 

I sometimes wonder what would such and such classical conductor from the past do with Williams' music, if given the chance (Kleiber, Ormandy, Ashkenazy, Szell, Furtwängler, Mahler etc.)

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There's something inherently magical about being in the same space with the musicians and hearing them speak through their instruments. I've never heard any configuration of recording and playback equipment that can replicate that feeling. So live concerts will always have that (very significant) appeal for me.

 

That being said, I do tend to get a little attached to whatever performance I hear first and/or most often, so sometimes the differing artistic interpretation in a live concert setting can throw me off a little. (Same goes for rerecordings, for that matter.) Another factor to consider is that in a live setting, any attempts to "mix" the music differently or add electronic elements will necessitate amplification, which starts to move the feeling closer to a recording anyway. And then of course, a film recording is going to consist of one or more takes that were selected for their superior performance; with live music, you get what you get, and then the moment passes.

 

Bottom line, I love hearing music that's been skillfully recorded and I love hearing music that's being skillfully played live. But they do appeal to me for slightly different reasons.

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I find that because I am always more familiar with the recording, if the music is a little but different in say pitch or or tempo or something in a concert, it throws me off a little. 

 

But I think it is good to listen to multiple versions as it drives home the fact that one recording is not the absolute, but the actual written music is. It can be interpreted multiple different ways.

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There obviously is nothing that can match the experience of a live concert, with the energy of a live audience.

 

Having said that, I attended multiple concerts with JW and the Boston Pops when I lived in Boston a few years back and in each one found the tempos Williams chose in some pieces to be significantly slower than the original recordings.

 

Of course, it’s all subjective, and it’s certainly not unheard of for conductors to relax tempos as they get older. But they were significantly slower to the point where I felt they were quite sluggish, and would definitely prefer the original recording.

 

The most memorable performance of any Williams piece I ever heard live was of the Close Encounters suite with Osmo Vänksä and the Minnesota Orchestra—and I’d take that performance, as subjective as any live piece is—over any of the recordings.

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There is something special about hearing The Maestro conduct his own iconic music in concert.  Equally exciting is watching him at work.  Unfortunately, since he works on high profile franchises, these are never open sessions and performers are sworn to secrecy at the fear of career death if they talk publicly about the experience.  One day, I hope Spielberg will release some of the hours of footage he took during scoring sessions. I posted an interview with a performer who grew up loving JW and how excited he was to perform under him here (Randy Campora/BSO)  and here (Jim Nova/PSO) if you are interested. Looking for my own recollections of his week at USC which I'll post when I find.

 

I have heard JW conduct many times and others conduct his music probably even more so.  Then of course own many of the CD's over the years.  They can certainly be fine, just different.  For example, I think Charles Gerhardt's and Zubin Mehta's contemporaneous recordings are excellent but differ from Williams own.  Gerhardt and Mehta are more sweepingly romantic and operatic in a Wagner/Puccini way.  That certainly fits the music and makes it far more lush.  For example, they might have more rubato or variation of the tempo within a phrase in a way that opera conductors typically have to do.  For the Princess Leia theme, it has a sort of Tristan und Isolde build up towards the sweeping climax and these opera composers really hit the breaks reveling in that drama.  Williams' own interpretations are full of rubato but the end feel is that they are taughter so the rubato might be more for hitting a specific hit where it is phrased freely between.  My point is it is very possible to enjoy these different interpretations though the JW version adds a considerable IT-factor to the experience.   
 

 

 

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I'd say the Mehta recording doesn't hold up that well. Gerhardt's and Kojian's, on the other hand, do in spades.

 

On 2/3/2019 at 7:00 AM, Stefancos said:

There's nothing quite like hearing the music live!

 

...and that can really be said about all orchestral music! :)

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14 hours ago, Stempel said:

The best Interpretation of the SW Main Title: Morton Gould / LSO (1978) 

I like Gerhardt' Empire more than the OST. 

Uh, ok... I will look around for them. I found Gerhard's Han Solo and The Princess and it was very nice

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On 2/7/2019 at 9:28 AM, Ii2 said:

I prefer OST. In concert, composers tend to change the music a bit and it doesn't really sound the same.

 

When I experienced Williams doing the HP suite live, they sounded so close to the recorded versions, it was like hearing the OSTs on a really great sound system.

 

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1 hour ago, Horner's Dynamic Range said:

 

When I experienced Williams doing the HP suite live, they sounded so close to the recorded versions, it was like hearing the OSTs on a really great sound system.

 

 

Maybe they were just playing the instruments silently and had the CD going to cover themselves.

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On 2/4/2019 at 1:29 PM, aviazn said:

 

 

The most memorable performance of any Williams piece I ever heard live was of the Close Encounters suite with Osmo Vänksä and the Minnesota Orchestra—and I’d take that performance, as subjective as any live piece is—over any of the recordings.

 

That is interesting!! My favorite score!! I played in the Lahti symphony orchestra(Finland) some Jurassic Park music and the sheet music was owned by his company, he must be a fan!! btw it is Vänskä🙂

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On 2/7/2019 at 1:27 PM, Fabulin said:

Uh, ok... I will look around for them. I found Gerhard's Han Solo and The Princess and it was very nice

 

Here you go

 

 

I've never heard this version before and it is certainly bold. I like it! 


edit: Wow it gets really stately, too. And quiet! The dynamics in this recording are really impressive. Not just in terms of recording, but in the way the orchestra is performing the material. 

few mistakes here and there though. And a pretty iffy transition to the end title suite

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So the question is this:

Is a live concert, conducted by X, better than a recorded counterpart, conducted by JW that you listen to at home?

 

Jeez, it’s impossible to answer. It’s two different things.

 

I attended the LSO London concert last year, and if I could take that home with me, I’d have those poor players playing the damn thing over and over again until they keeled over from exhaustion. If only my apartment were as big as the Royal Albert! 😂

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My previous statement was incorrect, there'a  some  exceptions where Williams composed a better version after the OST was out:

 

Double Trouble

Irina's Theme

Window to the Past

Han Solo and the Princess

Out to Sea/Shark Cage Fugue

The Lost World

etc...

 

But when he didn't alter it the OST is usually better

Or he might have altered it for the worse, like Adventures on Earth,and CE3K

 

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it doesn't have the ouch insert, and in general the perfomance is always subpar  to the OST with the strings especially

 

CE3K never has the choir in concert, the 5 note theme opening the End Credits is different (similar case to ouch insert in E.T.) and no Special Edition When you Wish upon a Star

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Adventures leaves out the buildup and the fantastic transition (Escape-Bike Chase), messes with the structure (we have the buildup to Flying but fall flat on our asses and go right into Departure?) and always fails to be better performed than the original film takes.

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