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John Williams in Concert, Sydney, 2014

Sydney Symphony Concert John Williams International

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#1 zoltan_902

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Posted 27 February 2014 - 05:29 PM

I'm looking forward to a John Williams concert in here in Sydney, Australia, this Saturday (01/03/2014):

Robertson conducts John Williams Music from the Movies

http://www.sydneysym...n-williams.aspx

 

The Sydney Symphony orchestra (SSO) will play an evening of JW pieces under their new Chief Conductor, David Robertson.

 

I'll eagerly write a review of the concert in the days to follow.

 

It's the third SSO all-JW concert I have attended so far. Cynically, they tend to be a quick cash-grab for the orchestra by appealing to kids and other pop-culture buffs who wouldn't otherwise attend a symphony concert. The conductor, David Robertson, is using the concert as a way to demonstrate his embrace of American 'pops' music. I call it that, despite my deep resentment of JW music (or film music in general) being referred to 'popular'. As many will point out, 'popular' has a very stubborn musical connotation of 'inferior', and despite how far and wide JW's music has reached, it can barely be called 'popular' (in the commercial sense, despite it's immense success), and absolutely not inferior (or unsophisticated) - quite the opposite, but of course I'm preaching to the converted here.

 

The last JW concert here in Sydney was back in 2011 (I'm noticing roughly a 3-year cycle). It was a mediocre performance from the orchestra, who sounded almost like they were sight-reading. Broad appeal was generated by blending in the presence of prominent Aussie host/comedian, Shaun Micallef. Most of the night I wished he'd just shut-up and let the orchestra play. With Robertson (an American himself, hence the concert) hosting this time, I hope I can look forward to the orchestra playing with 'dignity'. Encouragingly, there will be voices involved, which gives me hope of Hymn to the Fallen being played (possibly my favourie JW piece). They will definitly be playing from 'Empire of the Sun' according to the press release.

 

Of course, in the end of the day, I'm extremely grateful for the orchestra recognising the appeal and importance of JW music (and film music in general), and I look forward to attending their concerts at any rate - no matter how much intellectual snobbery I may display in this writing!

 

The only step up at the moment is hoping for JW himself to come to Oz, but he seems very content with sticking to his homeland at the moment. Looks like I'll just have to try make it to Boston in June.

 

Review to follow! 

 

UPDATE:

This concert was recorded for later broadcast, and will be aired on ABC Classic FM on Sunday, 16/03/2014 at 2pm Australian EDST. 92.9FM in Sydney. The rest of the world can stream it through the ABC Classic website http://www.abc.net.au/classic.



#2 zoltan_902

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Posted 03 March 2014 - 03:15 PM

Finally, I can write a review - by the time I'd come home from the concert I'd forgotten much of the set list. The only detail that the offical concert program gave was a general list of the films from which music had been selected.

 

The Sydney Symphony have now published an offical list of pieces played in the concert, so I can reflect on them individually:

  1. Jurassic Park (Main Theme) - was an odd choice to open the program, considering that previous such concerts had both opened with 'Olympic Fanfare and Theme - but David Robertson (conductor/host) slyly explained "let's start from the beginning - 600 million years ago!". It was a fine performance. The tender first half demonstrated robust winds, but I think the strings, despite how hard they tried, were doomed by the Sydney Opera House's abysmal acoustics. Unfortunately, despite the SSO's highly talented brass section, they too were underpowered even through the powerhouse second-half of the piece. I was very relieved therefore, that at least the percussion section (of which there were no less than six musican - not counting the timpani) knew to compensate for themselves and didn't hold back for much of the night. Go clash cymbals all the way!!!
  2. Jaws (Main Theme) - This was impressive as it could get. I remember being very pleased with the performance. Strong bass, as it should be.
  3. Harry Potter - Hedwig's Theme  - fantastic celeste playing stole the performance
  4. Harry Potter - Double Trouble -  I was absolutely delighted to hear this piece included. Present with the orchestra was the Sydney Children's Choir, and the Gondwana Allumni Choir. This piece would otherwise be easily left out of a concert like this, but with a choir, this rendition of the concert version (quite different from the soundtrack-album version) was great. I noticed some of the percussion parts had been ignored (I think they ran out of players!). Again, I could here the choir from where I was sitting on the stage side box, but I doubt those left to the back rows could hear very well. (Again, a poor acoustic environment).  
  5. Harry Potter - Harry's Wondrous World - The orchestra back in the spotlight. Nothing to fault. A staple piece of any film-music concert after all.
  6. Amistad - Dry Your Tears, Afrika - This was arguably the highlight piece of the evening for me. The percussion section was rocking! The whole orchestra seemed to enjoy. The horns need more power, but, this again, was about choir and percussion, and they delivered.
  7. Raiders March - Robertson didn't even bother introducing the piece, instead inviting us to  show applause when we recognised melody. Most of the hall clapped in the first two bars! On a personal note, I find quite jarring that the concert version of this piece introduces the iconic main trumpet theme in mezzo-forte, when I think it should just be belted out at top volume from the get-go. Still they obviously performed to the written instruction. What can you do.

INTERVAL

  1. Adventures on Earth - Robertson told the legendary edit/recording story behind this piece. Admittedly, I didn't focus much through this piece. I'm not much a fan of it - significantly because I HATE the anti-climactic transition from the chase music to the 'goodbye' music, leaving out the 'flying' music. I applauded when it ended, more for the fact that we could move on.
  2. Schindler's List - Jewish Town - Another highlight. Concert-master/soloist Andrew Haveron did an amazing job. Again, I could barely hear him(!), even though he was mic'd. Not-so coincidentally, I'd watched a bit of Schindler's List the previous night, adding to the poignancy.
  3. Schindler's List - Main Theme - Just as good as the previous. Another film-music concert staple.
  4. Star Wars - Main Theme - The opening blast - wow!!! Playing with shrill conspicuousness, I appreciated the piccolo player the entire evening - and that opening note in itself made it. A fine performace.
  5. Star Wars - Duel of the Fates - a real thrill to hear performed live. I could hear that the choir had been well versed in the diction of the lyrics, to emphasise rhythm. Something never struck me right with the slightly altered concert version of this piece - something to do with a dumber percussion part. I dunno. The last two notes played loud and crisp - a satisfying ending.
  6. Star Wars - The Imperial March - Good. (nothing else to note....).

ENCORES

 

  1. Hymn to the Fallen - I was also thrilled to hear this piece live - it's arguable my favourite JW piece (or, was). I haven't come across any live or recorded rendition of the piece that quite captures the perfection of the official soundtrack recording - and I think it has to do with the choral interpretation, as well as the very delicate mix of 'jumpy strings to legato melody' in the second half, and the climax of the piece. Still this was of course a fantastic way to use the choir.
  2. Superman March - Introduced by Robertson as a tribute to the Super-men and women of the orchestra and choir. Again, very pleasing, and demostrating a solid brass section.

So yeah, that about sums it up. Next time I hear any of these pieces, I hope it will be in Boston Symphony Hall, with JW himself conducting - I already bought the tickets, only time and budget will tell if I can make it. I profoundly hope that if JW does retire in the near future (ha!), that he spends some time with more international touring. I'll be sitting front and centre (actually no I'll be sitting on the side right next to the orchestra!).

 

Cheers guys!



#3 Jay

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Posted 03 March 2014 - 03:47 PM

Sounds like a fun concert!

 

Don't think I've heard Jewish Town live myself



#4 Omen II

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Posted 07 March 2014 - 09:56 PM

Nice review, Zoltan!  Sydney Opera House is one of my favourite buildings anywhere in the world and although I have been inside it once, alas I did not get the chance to see a concert there.  It would be a dream to see a John Williams concert in that building.
 
It was interesting to see you mention Andrew Haveron as the violin soloist in Schindler's List.  I have seen him many times leading the BBC Symphony, Philharmonia and John Wilson Orchestras here in London and he is undoubtedly one of the best orchestral musicians we have (or perhaps I should say had!).  Here he is leading the JWO in the Barn Dance from the musical Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.
 
http://www.youtube.c...h?v=WJV4SqQdFlA
 


  • Schindler's List - Jewish Town - Another highlight. Concert-master/soloist Andrew Haveron did an amazing job. Again, I could barely hear him(!), even though he was mic'd. Not-so coincidentally, I'd watched a bit of Schindler's List the previous night, adding to the poignancy.
  • Schindler's List - Main Theme - Just as good as the previous. Another film-music concert staple.

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#5 zoltan_902

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Posted 10 March 2014 - 04:22 PM

Thanks for the kind comments Omen II!

 

Whereabouts in the world do you live?

 

I've lived in Sydney all my life, and the Sydney Opera House never fails to make me feel proud of being a SydneySider. The physical design and location of the building is something out a dream, especially if you have the fortune of enjoying the Manly-to-Circular Quay ferry ride, which gives you, in my humble opinion, the absolutely most spectacular visual feast this Earth has to offer. Indeed most tourists feel honoured to attend a concert at the Opera House, but as someone who'se enjoyed a lifetime of attendance at the venue, I sadly cannot speak highly of the acoustic environment. Quite frankly, the acoustics inside the concert hall are abysmal, and this is in fact an unintended consequence of a creative/political/financial dispute at the time of the building's construction between the architect, Jorn Utzon, and the Government of the time.

 

Thanks for the link to the video. I have seen it before, though I wouldn't have recognised the violinist, as, it happens that during the concert, I got seats to the immediate stage-right of the orchestra (my favourite seats), and therefore saw Mr Haveron performing from behind. Anecdotally, he happens to have somewhat of a resemblance to Australian actor Kevin Harrington.



#6 Omen II

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Posted 10 March 2014 - 06:52 PM

Thanks for the kind comments Omen II!

 

Whereabouts in the world do you live?

 

I live in London, but visited Sydney a few years ago when I did indeed take the ferry around the harbour and out to Manly.  I still remember my excitement when catching my first glimpse of the Sydney Opera House from the plane from Auckland as it circled over the harbour before coming in to land at Sydney.  Funnily enough I have just returned a few days ago from another trip to New Zealand so was 'only' a 3-hour flight away from Sydney when this concert was on.

 

I remember reading about the spiralling costs and controversy when the Opera House was built, but there is no doubt that it is now one of the great architectural wonders of the modern world.


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#7 Richard

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Posted 15 March 2014 - 04:03 AM

Thanks for the kind comments Omen II!

 

Whereabouts in the world do you live?

 

I've lived in Sydney all my life, and the Sydney Opera House never fails to make me feel proud of being a SydneySider. The physical design and location of the building is something out a dream, especially if you have the fortune of enjoying the Manly-to-Circular Quay ferry ride, which gives you, in my humble opinion, the absolutely most spectacular visual feast this Earth has to offer. Indeed most tourists feel honoured to attend a concert at the Opera House, but as someone who'se enjoyed a lifetime of attendance at the venue, I sadly cannot speak highly of the acoustic environment. Quite frankly, the acoustics inside the concert hall are abysmal, and this is in fact an unintended consequence of a creative/political/financial dispute at the time of the building's construction between the architect, Jorn Utzon, and the Government of the time.

 

Thanks for the link to the video. I have seen it before, though I wouldn't have recognised the violinist, as, it happens that during the concert, I got seats to the immediate stage-right of the orchestra (my favourite seats), and therefore saw Mr Haveron performing from behind. Anecdotally, he happens to have somewhat of a resemblance to Australian actor Kevin Harrington.

 

Didn't Germaine Greer once say that the SOH looked like "copulating scallops"? :lol:







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