Chicago, November 25, 26 & 29

Chicago Symphony Center, Chicago, IL
Friday, November 25, Saturday, November 26 & Tuesday, November 29, 2005
The Chicago Symphony Orchestra conducted by JOHN WILLIAMS

“John Williams Conducts Movie Music”

Concert Review by ‘Next_Spielberg’

 “Concert music is not perfect. Concert music is WONDERFUL.”
-Dale Clevenger

Two years ago John Williams brilliantly conducted the Chicago Symphony as part of the premiere of hisHorn Concerto. The CSO had commissioned him to compose it for their principal horn player, Dale Clevenger. This set the stage for his return this November 26th concert, the second of three that Williams will conduct.

This time, John Williams organized another excellent concert combining his own works with those of other legendary composers. Among those honored were the recently deceased Jerry Goldsmith, David Raskin, and Elmer Bernstein. Mr. Williams seemed particularly emotional as he introduced his tribute to them. John Williams had a history with these composers, playing in their orchestras at the age of 12, as he noted last night.

The latest concert offered a mix of old favorites and new hits. Among these favorites was the concert’s first piece, The Cowboys Overture. The CSO played it beautifully to John Williams’ emphatic lead.

Another of Williams’s hits in the 70’s, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, was brought to life by the symphony. The piece starts out in its dark manner and evolves into the light, 5-note melody so integral to the film.

After this piece finished, Williams introduced his next piece by comparing the benevolent alien encounters of the former to the dark, dangerous o­nes of the two pieces to come: from War of the Worlds. First came Escape from the City, a complex action sequence that was well performed. Then came the sad, but pleasing epilogue, which Williams brought to life again with the CSO.

Williams, tribute came next. Jerry Goldsmith’s Star Trek: The Motion Picture came first, and it was played wonderfully. Raskin’s Laura, arguably the best love theme according to Williams, followed. Bernstein’s Magnificent Seven Suite was energetically played rather well.

This was followed by Newman’s Conquest from Captain from Castile, which concluded the first half of the concert.

After intermission, John Williams began with his Tribute to the Film composer, which made the audience laugh and cheer at various points when especially recognizable melodies appeared, as from Star Wars,The Pink PantherPsychoTitanicJawsE.T., and others.

Instead of Korngold’s The Sea Hawk, John Williams decided to play a “jazzy little piece,” the March from1941. This was an enjoyable cousin of The Cowboys Overture.

Out to Sea/Shark Cage Fugue from Jaws came next and was thoroughly appreciated even though it wasn’t the famous two-note motif synonymous with the film.

Three pieces from Harry Potter came next, and these were some of the best pieces played. Hedwig’s Theme began the magic and sounded wonderful, followed by the amazingly creative Aunt Marge’s Waltz, which the CSO played excellently. Harry’s Wondrous World finished up this section with some of the best playing to this point.

The last scheduled part of this concert was three pieces from Star Wars. The Imperial March came first, and the performance of it was superb. Anakin’s theme, which seemed an odd choice at first actually made a nice addition with an excelling performance of it. The scheduled portion appropriately concluded with Throne Room and End Title from A New Hope. This was performed flawlessly, and the audience gave a standing ovation as it closed.

This was followed by a fourth Star Wars piece, Luke and Leia, which the orchestra performed beautifully. Then John Williams presented The Mission Theme from NBC News in case anyone missed it after the concert. The Final encore was the Raider’s March, which immediately caused some applause. This was stunningly performed and the standing ovation following it continued even after Mr. Williams had left and reentered the stage several times and o­nly concluded after the orchestra members began to file off stage.

This was an excellent concert and a superb sequel to the 2003 o­nes. John Williams conducted his heart out and the orchestra’s performance showed this. Though there were perhaps a few incorrect notes the performances were all exceptional. John Williams has given yet another magnificent concert, and we all hope to see him conduct again in Chicago very soon. His concert music has been indeed WONDERFUL!

Concert Review by ‘CyclonusArmada’

I beg to differ about the concert, as my wife and I attended o­n the same night. I have seen Williams many times in concert and found that this time was very lackluster. The Cowboys is a piece that should gallop in its start and finish and this time it barely meandered. The orchestra fell out of synch often during Close Encounters of the Third Kind. The Star Trek: The Motion Picture rendition literally limped along, beginning hesitantly instead of boldly punching out of the gate. The Tribute to the Film Composer played fine during the Oscar telecast several years ago, but played live it feels like it was edited together by kids with ADD for MTV. 1941Jaws and Harry Potter were fine and lively, thank goodness, Star Wars was mostly decent but still weak, while the encores were all terribly lethargic. And I lost count of how many bum notes the trumpets were guilty of during The Raiders March – embarrassing, and I live in Chicago and frequent the CSO! Was this the result of holiday fatigue or second-string players? Even Williams seemed tired and distracted up o­n the podium…

Concert Review by Kathy Allen

I have to say that I agree with CyclonusArmada about the bad trumpet playing during the Saturday performance. (I didn’t think it was as noticable Friday.) I found myself cringing when they butchered theStar Wars Theme and the march from Raiders Of The Lost Ark. o­n the other hand, I was very impressed by the flutist Mathieu Dufour (who was prominently featured in the Jane Eyre suite Friday night), so much so that I stopped by the symphony store and picked up his CD of flute sonatas by Prokofiev, Martinu and Hindemith. I enjoyed both concerts tremendously (apart from the trumpet errors). For me, it was a thrill and an honor to see John Williams again and to observe his obvious pleasure and delight as we showered him with all our affection and admiration.

Since others have done such a great job reviewing both concerts in depth, I skipped that part and have concentrated o­n a few personal thoughts.

First, film music concerts are always going have a bit of the “greatest hits” atmosphere to them. They run the fine line between art and commerce – select too many obscure cues that o­nly diehard fans know and the general public will stay away – select o­nly the most popular cues and film music fans will be disappointed that their favorites weren’t included. I thought the Chicago concerts contained a nice mixture of both known and not-as-well-known selections with the most “popular” selections mainly reserved for the encores.

I have all the concert selections o­n various recordings and had copied them o­nto my mp3 player before leaving for Chicago, so I knew exactly what to expect beforehand. While I feel the Gerhardt conducted versions of the Golden age classics are better than JWs, it was still exciting to hear them live and to hear people in the lobby fondly reminiscing over them during the intermission and after the concerts.

I completely enjoyed the “Tribute To The Film Composer.” Sure, it’s fluff, but it’s so much fun! I’ve heard it live several times and each time the audience reaction has been the same. People clap for the snippets of JWs music (Star WarsJawsE.T.) and laugh at the theme from Pink Panther and the shower music from Psycho (although for film music fans, the placement of that music right after the theme fromTitanic has additional meaning). Wink

I thought the selections from Harry Potter were all well done, but I would have enjoyed the orchestra cutting loose a bit more during “The Knight Bus.” I thought they did a better job of getting into the spirit of the music Saturday night during the march from 1941 (an unexpected, but happy surprise addition to the concert).

I will never tire of hearing Adventures o­n Earth from E.T. or the excerpts from Close Encounters Of The Third Kind, and, although I wish he had done the more extended versions, they were still excellent. The concerts would have been worth attending for those two selections alone.

As I mentioned previously, the Jane Eyre suite was excellent and, if I had to choose o­ne main highlight from both concerts, that would have been it. o­ne of my other highlights was the unexpected pleasure of hearing the Olympic Spirit as o­ne of the encores. It doesn’t get discussed as often as the 1984 or 1996 Olympic fanfares, but it is still a fine composition and thrilling to hear live, especially accompanied by the montage of Olympic athletes in motion.

Concert Review by ‘johnnyammonite’

 I went to the Tuesday concert last night. My opinions are pretty much a mix of the two sides of this spectrum. I thought some of it was excellent, and some of it was less than so. I think the start of the show has the most missteps. Close Encounters of the Third Kind seemed a little weird, and Goldsmith’s Star Trek was hesitant to start instead of the punch of those first two booms (as stated before). But The Magnificent Seven and “Conquest” were really pretty good and it seemed like the orchestra was finally hitting its stride. “Tribute” was fun, as was everything that came after it: 1941,Jaws stuff, Harry Potter and Star Wars (“Throne Room” was the ROTS version, which has really grown o­n me. I am convinced it’s as close as we’ll ever get to the long desired “Force Theme Concert Piece”.), and the same encores mentioned before.

I, too, felt like the trumpets just lacked some confidence. They needed to really blast and hit the notes, and sometimes they just sounded unsure. Other times they were o­n the money, like during “The Imperial March”. The strings were incredible the whole time. Also, it was a surprise to hear the slide-whistles during “Aunt Margie’s Waltz”. That was new.

All in all, I really liked it, and watching JW direct for the 1st time, it is interesting to see him gesture and coax the music out of the orchestra.

Concert Review by Wynne Delacoma, from the Chicago Sun-Times (excerpt):

Many of us probably forswore dessert somewhere around 8 p.m Thanksgiving evening. Pumpkin pie o­n top of turkey will do that to you., from the Chicago Sun-Times

But 24 hours later, most of the large audience at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s “Friday Night at the Movies” concert in Symphony Center happily gobbled up the dessert cart rolled out by the CSO and guest composer/conductor John Williams. There were airy bonbons, like Williams’ potpourri samplings of Hollywood’s greatest hits, titled “Tribute to the Film Composer” and “Hooray for Hollywood.” Some of the fare was weightier but still temptingly sweet, including a suite from Williams’ Harry Potter films and excerpts from film scores by Erich Korngold, Bernard Herrmann, Alfred Newman and Max Steiner.