Williams’ Latest Concert Work Premieres in Tanglewood – Reviews

Berkshire Eagle – LENOX — Having passed the milestone of 83, John Williams knows a big anniversary when he sees one.

“Just Down West Street on the left” is the many-prize-winning film composer’s birthday present to the Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra on its 75th. The five-minute sparkler, premiered Sunday night in the student orchestra’s opening concert of the anniversary season, is also a love song to his cherished Tanglewood. (The title contains driving instructions, in case you need them.)

“Just Down West Street” opens with fanfares and quickly becomes a mini-concerto for orchestra, giving everybody a chance to join in the bustle and brilliance. Faculty conductor Stefan Asbury presided with the sure hand that, every year, whips this assemblage into shape.

Boston Globe – The piece telegraphs its genial nature through its title alone — “JUST DOWN WEST STREET . . . on the left” — in other words, directions to Tanglewood from the center of Lenox. The brief piece itself, too, has something of a welcome-to-town bearing in its bright hues and bustling, motoric churn. At the outset, jagged brass fanfares give way to a scurrying theme passed around the strings, who then take up a slightly darker Shostakovichian melody offset by burbling woodwinds, and later, vivid splashes of percussion. The ending is emphatic and effective.

The Boston Musical Intelligencer – A significant novelty opened the second half: a work composed by John Williams as a gift to the Tanglewood Music Center and the orchestra on this 75th anniversary. It is a short, vibrant, busy orchestral score—calling it a “scherzo” would not be amiss—with a title invented as a counterpart to the old joke: “How can I get to Carnegie Hall?” “Practice, practice, practice!” In the new piece the question seems to be, “How can I get to Tanglewood from downtown Lenox?” and the answer is, “Just Down West Street—on the left.”

In his own note Williams wrote of “…this little piece from which, I hope, the players of the TMC Orchestra might derive some small pleasure.” That pleasure certainly involves the lively interplay of tricky fanfares, busy 16th-note figures in the strings, later elements added by woodwinds against strings, building to a sonorous climax leading to a gulp-inducing sudden ending. It is a virtuoso showpiece that kept Stefan Asbury and the players busy and intent to enthusiastic purpose.