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John Williams: the interpretor.


Naïve Old Fart
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I'm not sure if a thread such as this has already been created (apologies, if it has), but...I'm curious to know what JWfaners think about JW's conducting of other composers' works.

It's probably true to say that he conducts, mostly, his own music, either on record, or in concert, but he does like to venture out into other composer territory. 

How do JWfaners feel about his presentation of other people's music? Does he do the music justice? Does he "interpret" the music well, and, if so, how?

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John Williams is known not only as a great composer, but also as one the best contemporary conductors worldwide. Every conductor of classical music knows John Williams. 

 

He's a legend, not only in the film (music) community, but in the entire music business worldwide.

 

 

 

 

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Yes he's a great conductor, especially of his own music.

 

But he's a conductor of "Pops", and for people that comes from the classical world.... it's pejorative.

 

Both Erich Kunzel and John Williams recorded great classical music albums... But I never saw one of their album recommended in any classical music Guide.

 

It doesn't mean their recordings are not good.  I actually find a lot of them very good.  What about all his re-recording of movie music composed by others, that's a great part of his career too! Very great interpretations most of the time (well, except when there's a beat in the music). ;)

 

The Planets conducted by John Williams, is actually I think a version that can be recommended.  Who better than him can conduct Star Wars Gustav Holst's Music? :D

 

Anyway, that's why I created the very online first true discography of "John Williams as a performer", because I wanted to include together all his scores and the albums he recorded as a conductor. Isn't great to see all his albums in chronological order, OSTs and BPO albums mixed together?

 

I mean, his discography as a conductor is really impressive! It's not a "little" side of "John Williams", IT'S John Williams.  John Williams is maybe considered primarily as a movie composer in the mind of many people (on this forum particularly), but he's much more than that!

 

He truly deserved a discography to show all the aspects of his long and fruitfull career.

 

And I dit it. :P

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I'm not sure I would call Williams a Pops conductor. Certainly not over his association with the Boston Pops, as he has conducted quite a few non-pops concerts, and his Film Night concert aren't, at least in my mind, Pops concerts. But that's not my main point here...

At least his albums "The Five Sacred Trees" and "Yo-Yo Ma Plays..." where Editor's pick of the Month on Gramophone Magazine, and the former, which had him conducting music by Hovahness, Takemitsu and Picker was praised highly for his conducting, mainly the Takemitsu, which one reviewer considered, at the time, the best recorded performance available.

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3 hours ago, Josh500 said:

John Williams is known not only as a great composer, but also as one the best contemporary conductors worldwide. Every conductor of classical music knows John Williams. 

 

This kindergarten level simplistic praise is both laughable and untrue. 

 

We have indeed had threads about this. He's a fine conductor, but I've never been overwhelmed by his abilities, and I think there are better even just in film music.  His stint with the Pops notwithstanding, he doesn't have anything approaching a big reputation as a conductor.  

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4 hours ago, Josh500 said:

John Williams is known not only as a great composer, but also as one the best contemporary conductors worldwide. Every conductor of classical music knows John Williams. 

 

He's a legend, not only in the film (music) community, but in the entire music business worldwide.

 

 

 

 

 

That's silly. Williams does fine what he needs to do, but by no means he's considered one of the best conductors worldwide. He even admits not being a great conductor in interviews. 

 

As for interpreting other's works, I frankly don't know - I'll check out his Planets recording :)

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Ignore Josh, he's an insufferable JW arse licker who will misinform and revise accepted wisdom to suit his cosy walled garden view of his favourite composer.

 

A bit like me actually. But I do know John Williams is a better composer than he is a conductor. He's good not great.

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Williams is certainly not among the greatest conductors in the world, but he's pretty good. Personally, I'm more fascinated when he's interpreting other people's music through his piano playing -- whether it was those old films or jazz albums, or even -- and particularly -- classical music like the Prokofiev album from the 70s.

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1 hour ago, Quintus said:

Even with that said; nobody and I mean NOBODY conducts John's own music better than the man himself.

 

I agree. I never hear a cue of his he conducted and think, for example, that it was too slow or too fast. The way he conducts, he seems to find just the perfect tempo (among other things) for everything, and that is no mean feat!

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2 hours ago, Quintus said:

Even with that said; nobody and I mean NOBODY conducts John's own music better than the man himself.

 

This.

 

Other than that, a good conductor, but hardly the world's greatest.

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46 minutes ago, Ludwig said:

 

I agree. I never hear a cue of his he conducted and think, for example, that it was too slow or too fast. The way he conducts, he seems to find just the perfect tempo (among other things) for everything, and that is no mean feat!

 

I've always felt as though his success as a conductor comes from his deep knowledge of the symphony orchestra.  He always seems to know just how to get the right balance, intonation, and phrasing.  His recording of The Planets, for example, is quite good; as good as any other recording I've heard.  There's nothing new or earth-shattering about it, but the contrasts between movements is handled very well, and the whole thing just works; I'm not really sure how else to put it.  (Of course it helps tremendously that the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and by extension the Boston Pops, is among the finest in the world.)

 

As to whether his technical skills, as in his arm movements, are sloppy or not, I couldn't really care less.  It's the finished product that matters, and I've always found his recordings and live concerts to be wonderful.

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Nobody knows your music better than you, at least, not when you're dealing with film scoring schedules, where even a veteran like Pete Anthony won't be able to get as intimate with the music as its composer is in the time allotted.  If you've got any ability on the podium, you'll turn out the most "pure" performance by doing it yourself.  But what do I know.

 

Big part of what happened with the Hobbit scores I reckon - Shore is an extraordinary conductor, and to remove something so significant from the process... just bad.

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28 minutes ago, Thor said:

What is everyone's take on Williams' conducting of Vangelis' CHARIOTS OF FIRE?

 

I think it’s pretty good; and I prefer the arrangement on “Aisle Seat” to the “Summon the Heroes” version.  Seems to stay closer to the original. 

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5 hours ago, Stefancos said:

Isn't he just an average conductor? Ive heard say his movements are actually rather sloppy.

 

Would you judge a conductor by his movements?!

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2 hours ago, El Jefe said:

Just don’t listen to Williams conducting Goldsmiths ST:TMP and you’ll be fine.

 

Yeah, he conducted that like he was stuck in the wormhole.  “Phoootonnnnn torpeeedoooooooes, Captain..... awaaaaaay!”

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As an "interpreter" of other people's music, I think JW is first and foremost a fantastic arranger. For example, listen to how he arranges and re-orchestrates the Main Theme from The Color Purple. His arrangement brings out the strength of the main melody while also making the work appropriate for a full orchestral sound without becoming heavy or overbearing. JW did arrange this version right? I wouldn't want to be wrong about that after singing its praises!

 

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38 minutes ago, Lewya said:

I hope this is a joke. Williams is not a great conductor at all. He is FAR from one of the best contemporary conductors worldwide. Just because they know him does not make his skills great. He made his name in a completely different field. Williams is by no means a legend in the field of "serious" conducting. He is not even close of making substantial entry in the field like say Andre Previn has.

 

Being a world-class conductor, no more no less, in a big, one of the best symphony orchestras in the world (say top 10 or 20) for at least a decade = substantial entry to me. To become a legend you obviously need a lot more than that. Bernstein and Boulez are two examples of two opposites legends and Toscanini, perhaps the greatest since he appealed more or less equally to both camps if I am not mistaken.

 

Williams is a functionable conductor who can sometimes be good. He can get many jobs done pretty well (without any whatsoever impressive intepretation skill - it tends to be straight-forward), that's about it.

 

Williams is a legend in the field of film music, but certainly not a legend in any field beyond that. His conducting skills = functionable, OK, can be good, but again nothing great or special - FAR from the best conductors. His concert music = professional, showcases solid craft and understanding of the medium, but no masterpiece(s) or even near or anything beyond professional for the vast majority of time (he has his moments). He could be considered a competent composer in the field of pure concert music, but certainly not great. A great composer must have quite a few great pieces under his name - preferably a masterpiece or two as well which helps a bit to help secure the "greatness" - Williams does not have that, he only has a number of less than good pieces and OK to pretty good pieces. Certainly not many or even a handful of great pieces. I guess a few of the pieces are open for debate a bit, but the point still stands.

 

Herrmann was a better conductor, he was more than a functionable (sometimes good) conductor like Williams is - Herrmann was actually a throughly good conductor who could sometimes be great.

 

You sound like a typical arrogant ignoramus who likes using big words and hearing themselves talk, although they don't know much. 

 

It's not my opinion. It's the opinion of many classical conductors. It's no secret that John Williams is a known as a first-rate conductor, although many would only damn him with faint praise. Maybe you don't like this fact, but it's true.... 

 

For your information, I'm case you didn't know, Herrmann is long dead. I'm talking about contemporary living conductors. 

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41 minutes ago, Lewya said:

I hope this is a joke. Williams is not a great conductor at all. He is FAR from one of the best contemporary conductors worldwide. Just because they know him does not make his skills great. He made his name in a completely different field. Williams is by no means a legend in the field of "serious" conducting. He is not even close of making substantial entry in the field like say Andre Previn has.

 

Being a world-class conductor, no more no less, in a big, one of the best symphony orchestras in the world (say top 10 or 20) for at least a decade = substantial entry to me. To become a legend you obviously need a lot more than that. Bernstein and Boulez are two examples of two opposite legends and Toscanini, perhaps the greatest since he appealed more or less equally to both camps if I am not mistaken.

 

Williams is a functionable conductor who can sometimes be good. He can get many jobs done pretty well (without any whatsoever impressive intepretation skill - it tends to be straight-forward), that's about it.

 

Williams is a legend in the field of film music, but certainly not a legend in any field beyond that. His conducting skills = functionable, OK, can be good, but again nothing great or special - FAR from the best conductors. His concert music = professional, showcases solid craft and understanding of the medium, but no masterpiece(s) or even near or anything beyond professional for the vast majority of time (he has his moments). He could be considered a competent composer in the field of pure concert music, but certainly not great. A great composer must have quite a few great pieces under his name - preferably a masterpiece or two as well which helps a bit to help secure the "greatness" - Williams does not have that, he only has a number of less than good pieces and OK to pretty good pieces. Certainly not many or even a handful of great pieces. I guess a few of the pieces are open for debate a bit, but the point still stands.

 

Herrmann was a better conductor, he was more than a functionable (sometimes good) conductor like Williams is - Herrmann was actually a throughly good conductor who could sometimes be great.

 

I agree with most of this, but I'd say Soundings and The Five Sacred Trees are pretty pretty close to masterpieces.

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5 hours ago, Muad'Dib said:

 

I agree with most of this, but I'd say Soundings and The Five Sacred Trees are pretty pretty close to masterpieces.

 

I agree too, and would add the Violin and Cello concertos to that. But what defines a masterpiece, is somewhat personal I guess.

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