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The John Williams Concert Work Listening and Discussion Thread


SteveMc
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Elegy is either my first or second favorite JW concert work. It is incredibly heartbreaking. Every time I listen to it, I feel the pain of loss and see pure white fields of snow in my mind. There's an excellent Legacy of John Williams interview with a cellist who has much to say about Elegy. 

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In Elegy the adaptation of a secondary film theme for a concert piece works quite well. Unlike Star Gazers where I will always prefer E.T. and Me from the OST. In comparison Star Gazers is just... long and does not have the rigor of the original arrangement. 

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Gorgeous piece. Either my favourite or second favourite JW concert piece, depending on mood and day.  Funny you should hit that one now, what with the Berlin performance.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I finally completed updating my collection of John Williams' complete concert works. I divided the 70+ works into 5 categories (or volumes), with works in chronological order within each category:

  1. Early Concert Works (1 CD)
  2. The Concertos (5 CDs)
  3. Concertos from Film Scores (1 CD): I excluded the ASM arrangements since they are already collected on the recent album
  4. Occasional Works (3 CDs): I hesitated on how to organize these works, but decided to include everything in order, even if it means Soundings is right after Call of the Champions. Definitely not the most interesting listening experience here...
  5. Chamber Works (2 CDs)

As many have already commented in this thread, it's remarkable to hear not only the sheer quantity of works but their extraordinary variety! John Williams' contribution to American music would be significant even if he had never written a single film score.

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That's nice, The Lost Folio. I wouldn't organize them the same way, but I've thought about making a playlist in iTunes that have them all in chronological order. Concert works & fanfares. I also would not include most of the pieces that are based on film pieces -- only the "pure" concert works (with some exceptions, like the Elegy).

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1 hour ago, Thor said:

I also would not include most of the pieces that are based on film pieces -- only the "pure" concert works (with some exceptions, like the Elegy).

 

That's why I put the "film concertos" in a separate volume. Some of these works deserve to be included as they can truly be considered original concert works (Escapades being the prime example). I am still wondering whether to include pieces like The Cowboys Overture, written especially for the Boston Pops, and therefore an actual concert work (I currently do not include it).

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  • 1 month later...

Seven For Luck (1998)

Well, it has been far, far too long.  No promises this time, just getting back where I left off, with this most unique piece in Williams's concert output.  A song cycle for soprano and orchestra with words by American poet Rita Dove, with the subject being seasons in a woman's life.  It was premiered by the BSO, but apparently the only widely listenable version is a reduction for soprano and piano, which is up on YT.

The compositional language is postmodern, marked by angular lyricism, soloist writing that varies between operatic leaps and conversational expression, and a sense of drama, rhythm, motion and mood that seems to state, in a different way, a lot of the musical choices JW was making in his film work at the time.  

It would be a treat to hear it in full form, the BSO and one would hope others evidently have it in their archives.

 

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Still waiting for a proper release of SEVEN FOR LUCK. If you combine video clip versions with the clips from the old 90s TV programme that showed 2-3 of the cues inbetween the Williams/Dove interview, you can hear the whole thing. But I won't be pleased untill I have the whole thing properly recorded with orchestra, on some album.

 

How does the story go again? Kathleen Battle was supposed to have performed it, but found it too difficult, so Cynthia Haymon performed it instead?

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2 hours ago, SteveMc said:

Seven For Luck (1998)

Well, it has been far, far too long.  No promises this time, just getting back where I left off, with this most unique piece in Williams's concert output.  A song cycle for soprano and orchestra with words by American poet Rita Dove, with the subject being seasons in a woman's life.  It was premiered by the BSO, but apparently the only widely listenable version is a reduction for soprano and piano, which is up on YT.

The compositional language is postmodern, marked by angular lyricism, soloist writing that varies between operatic leaps and conversational expression, and a sense of drama, rhythm, motion and mood that seems to state, in a different way, a lot of the musical choices JW was making in his film work at the time.  

It would be a treat to hear it in full form, the BSO and one would hope others evidently have it in their archives.

 

Lovely stuff, thanks for posting - I had somehow missed it being on YouTube. It is very surprising that JW has never elected to record this; maybe he prefers to stick to one soloist and didn't have enough material for a whole album?!

 

When this was originally written, I actually wrote some music to one of the poems (the one about chocolate which I think is the third - mine was also fairly angular and chromatic) when someone posted the words to a couple of poems online. Think I had intended for it to be for soprano (or mezzo soprano) and a string quartet, or similar small ensemble. Inevitably, my lameness meant I didn't write it down, although I vaguely remember how it went! Guess it's a bit pointless writing music for words that are already set to music and copyright!

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9 minutes ago, May the Force be with You said:

I hope one day all those concert works will be assemble in one big boxset who knows maybe a full re-recording by the maestro himself. Anyway thanks for sharing this

 

One can always dream. A set containing all the unreleased concert works would be a dream come true.

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On 31/12/2021 at 9:09 AM, Thor said:

How does the story go again? Kathleen Battle was supposed to have performed it, but found it too difficult, so Cynthia Haymon performed it instead?

 

Leonard Slatkin comissioned it during is tenure with the National Symphony, for Battle, fresh from her collaboration with André Previn (excerpts of which are also part of the recital posted above). As the legend goes, Battle found it to difficult (apparently expecting some Hollywood like set of songs) and withdraw from premiering it.

Three songs were performed with Haymon at an Evening at Pops concert and those were the ones on the PBS special. The whole cycle was premiered at Tanglewood and back then Williams said he was looking forward to both recording it and write more music to Rita Dove's poetry.

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2 minutes ago, Miguel Andrade said:

back then Williams said he was looking forward to both recording it and write more music to Rita Dove's poetry.

 

A shame neither came to pass.

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I've never heard this piece For Seiji before! It's an interesting work. It definitely sounds like JW, meaning reminiscent of his film music, in a way his concert works often are not. I'm gonna have to listen to it many times over to get a proper feel for it. Initially it seems a little disjointed.

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It's a great piece. I remember I got it on a bad-sounding bootleg CD-R in the early 2000s, and somehow found it "oriental" in style. Perhaps I was coloured by the fact that it was written for Ozawa, assuming it paid tribute to his origins, I don't know. In later years, of course, I hear nothing oriental about it. AFAIK, it still doesn't have a proper album recording, but I have a great-sounding radio broadcast of the concert that also featured the pieces by Horner, Goldenthal and Shore. So that will do for now.

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This has been in my top three concert pieces by Williams since I first heard it.  Accessible, yet fresh and true to Williams's concert voice.  I do not understand Williams or the concert world.  Why is there not a signature edition and why isn't it programmed with any regularity?  

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23 hours ago, Tom said:

This has been in my top three concert pieces by Williams since I first heard it.  Accessible, yet fresh and true to Williams's concert voice.  I do not understand Williams or the concert world.  Why is there not a signature edition and why isn't it programmed with any regularity?  

 

Have no idea why there isn't a signature edition for this one. Williams does have sympathy for this particular work. He has conducted it on a few occasions and the performance Thor alludes to (Carl St. Clair with the Pacific Symphony) was at Williams own request.

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It’s a shame that Leonard Slatkin wasn’t able to obtain the music for this and perhaps Seven for Luck to add to his existing excellent series of recordings of JW’s concert works on Naxos. I kinda guess that series has gone as far as it will go at the moment alas. 

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Every serious artist must have this one piece that is not recorded anywhere, only performed at a few concerts, so everyone who was there can claim, that it was the best he ever had done.

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45 minutes ago, Tom Guernsey said:

It’s a shame that Leonard Slatkin wasn’t able to obtain the music for this and perhaps Seven for Luck to add to his existing excellent series of recordings of JW’s concert works on Naxos. I kinda guess that series has gone as far as it will go at the moment alas. 

 

Weren't those mostly about getting his concerti recorded, not concert works in general? Still, he never got to finish. The clarinet concerto, for example, is still screaming for a proper recording.

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1 hour ago, Thor said:

 

Weren't those mostly about getting his concerti recorded, not concert works in general? Still, he never got to finish. The clarinet concerto, for example, is still screaming for a proper recording.

They may have been. I don’t know whether there was any particular plan but it’s a nice series. They didn’t do the viola concerto either. Whatever it would have been nice to for the survey to extend to other (officially) unrecorded concert works too. 

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  • 6 months later...

Went through the Slatkin Naxos recordings the other day, plus finally checked out TreeSong - love the latter, the violin and horn concerto! Of course I already knew I loved the bassoon one and liked the cello one, already own both in JW's recordings. Wasn't too keen on the tuba. Now when will they finally get around to the flute one? Or reissue the old Slatkin one at least digitally?

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21 hours ago, Holko said:

Went through the Slatkin Naxos recordings the other day, plus finally checked out TreeSong - love the latter, the violin and horn concerto! Of course I already knew I loved the bassoon one and liked the cello one, already own both in JW's recordings. Wasn't too keen on the tuba. Now when will they finally get around to the flute one? Or reissue the Previn one at least digitally?

 

They did record the Flute Concerto, but for whatever reason, it remains unreleased.

To my knowledge, Previn never conducted the Flute Concerto, it was Slatkin who recorded it, along with the Violin one in 1981.

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7 minutes ago, Miguel Andrade said:

To my knowledge, Previn never conducted the Flute Concerto, it was Slatkin who recorded it, along with the Violin one in 1981.

Whoops, my bad, that was the one I was thinking of.

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23 minutes ago, Miguel Andrade said:

 

They did record the Flute Concerto, but for whatever reason, it remains unreleased.

To my knowledge, Previn never conducted the Flute Concerto, it was Slatkin who recorded it, along with the Violin one in 1981.

That's a shame, I really like the concerto recordings on Naxos, the performances and recording are all top notch. I think I still marginally prefer the Naxos version of the Cello Concerto, even with two JW/Ma recordings of it! Ditto with the Five Sacred Trees which has a lot more presence than the slightly soft JW recordings. As I've noted before, it's a shame they never got to the Viola Concerto or the Clarinet Concerto (I have the page open on Amazon for the latter but still haven't bought it as everyone says it's a pretty good version, but I still want to hear it!).

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