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Williams' Second Symphony?


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A question for the experts:

More than a source credit John Williams with the composition of a second symphony. Probably they refer to the Sinfonietta for Wind Ensemble from 1968. But Steven Spielberg, in his notes for 1975 album from Jaws, speaking about Williams’ catalogue says literally: “…including two full symphonies, a symphony for winds,...” This affirmation seems to prove the existence of that mysterious second symphony.

Could anyone confirm some fact about this matter? Thank you…

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That bio also goes on to mention the sinfonietta.  Though I agree with thor that there is no Symphony No. 2, it could also be that this bio references two completely different versions of his symphony.  The original one from the mid 60's and a major revision of it from the early 80's.  I think of it more like Prokofiev's Symphony No. 4 which includes:

The later work is the official No. 4, but the original is still published and the revision is so radically different, though they are supposed to be an original and revised work, they really are two totally different works though both are his 4th Symphony.  Many cycles of Prokofiev's symphonies include both works since they are different enough to be considered two independent works.  I think that is probably the case with JW's symphony, but regardless, he seems very insecure about it in either iteration and as far as I know, the revised version was never performed, pulled after being programmed in a Previn concert and replaced with a film suite.

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JW's Symphony No.1 was written in 1966 and then performed in 1968 in Houston conducted by Andre Previn. JW later did extensive revisions for the European premiere in London in 1972, eith the LSO again conducted by Previn. Williams planned to conduct a furtherly revised version in Houston in 1986, but he then decided to put it back in the drawer. It's never been performed again and the printed score was withdrew from rental houses by JW's current publisher.

 

More info here:

https://thelegacyofjohnwilliams.com/2019/10/08/john-williams-early-concert-works/

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If we ever get to hear Williams' Symphony, I'd guess it would be the revised version, but it would be fascinating to hear both. It's fascinating to me to study the revisions composers make, gives insight into their thought process. 

 

Jean Sibelius was a composer that would often continue revising some of his works after their premiere, sometimes multiple times. His Symphony No. 5 was revised twice after it's initial version. The original version is really interesting and quite different from what ended up being the final version, and thankfully the sheet music survived so there's a recording of it. There's a middle version as well, but sadly not much exists for it and so likely will never be heard. 

 

 

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"Revision" is a good word. "Withdrawal" is a feared one. I hope the score of Williams' symphony (original or revised) will not be lost, and so we will be able to listen to a performance in a far distant future... 

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I'm sure a copy of the manuscript is safe in JW's personal library. Withdrew means that he doesn't want to have it our available for public performance.

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A few years ago, it was available to rent from some place whose name escapes me. It was through there that someone musically literate got it (very expensively!) and said it had a 'jazzy' sound. But since then, it has been removed from said place.

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Most bands play their debut stuff even after 40 or 50 years because it is part of their musical history and identity. Why shouldn't orchestral composers do that?

 

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2 hours ago, GerateWohl said:

Most bands play their debut stuff even after 40 or 50 years because it is part of their musical history and identity. Why shouldn't orchestral composers do that?

 

 

Some play some stuff only because the fans demand it and would be happy to never have to play it again at all. If it's a mostly unknown song form their earliest self-produced EP that was never properly distributed and which never showed up on any of their "official" albums or concert set lists, and they didn't think much of it to boot, most bands would hardly perform one of their earliest "inadequate" songs.

 

And without trying to slight "popular" music, Williams' training, mastery of his art, and decades of experience as one of the past 100 years' most accomplished composers will certainly trump those of most bands.

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On 6/23/2021 at 6:55 PM, Thor said:

A few years ago, it was available to rent from some place whose name escapes me. It was through there that someone musically literate got it (very expensively!) and said it had a 'jazzy' sound. But since then, it has been removed from said place.

 

At the article I linked above, you'll find some accurate descriptions of the piece.

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Just now, TownerFan said:

 

At the article I linked above, you'll find some accurate descriptions of the piece.

 

Yeah, I've read your piece - and several other pieces over the years (like those British newspaper clippings from the 70s performances). I do, however, wish I had struck up an e-mail conversation with that bloke who rented the score sheets those years ago, for some further 'layman' descriptions of it. Maybe he's still around, reading this?

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Just now, Marian Schedenig said:

Some play some stuff only because the fans demand it and would be happy to never have to play it again at all. If it's a mostly unknown song form their earliest self-produced EP that was never properly distributed and which never showed up on any of their "official" albums or concert set lists, and they didn't think much of it to boot, most bands would hardly perform one of their earliest "inadequate" songs.

:unsure:*sigh* You are certainly right. 

And I think, all bands who survived their first five years didn't have their best stuff on their first record. 

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Williams also still has performed pre-Jaws film work like Jane Eyre, The Cowboys, Cinderella Liberty so I guess that goes far back enough for him and most audiences who are hardly demanding those. And his Violin Concerto he's obviously proud of although he saw fit to revise that.

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I think The Reivers is probably his oldest work he still programs with any semi-regularity.

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