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Which concert was better, Vienna or Berlin?


bollemanneke
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Vienna Vs. Berlin, which one was better?  

36 members have voted

  1. 1. The Program

  2. 2. John Williams' Speeches

  3. 3. The Performances

  4. 4. Flubs, Timing Issues and Lacklustre Renditions



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4 minutes ago, MaxTheHouseelf said:

Another thing I disagree with the reviewer who doubts that children find their way to classical music through Williams music. Because for me, Williams music is the reason I started listening, discovering and appreciating more and more of classical music.

 

Sure, but again, it's somewhat obvious that there is a huge defend mechanism at play here, which hasn't changed since the old FSM days. 

 

I for one don't get my shields up when a critic is lukewarm about, say, the elegy. It's more that i'm interested what are the criticisms and do they hold water?

 

Because, that's what (good) criticism is for.

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40 minutes ago, bollemanneke said:

Could anyne anyone please explain to me what it is with classical music and its dangerous obsession with structure? I used to listen to baroque music, but upond discovering romanticism and film music, realised it was a completely backwards genre whose first objective is adhering to structure and its second purpose seems to be repeating everything as much as possible and never ever trying something new. Wait, I have an idea: let's all write novels using the exact same structure and plot! And death to anyone who uses words that others don't use! God, these people are out of touch.

 

A good structure creates familiarity, contrast, and development of the musical ideas, in order to make the composition interesting. It also serves as a template for the composer, who doesn't have to reinvent the wheel every time. For professional composers in earlier times, time was of the essence, and clearly defined forms were important constraints. Common forms today have an infinite number of variants, but if you stray away from these forms, some "connoisseurs" automatically barf.

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1 minute ago, Marian Schedenig said:

But he clearly goes beyond that. He says (or at least clearly implies) that Williams (and apparently all film composers) are incapable of writing music that can stand on its own, that they need the films to give them structure, and that they only work if you remember and recognise the melodies.

 

Yes, he clearly has no real interest in the artform, but again: structure, as in chorus-verse-chorus?

 

One argument i totally can understand is that someone who's served this program with only a few breathers in between and too many outré cymbal crash moments and tutti stuff isn't exactly glowering with praise and why should he? It's obviously geared towards film fans.

 

It's the same argument in reverse: when many film music fans never listen to, say, Schostakovitch or Britten, why should the classical reviewer bother to in-depth studying old Williams or Goldsmith scores? 

1 minute ago, Jurassic Shark said:

 

A good structure creates familiarity, contrast, and development of the musical ideas, in order to make the composition interesting. It also serves as a template for the composer, who doesn't have to reinvent the wheel every time. For professional composers in earlier times, time was of the essence, and clearly defined forms were important constraints. Common forms today have an infinite number of variants, but if you stray away from these forms, some "connoisseurs" automatically barf.

 

I would add that form and structure in self-contained musical pieces feature much bigger arcs, compared to the sing-along style film music main themes or end credit variations. 

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3 minutes ago, publicist said:

I would add that form and structure in self-contained musical pieces feature much bigger arcs, compared to the sing-along style film music main themes or end credit variations. 

 

Definitely, and I guess this is what the criticism of the Elegy points at?

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6 minutes ago, Jurassic Shark said:

Definitely, and I guess this is what the criticism of the Elegy points at?

 

Definitely, the *classical* reviewer complains about a lack of musical conflict and too much display of virtuoso cello playing without a convincing dramatic arc behind it.

 

Again, we can disagree, but to dismiss such points as snobby, without even trying to understand what he could mean in relation to a piece of music to which many here probably also have not more than a tangential connection seems not the way to go.

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36 minutes ago, publicist said:

 

Definitely, the *classical* reviewer complains about a lack of musical conflict and too much display of virtuoso cello playing without a convincing dramatic arc behind it.

 

Again, we can disagree, but to dismiss such points as snobby, without even trying to understand what he could mean in relation to a piece of music to which many here probably also have not more than a tangential connection seems not the way to go.

 

Can't argue against that.

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What I don't understand is that most or more or less all criticism that goes to film music in that regard aplies to any progam music like ballet or opera as well. Where is the musical development and conflict in "The Nutcracker"?

Still great orchestras perform the suite from time to time without complaining about low niveau. Or do they?

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28 minutes ago, GerateWohl said:

What I don't understand is that most or more or less all criticism that goes to film music in that regard aplies to any progam music like ballet or opera as well. Where is the musical development and conflict in "The Nutcracker"?

Still great orchestras perform the suite from time to time without complaining about low niveau. Or do they?

But everything pre-1900 is sacred and completely immune to criticism. Also, don't forget, JW hasn't died yet. They'll all embrace him when he does.

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2 hours ago, Steve said:

It's the overall negative tone that annoys. If I never heard an opera before I don't go to an opera performance and write a bad review afterwards only because I'm not familiar with the music. 

 

In some ways I feel that the good response from the audience annoyed the reviewer. A response you rarely see in classical concerts.

 

But this isn't an opera, but a - by and large - collection of fairly easily digestible crowd-pleasing movie cues. I think your attitude in a way reflects his. Simple as that.
 

1 hour ago, GerateWohl said:

What I don't understand is that most or more or less all criticism that goes to film music in that regard aplies to any progam music like ballet or opera as well. Where is the musical development and conflict in "The Nutcracker"?

Still great orchestras perform the suite from time to time without complaining about low niveau. Or do they?

 

I think you'll find that there are way less bravado tutti finishes and slambang spectacle in that one, and the abundance of this was a criticism i found mirrored in a radio comment, too. 
 

1 hour ago, Score said:

But condensing all these elements into a few-minute piece somehow cheapens their effect, and it can only work because people remember the movie scenes (that's probably why the reviewer was not comfortable in judging them as pure music). The individual moments are beautiful, but the journey between them is even more important, at least for a classical music listener. That's why I wish JW played extended chunks of his film scores in concerts, rather than those concert arrangements (although several of them work very well anyways, for example the slow pieces from Star Wars - Princess Leia, Luke and Leia, the original version of Han Solo and the Princess...).  

 

Yeah, it was my wish a few posts before, too. Williams still thinks in a typical Pops concert mindset, but the sophistication, technical and orchestral, of him, Goldsmith and even Horner goes much beyond the jubilant chorus of i. e. Jurassic Park's suite. But of course hardly anyone would appreciate time 'wasted' by the 21-minute Close Encounters suite (Gerhardt).

 

For me, The Cowboys is one of his best: at 9 minutes, it let's the material breathe and doesn't overplay the bombast. 

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22 minutes ago, publicist said:

But this isn't an opera, but a - by and large - collection of fairly easily digestible crowd-pleasing movie cues. I think your attitude in a way reflects his. Simple as that.

You don't get my point but that's ok. 

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2 hours ago, Steve said:

It's the overall negative tone that annoys. If I never heard an opera before I don't go to an opera performance and write a bad review afterwards only because I'm not familiar with the music. 

 

In some ways I feel that the good response from the audience annoyed the reviewer. A response you rarely see in classical concerts.

Oh, so in their world he should ideally ahave performed Sleepers, Nixon, Sabrina and Always. Why are they so hell-bent on making their art impopular and inaccessible to the public?

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34 minutes ago, publicist said:

I think you'll find that there are way less bravado tutti finishes and slambang spectacle in that one, and the abundance of this was a criticism i found mirrored in a radio comment, too. 

That I completely understand and would even subscribe that. But directly in the concert it was visible that the people applauded much less to for example Marion's Theme than to the Raiders March, and less to Yoda's Theme than to Throne Room and Finale. I found myself thinking for a second, this in unworthy in a way.

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1 hour ago, TownerFan said:

As I tried to express in my own piece, if the Berlin concerts showed something is indeed the fact that Williams' film music can be enjoyed as music per se without necessarily having a bond or a connection with the films themselves--do we really have to remind ourselves of Far and Away, Solo, or Sabrina, with all due respect for fans of these films? 

 

 

I totally agree with this, but the problem (for me) is that he does not frequently present his film music in concert, but rather concert arrangements whose aim seems to be that of giving a feeling of "remembrance" of some key moments of the respective films, a bit like opera ouvertures. What I love of his film music is the impressive ability with which he can create stories with purely musical means, which live independently of the film. But to grasp those stories, one needs, as I tried to say, to go through the musical journey (or at least, part of it) that the cues, all together, constitute. This kind of journey is what I miss when listening to most of his concert arrangements: the journey cannot be done in 3-5 minutes. That's why I prefer to listen to his film scores in their original form, or to the more elaborated concert suites, like that of Cowboys, as @publicist was suggesting. And I would prefer him to present well-developed suites... maybe a set of 5-6 consecutive cues played "as written" for the film; I can think of many such sets, from different movies, which would provide great musical experiences. I mean, I don't care about the critics' opinions (I didn't even read the one mentioned above, since I don't speak German), but if they are criticizing the structure of the concert arrangements, I think they have a point. It is not equivalent to criticize JW's music as a whole, but only the way in which some of it is presented in concert.

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2 hours ago, Steve said:

You don't get my point but that's ok. 

 

Oh i get it just alright..;)

 

1 hour ago, TownerFan said:

But the point is that either you listen to it like a symphonic collection of miniature pieces or in a more tone poem-like fashion, the undisputable quality of his music and the impeccable craft with which virtually all of his pieces are constructed make it always worthwhile to be experienced live, possibily performed with the same dignity of the classical repertoire. 

 

 

You sound like Yavar here, but that's OK;). I have reserved myself a much less reverent opinion of the hobby and its top representatives. Hollywood composers earn millions of $$$ and recognition beyond most artists wild dreams, so i think there's really no need to defend them, as if they need our ego pampering - especially against some poor schmucks whose articles are read by 40 People at most.

 

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1 hour ago, publicist said:

You sound like Yavar here, but that's OK;). I have reserved myself a much less reverent opinion of the hobby and its top representatives. Hollywood composers earn millions of $$$ and recognition beyond most artists wild dreams, so i think there's really no need to defend them, as if they need our ego pampering - especially against some poor schmucks whose articles are read by 40 People at most.

 

 

LOL :) It's okay, we don't need to be constantly gushing about JW (nor anyone else) and I am certainly guilty of that ;) I also think that any composer/musician etc. has the right to be criticized, positively or negatively. That's part of the deal. It's true that Hollywood composers live in a privileged bubble, but I don't think we're just worshipping at the altar of popularity. I think JW truly earned the respect and even the reverence he now gets from institutions like Vienna and Berlin thanks to his talent and hard work.

 

1 hour ago, Score said:

I totally agree with this, but the problem (for me) is that he does not frequently present his film music in concert, but rather concert arrangements whose aim seems to be that of giving a feeling of "remembrance" of some key moments of the respective films, a bit like opera ouvertures. What I love of his film music is the impressive ability with which he can create stories with purely musical means, which live independently of the film. But to grasp those stories, one needs, as I tried to say, to go through the musical journey (or at least, part of it) that the cues, all together, constitute. This kind of journey is what I miss when listening to most of his concert arrangements: the journey cannot be done in 3-5 minutes. That's why I prefer to listen to his film scores in their original form, or to the more elaborated concert suites, like that of Cowboys, as @publicist was suggesting. And I would prefer him to present well-developed suites... maybe a set of 5-6 consecutive cues played "as written" for the film; I can think of many such sets, from different movies, which would provide great musical experiences. I mean, I don't care about the critics' opinions (I didn't even read the one mentioned above, since I don't speak German), but if they are criticizing the structure of the concert arrangements, I think they have a point. It is not equivalent to criticize JW's music as a whole, but only the way in which some of it is presented in concert.

 

I completely get your point and I even agree for the most part, but that's the inherent problem of presenting film music out of its original context. If you take out the visuals, most of film music loses its power and even its significance, so it's essential to rework it (sometimes even extensively) to present it as pure music in a concert hall. It's true that one of Williams' ultimate talents is his ability to create a coherent musical discourse while accompanying the film narrative, and that goes beyond the usual 3-4 minutes miniatures he prepares for concert performances (the live-to-picture performances are perhaps a good compromise in this regard). I guess it's his own modesty at play here too, as he would probably feel too pretentious to present a 25-minute suite from just one score, so I suppose he feels that those 3-4-5 minutes are enough to satisfy both himself and his audience. But again, it's also a matter of how staggering his output is. Even cutting out completely everything before 1975, it's still 45+ years of music. 

 

Anyway, let's not miss one very important point: by doing these concert arrangements Williams is not necessarily simplifying his musical discourse, but more likely making an effort to reach a wider audience. My wife didn't know a jack about John Williams and film music in general (nor even classical or symphonic stuff) before we met, but now after attending several concerts she's starting to sincerely enjoy some of John's music. She learned to appreciate not just the tunes, but also how the pieces sound and how they tell a story. She never saw any of the Star Wars films, but she can enjoy the music. It's fascinating for me to see someone completely unfamiliar making a process of discovery even without all the context in which that music was born.

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22 minutes ago, TownerFan said:

If you take out the visuals, most of film music loses its power and even its significance.

Again something that applies to any programatic music like ballet for example. Despite this I visited many years ago a concert of the Berliner Philharmoniker where they played Ravel's ballet Daphnis é Cloe completely from beginning to end without any stage play, just the music. And I would say, many of Williams' soundtracks would deserve such a presentation as well. Therefore, I would deny your statement. And sometimes these concert arrangements lose even some of the power of the original piece. Kind of a lose lose scenario. But of course that depends on the concrete work. Some are more worthy than others.

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43 minutes ago, TownerFan said:

LOL :) It's okay, we don't need to be constantly gushing about JW (nor anyone else) and I am certainly guilty of that ;) I also think that any composer/musician etc. has the right to be criticized, positively or negatively. That's part of the deal. It's true that Hollywood composers live in a privileged bubble, but I don't think we're just worshipping at the altar of popularity. I think JW truly earned the respect and even the reverence he now gets from institutions like Vienna and Berlin thanks to his talent and hard work.

 

That's certainly true, in the bigger scheme of things. I just react against the (typical) bite reflex that opinions that aren't glowing praise should be condemned to eternal hellfire. Often from a perspective that is just as ignorant (not talking about you here).

 

But i'm generally more interested in a broader discussion, not just about the arts but discussion culture in our time (we had some good ones a long time ago). And with growing discontent i note more and more interest in partisanship and less and less interest in personal enlightenment/education, in whatever form it may come. 

 

 

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8 hours ago, MaxTheHouseelf said:

Another thing I disagree with the reviewer who doubts that children find their way to classical music through Williams music. Because for me, Williams music is the reason I started listening, discovering and appreciating more and more of classical music.

 

Same here!

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I was not in Vienna, and haven't yet acquired the Blu-ray, so I can't compare. But I rank my Williams concerts thusly:

 

1. Boston, 2014

2. Berlin, 2021

3. Hollywood Bowl, 2012

 

Obviously not counting Williams concerts conducted by others here.

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The debate over Film Music is more than just John Williams. It's basically an debate over what music is. Over at Talk Classical Forum, they talk about John Cage, Pierre Boulez, all of these figures, and John Williams. 

 

Because if you read the Classical Music History, there was a split between the Romantic sound and the newer Arnold Schoenberg sound in the 1900s. Some people would argue however, and I would agree that the Romantic Sound would actually end up in Film. People like Korngold, Max Steiner from which JW gets his inspiration. Film Music itself coming from Incindental plays, operas. And if we understand the totality of that history, we can understand why JW is the most interesting music figure in my book.

 

And the argument that Williams doesn't attract people to Classical music is somewhat folly because that's exactly why he got awarded the Gold Medal by the RPS. last year. https://royalphilharmonicsociety.org.uk/awards/gold-medal/john-williams

 

John has dedicated his life to ensuring orchestral music continues to speak to and captivate millions of people worldwide. Accepting the medal via video, he said: ‘To receive this award is beyond any expectation I could possibly have. For any composer to be able devote his or her life entirely to the composition of music is very fortunate indeed. I’d like to thank our musicians of our great orchestras in London and in the United States with whom I’ve worked so happily for so many years.’

Director Steven Spielberg sent his congratulations in a video recorded especially for the RPS, saying: ‘John, you have brought the classical idiom to young people all over the world through your scores, and through your classical training and your classical sensibilities. You are in the DNA of the musical culture of today.’

"

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On 21/10/2021 at 6:18 PM, TownerFan said:

I completely get your point and I even agree for the most part, but that's the inherent problem of presenting film music out of its original context. If you take out the visuals, most of film music loses its power and even its significance, so it's essential to rework it (sometimes even extensively) to present it as pure music in a concert hall. It's true that one of Williams' ultimate talents is his ability to create a coherent musical discourse while accompanying the film narrative, and that goes beyond the usual 3-4 minutes miniatures he prepares for concert performances (the live-to-picture performances are perhaps a good compromise in this regard). I guess it's his own modesty at play here too, as he would probably feel too pretentious to present a 25-minute suite from just one score, so I suppose he feels that those 3-4-5 minutes are enough to satisfy both himself and his audience. But again, it's also a matter of how staggering his output is. Even cutting out completely everything before 1975, it's still 45+ years of music. 

 

Anyway, let's not miss one very important point: by doing these concert arrangements Williams is not necessarily simplifying his musical discourse, but more likely making an effort to reach a wider audience. My wife didn't know a jack about John Williams and film music in general (nor even classical or symphonic stuff) before we met, but now after attending several concerts she's starting to sincerely enjoy some of John's music. She learned to appreciate not just the tunes, but also how the pieces sound and how they tell a story. She never saw any of the Star Wars films, but she can enjoy the music. It's fascinating for me to see someone completely unfamiliar making a process of discovery even without all the context in which that music was born.

 

If I think about some other examples (old and recent), the first who comes into my mind is Prokofiev. The cases of "Leutenant Kije suite" and "Alexander Nevsky cantata" are examples of a composer presenting his film works out of their original context. In those cases, indeed, he had to perform extensive revisions; the original film score of Kije is just a set of few-second pieces, totally unpresentable in their original form, while the original film score of Nevsky is orchestrated in a way that is both economic (in a certain sense) and suitable for the recording means of the time, whose requirements were very different from those of a concert performance. In order to present those scores as concert pieces, Prokofiev combined cues, re-orchestrated, and wrote transition passages. The Cantata from Alexander Nevsky is recognized as one of his masterpieces; the film score cues do not have the same power at all, if disjointed from the movie.

 

In more recent times, probably the most notable re-arrangement of film music for the concert hall is Shore's Symphony from LOTR (although the name "Symphony" is inappropriate). There, he basically combined cues to form 6 large movements which work well as absolute music, and - as far as I know - he did not change the orchestration; he just assembled them together, with minor cuts here and there. In my opinion, JW's film music could be presented in concerts in the same way: there would probably be no need to do extensive revisions as Prokofiev had to do, because most of JW's film scores are able to stand on their own - at least, the best parts of them. JW could easily assemble a "Symphony" from the music of the Star Wars saga alone (the Battle of Yavin, or the Battle of Hoth, would already work as full movements in their own), or large suites from any of many of his best scores. This is what I'd like to see one day!     

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I think, I said it before. But one reason, why I preferably get into listening to film scores than to classical music is

 

1) For film score there usually exists easily one definite recording. For classical music you have to dig through a huge ammount of recordings to figure out, which one you prefer. That makes it much more complicated to chose.

 

2) Film scores are mostly recorded very well. I don't understand why for classical music there is still usually such a deviation between the quiet parts and the loud parts, so that I permanently have to raise and lower the volume to listen to the whole piece at an appropriate loudness, while the manage to handle that well in film score recordings.

 

 

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I agree with 1. 2 because apparently they love their dynamic range. But at least they did make decent recordings in the 60s. Every film score before the 80s sounds like crap.

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Honestly I am someone who enjoys both classical music and film music. I can listen to a Boulez piece and to a John Williams piece. Actually its quite interesting to listen to Penderecki from time to time since some moments from "Close Encounters" and "Jaws" take a lot from the polish composer.

 

I think this film music vs. serious music is mostly something created by critics. The musicians I know value both. The Berlin Philharmonic is made of pretty damn good musicians and they love JW.

 

Tbh I was very annoyed by the review in the "Berliner Zeitung". Its something very german to guard serious art against entertainment art. And actually I am the best example why the article is wrong. I started with JW and got to know other composers through him.

 

Sure you could argue that John just loves to have great orchestral effects that goes directly into your guts and that in the developement of european music composers of the second half of the 20th century try to avoid these effects. Maybe its the result of the highly emotional and manipulative music of Wagner that composers like Boulez try to appeal more to the intellect than the emotion and I think thats totally valuable and fair to pursue.

 

Maybe they are just jealous in the end, that JW accomplished something few other living composers do. That he is loved and revered and people start singing his melodies when he leaves the building. ;)

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14 hours ago, GerateWohl said:

2) Film scores are mostly recorded very well. I don't understand why for classical music there is still usually such a deviation between the quiet parts and the loud parts, so that I permanently have to raise and lower the volume to listen to the whole piece at an appropriate loudness, while the manage to handle that well in film score recordings.

 

It's easy to understand: Because that's how it was written and how it's supposed to sound. If a film score is written like this and doesn't sound like it on album, it's a bad recording (or rather, a bad mix).

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13 hours ago, MfL85 said:

Sure you could argue that John just loves to have great orchestral effects that goes directly into your guts

 

 

There's also a distinctly american/populist streak going through it, which never sat well with german academia.

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I am quite happy that this concert didn't take place in the Waldbühne.

The atmosphere is much more intimate in the actual Philharmonie building and accoustic is much much better.

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I agree, but I don’t see a reason to get offended by the idea of JW doing a Waldbühne concert, or having academists play instead of some principals. Especially when they were as good as they were!

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5 minutes ago, Remco said:

I agree, but I don’t see a reason to get offended by the idea of JW doing a Waldbühne concert

 

Yeah it seems like buying into the very snobbery that we're meant to have moved past

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9 minutes ago, Marian Schedenig said:

It's more a question of acoustics and quality for me

 

That makes sense!

 

10 minutes ago, Marian Schedenig said:

Those concerts are more pop spectacles with light shows, projection, and grotesquely amplified sound (and often grotesque arrangements, too) than "proper" concerts.

 

But some of them have been pretty fun too....

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31 minutes ago, Disco Stu said:

But some of them have been pretty fun too....

 

Are you referring to Hollywood in Vienna specifically (I was, more or less), or that "style" of concerts in general? For Hollywood in Vienna, I would say they've increasingly been fun *despite* the setting, and often would have been better and more fun without all the extravagances.

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5 minutes ago, Marian Schedenig said:

 

Are you referring to Hollywood in Vienna specifically (I was, more or less), or that "style" of concerts in general? For Hollywood in Vienna, I would say they've increasingly been fun *despite* the setting, and often would have been better and more fun without all the extravagances.

 

I can agree with that.  I very much enjoyed the Horner (which I own on blu-ray), Elfman, and Randy Newman concerts but there were definitely parts of all of them that were "a little much."  But I think overall I enjoyed the spectacle of it.

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On 21/10/2021 at 4:33 PM, Score said:

 

I totally agree with this, but the problem (for me) is that he does not frequently present his film music in concert, but rather concert arrangements whose aim seems to be that of giving a feeling of "remembrance" of some key moments of the respective films, a bit like opera ouvertures. What I love of his film music is the impressive ability with which he can create stories with purely musical means, which live independently of the film. But to grasp those stories, one needs, as I tried to say, to go through the musical journey (or at least, part of it) that the cues, all together, constitute. This kind of journey is what I miss when listening to most of his concert arrangements: the journey cannot be done in 3-5 minutes. That's why I prefer to listen to his film scores in their original form, or to the more elaborated concert suites, like that of Cowboys, as @publicist was suggesting. And I would prefer him to present well-developed suites... maybe a set of 5-6 consecutive cues played "as written" for the film; I can think of many such sets, from different movies, which would provide great musical experiences. I mean, I don't care about the critics' opinions (I didn't even read the one mentioned above, since I don't speak German), but if they are criticizing the structure of the concert arrangements, I think they have a point. It is not equivalent to criticize JW's music as a whole, but only the way in which some of it is presented in concert.

 

I ABSOLUTELY agree with you. 

Even though I'm a huge fan of John Williams' film music, I don't particularly like his concert programs (other than, as you say, as a light celebratory occasion). As you say, Williams has the ability to tell a story through music in his film scores, but he rarely does that in concert. 

 

I find that some of my absolute favourite scores (Star Wars, Hook...) are very poorly represented by the standard "highlight" concert pieces. I too wish that Williams would at least play several cues of the same score, creating a coherent suite.

 

My ideal concert program would only include music form three or four film scores, at at least 20-30 minutes of music for each (either as a suite or as a continuous piece). 

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