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Rumour - Williams is composing his symphony no. 2


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3 minutes ago, Tom said:

I think the fact that a chunk was written 4 years ago undermines the rumor--Williams has freely discussed his plans for concert works of late--I think he would have mentioned it.  

unless it is a work that is not going as well as he would wish, or the completion of which he is very unsure of

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Ordinarily, I would say that is unlikely, but given his history with symphonies, it is not out the question.  

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I’m not sure why Denéve would work to commit Williams to a symphony for Philadelphia, he conducts there often for Williams related concerts but is not the music director there.

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4 hours ago, Bespin said:

The guy wrote over 100 "symphonies-disguised-as-film-scores" in his life, but could not "formally" finish one. :lol:

 

You know i often thought that when the idea of him writing a symphony comes up. What would be the point of him writing a "symphony" since hes essentially done so many many times with his film scores, plus all the orchestra pieces.

 

I'm sure he would be much more interested in writing something else, especially since the idea of a "symphony" is pretty outdated.

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1 hour ago, TownerFan said:

 

A film score is not a symphony. Williams certainly wrote symphonically for many films (Star Wars, Superman, Harry Potter), but a film score is inevitably subjugated to a series of preconditions that put musical structure underneath the film's needs. The film is always king. This doesn't mean that a film score is necessarily inferior to a symphony from a pure musical standpoint, of course. We can talk about the importance (or not) of form and structure all day long, but a symphony is generally an opportunity for a composer to unleash all of his/her musical imagination and knowledge without boundaries or preconditions, save for the ones that are set by the composer. I would really love to hear JW tackling a symphony and despite I will treat this item just as a wild rumor, I would not be surprised if he's thinking of writing one. I mean, he just announced he's finally writing a piano concerto at 90, so why not a proper symphony as well?

 

With the exception of the flute concerto, all of his concerti and solo works have been for a particular soloist, which is the point of interest for him. But a "symphony" is similar to saying a "piano sonata". Traditionally and by the book, those two things have multiple movements, with each movement having its own traditional form, and depending on what you consider the standard for a symphony, even the movements are per-determined. 

 

I don't think he's really interested in such a thing anymore, unless he wrote a huge, one movement orchestra piece like "soundings" which is essentially a symphony in a sense. Even though its one continuous piece, there is a lot in there. But I think the symphony really died with composers like Debussy where, take La Mer. It isnt called a symphony but its cut up into movements. What makes it not a symphony is that the form is Debussy's own, unlike Mahler, who followed the traditional forms, even if he pushed that to its absolute limit.

So in a sense, to write a "symphony" is like a straight jacket if you write a true symphony. On the other side, there have been many contemporary composers who wrote symphonies but they weren't really a symphony. Just movements of whatever they felt like writing packaged together and called a symphony.

Unless of course you go back like Stravinsky who wrote Symphonies of Wind Instruments, which goes back to the original root of the word essentially meaning multiple instruments sounding together in harmony.

 

So a huge orchestra piece would be awesome, but a symphony or something called a symphony being produced is probably unlikely.

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I think, Williams is less thinking about, how close he would follow the classical form of a symphony, but rather if he from his point of view can contribute something valuable to that musical genre, that is really worth the effort. His time is precious. 

 

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On 05/07/2022 at 12:47 PM, TownerFan said:

 

A film score is not a symphony. Williams certainly wrote symphonically for many films (Star Wars, Superman, Harry Potter), but a film score is inevitably subjugated to a series of preconditions that put musical structure underneath the film's needs. The film is always king. This doesn't mean that a film score is necessarily inferior to a symphony from a pure musical standpoint, of course. We can talk about the importance (or not) of form and structure all day long, but a symphony is generally an opportunity for a composer to unleash all of his/her musical imagination and knowledge without boundaries or preconditions, save for the ones that are set by the composer. I would really love to hear JW tackling a symphony and despite I will treat this item just as a wild rumor, I would not be surprised if he's thinking of writing one. I mean, he just announced he's finally writing a piano concerto at 90, so why not a proper symphony as well?

You do have a point, but I still kind of disagree. Sure, film is king, but when you’re writing a symphony, slavishly following the structure of a symphony is/was king to most composers.

 

Haydn wrote 104 of them and the world probably needed 3.

 

Mozart’s first says more than Haydn’s last and his last ones are as memorable as a JW score.

 

Beethoven’s cycle is a musical journey helped along by his refusal to obsessively stick to the same rules, though some movements still suffer from it. I suppose one could even argue the Pastoral is a ‘film score’, as is the Eroica and the ninth, because they tell a story. We just don’t have the images Beethoven had in his mind’s eye when composing it. And as far as I’m concerned, the seventh is an Irish party disguised as classical music.

 

Tchaikovsky’s last two are arguably as captivating as a theatrical Williams score too, as is Dvorák’s 9th.

 

Bruckner and Mahler only seem to care about one thing: duration (and boring me to death with walls of noise).

 

As for Williams… I find it hard to think of scores like Hook or Harry Potter 1 as just a film score. They could be symphonies in all but name as far as I’m concerned. It’s just Williams taking me on a musical journey like Beethoven or Tchaikovsky. It’s obviously not his story and it accompanies a director’s vision, but he has created musical worlds that are so memorable and beautiful that we don’t really need the films anymore. In short, what makes, say, The Quidditch Match different from A Merry Gathering of Country Folk? Nothing but Williams being bound to images and Beethoven being bound to musical conventions.

 

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It's originally a joke about Vivaldi.

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On 4/7/2022 at 7:59 PM, Joe Brausam said:

I’m not sure why Denéve would work to commit Williams to a symphony for Philadelphia, he conducts there often for Williams related concerts but is not the music director there.

Right, he’s the MD for the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, my hometown band, and I would be beyond thrilled if they were contracted! 😜

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15 hours ago, Tom said:

Remember the old question: Did Haydn write 104 symphonies or did he write one sympony 104 times?  

 

13 hours ago, Tom said:

Vivaldi jokes are seasonal; Haydn, timeless.  

 

It works for both, and a great many more.... like Phillip Glass.....

 

Although I must say this. Many composers get into that for sometimes more reason than one, where all their music is variations on the same idea (or sometimes literally copy and pasting and perhaps just altering slightly the same materials over and over again. Phillip Glass does it all the time, and actually, so did Mozart) In fact, significantly more composers are/were that way . One exception would be Stravinsky for example, where his own interests, and a slight dabbling in film scoring (he got farther than Schonberg, if memory serves he did four scores, all rejected and revised as concert works) allowed him to explore various musical elements. That was naturally his own interest, like in 12-tone music, but he took some commissions, like the circus polka and a concerto for Benny Goodman which the average person would not expect from the creator of The Rite of Spring. So life circumstances along with his own diverse interests allowed him to create so many different works. And one has to wonder if he hadn't moved to LA and experienced Schonberg first hand, would he have ever gotten into 12-tone music?

Williams is the same. He has such an enormously rich and diverse collection of work that its astounding it all came out of one person. And so much has come from film, and it is only naturally that with each project, even as he says, he gets better. So one has to think again, if he had been a strictly "concert" composer, would he have had anywhere near the same career or body of work that he has?

Thats why its so incredibly silly for those to say that hes less legitimate or something because he wrote for film, and he should spend time writing something like a "symphony", as if some unexplored or undiscovered magic will flow out of him simply because hes writing a "symphony". And I agree with bollmanneke, the form of a symphony is just as restrictive, or even in some cases more so than a film. Plus, we need to take into account that JW does not write cues like any other film composer. They are pieces of music that, 90% (or more) of the time can function perfectly well on their own, without even context of what they were written for.

And just as a side note to that, I find that the concert pieces that he wrote as gifts or out of his own interest, with a few exceptions, are better than the pieces that were commissioned.

 

 

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If you want to get around the term symphony composers were always creative calling their "symphonies" symphonic poem or symphonic dances, symphonic whatever. 

Symphony No. 2 would probably also drive too much attention again to symphony No. 1, which might not be in Williams' interest.

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You know what always got me, Bartok's "Concerto for Orchestra". Talk about something mislabeled. THAT would be a real symphony, even though it has one extra movement, which still some symphonies have. The whole work seems like a classic symphony modernized, and I really don't understand why he called it a "concerto" unless he simply liked the title.

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I would love a symphony from Williams. In some ways, since his symphony from the 60's was removed from circulation (not that it was played that often), the lack of a symphony is actually odd given how much music Williams has composed for the concert hall. 

 

I agree that his usual motivations are to work with other musicians, and in those cases, the impetus would be lessened in working with an institution such as the Philadelphia Orchestra or the Boston Symphony. It's hard to form a connection with a large group of musicians versus a select few at a time (Ma, Mutter, Ma & Zhou, etc). 

 

And symphonies are still being written. Williams would certainly know many of the American ones in the 20th century: Copland wrote 3, Bernstein 3, Hanson 4, Diamond a bunch, Billy Schuman a bunch, Glass, some of John Adams' works are sort of symphonies. Beyond the US, Stravinsky as mentioned, Britten wrote some smaller ones, Shostakovich wrote 15, his friend Weinberg more than that, Prokofiev, Part, Norberg, and of course there are those of Walton and Vaughan Williams JW must know.

 

In this century, Glass continues to write them (as noted above). Mason Bates is another composer who has. John Harbison another. John Corigliano finished his third. However, if much of these are not ringing bells, it's because most of them have not entered the repertory. Beyond the Boston Modern Orchestra Project, directed by Gil Rose and highly recommended for their output, orchestras don't play new symphonies very often. They commission smaller pieces that can open concerts but not anchor them. So, new stuff gets played once, maybe twice.

 

However, concerti and other works for specific artists do get played at least in the first few years. Look how often Violin Concerto No. 2 has been played in less than a year, and not always with Williams at the podium. I am sure Mutter is playing pieces from Across the Stars as encores in some of her non-Williams related performances as well. I would not describe the desire for one's work to be played to ego per se, but I do think Williams can take pleasure from the work being out there and heard. A symphony would work against that to some extent due to its size and lack of a singular champion.

 

Of course, there are a number of Williams pieces that are played regularly. The olympic music and many of the marches are staples of military and school bands. Schindler's List's music is popular for soloists and shows up on recording all the time. But a symphony is not something that just drops in from time to time. It takes a lot of work for an orchestra and conductor to learn it. So, that might also limit its appeal to Williams to write it.

 

The two big genres that are also absent from Williams output are ballet and opera. Ballet is probably too akin to a film to be interesting to him. (He actually has referred to his film music as being closer to ballet music than opera.) Williams has said in the past he would have been interested in doing an opera but was not interested in spending the 4 years to do it. This was around 10 years ago I think. It's a shame though that he did not do one as it would have been an interesting combination of his symphonic and vocal writing for a different visual medium. But similar to symphonies, new operas rarely enter mass performance runs either. I think Mason Bates and Jake Hegge have had a few of their output gain some traction, and maybe Terrance Blanchard's recent work "Fire Shut Up in My Bones" for the MetOpera will gain longer attention. But it's rare. (Blanchard of course is also a film composer - Red Tails for example.)

 

Ultimately, whatever the motivations, I am thankful for any new works in any format. But I would love to hear a symphony all the same even if the economics and realities of concert hall performances are against it.

 

 

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I hope it sounds more like his film music than his concertos

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