THE MUSIC OF JOHN WILLIAMS
Royal Scottish National Orchestra
Thursday 25th April Dundee
Friday 26th April Edinburgh
Saturday 27th April Glasgow
Review by John Williams – (No, not the great man!)
I must admit, whilst travelling in by bus to Glasgow last Saturday afternoon, the thought crossed my mind, more than once whether I really wanted to do it. I mean, yet another Concert of Music by John Williams!!. Surely I have heard it all before, bearing in mind I have been around the block a few times, well, OK, more than a few times, and the first time I heard his Music live as it were, was at a Filmharmonic Concert at the RAH way back in the Seventies, let alone numerous TV Broadcasts, notably the BBC Proms Concert conducted by Keith Lockhart, which would have been, what a couple years back now. Let’s not forget the much-vaunted Concert by the LSO last year, which Mr Williams was due to conduct, but was sadly not well enough to attend. I heard this on the Radio courtesy of Classic FM, and whilst admittedly at first, I missed the actual meaning of the Concert. i.e. Scores of Mr Williams that he had recorded with the LSO. I felt it was a very, OK, let’s say it boring and forgettable Concert. I freely admit that STAR WARS and HARRY POTTER goes right over my head, both films and scores, so obviously a Concert that is so preoccupied with those titles, well it is going to be a uphill battle!
So after dodging the heavy showers, arriving at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, I really wondered if we did the right thing. Before I go any further, I have no quarrel with the excellent RSNO. Their playing and interpretations of Film music in the past has been exemplary, especially the Varese Sarabande Concert last Fall. So no problem there.
So, picking up the programme, I gingerly opened to see what music they were actually playing. Well, if anyone had seen me, they would have wondered if anything was wrong with me-OK. more than normal!! WOW!! There in the first half was a suite from JANE EYRE. Yes JANE EYRE. This is one of Mr Williams own personal favourites, and this JW’s as well.
Back in a Galaxy far way, in the last Century, this quite young Film Music nut bought this LP on Capitol Records of JANE EYRE, and fell in love with it straight away, a love that has never dimmed. I suspect it must have been a good 20 years before I actually saw the film, though I suspect it must have been a somewhat edited version, and funnily enough, it wasn’t a let-down. It sometimes can be, listening to a score for years, without the benefit of the visuals, and then it can be a real disappointment I recall vividly that Andre Previn conduced the “To Thornfield” cue on his ANDRE PREVIN’S MUSIC NIGHT in the early Seventies.
Anyway. back the matter in hand. The first music up was THE COWBOYS, and if you think only an American Orchestra can play this sort of music, you should have heard it on Saturday Night. A rip-roaring, rumbustious Suite, not just the Main Titles from the John Wayne Western. You couldn’t have a better start.
After “Elegy for Cello and Orchestra” with Soloist Johannes Moser, a superlative performance, came, for me the highlight of the first half. “JANE EYRE SYMPHONIC SUITE. I haven’t heard John Williams’ version of his Suite for a number of years, as it appeared on “Pops Britannia” but I suspect it was basically the same three movement selectio . In any John Williams score, and especially in this, Flutes, Horns and Woodwinds are to the fore, and the RSNO has a superb section, an individual soloist in their own right. I freely admit, that time we got to “Reunion”, I was emotionally gone. It has taken me nigh on 50 years to hear a Concert version of this score live, and to think I nearly missed it!!
Not being a Harry Potter fan, I wondered why some of the audience in front of us, was straining to see the piano – or as I later found out the Celeste – before it even started!! Obviously I now know why – superb playing suffice to say.. Joannes Moser came back for his interpretation of SCHINDLER’S LIST, and Part one wrapped up on a high with HOOK and “Flight to Neverland” which had all members OF THE orchestra in full flight!!. Nice play on words there.
Part Two kicked off with JURASSIC PARK. One of my favourites to say the least. Although I have heard it so many times, to see the Orchestra actually play it live is a revelation. First the solo Horn, then woodwinds, flutes, Violas and Cellos, before the Violins take up the main theme. Great stuff, and the guy on the Timpani was absolutely brilliant.
MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA is another favourite. Boy, I have used that word a lot!, , here in a three part suite. Joannes Moser was back again, and it is testament to Mr Williams’ talents that whilst the story was set in China, a Western Orchestra can play it and give it the flavour of the East, admittedly with some fine playing by the percussion department.
The string section of the RSNO is word class beyond doubt, as anyone listening to GEISHA, would have heard.
After a RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, up came THE WITCHES OF EASTWICK, the “Devils Dance” to be precise. Richard Kaufman told a interesting story of his working with Jack Nicholson, who he had to teach to look as if he could play the piano.
Last up, officially was SUPERMAN. I must admit that after hearing it so many times, its appeal was beginning to pall. Now after the RSNO put it through its paces, I am converted once more, really breath-taking.
The audience by now didn’t want the orchestra to go, and of course we had a Encore. It was E.T. and as in SUPERMAN all members of the Orchestra gave it their all. The trumpets of course here were fantastic.
Just before this though, as Mr Kaufman thanked each section of the orchestra to loud cheers from the Audience, he gave this interesting allegory, that in this troubled world, we have enough things to think about, and we come to Concerts like this to and I quote to “feed your soul”.
If anything, this has rekindled my admiration of some of Mr Williams’ efforts, and I am actually liking some of his scores i never really cared for.
This was a really well thought out Concert, all time popular hits, some ones you didn’t expect. The spectacular and the subtle. Yes, first rate, and indeed the RSNO is really a first-rate Orchestra and everyone up here, should be truly proud that such a World Class Orchestra is virtually on their doorstep, and once more, heck, I nearly missed it!!
As Maestro Richard Kaufman said, “feed the soul” and a lot of Music lovers had a great meal that night!