Tag Archives: JOHN WILLIAMS

STAR WARS. THE LAST JEDI.

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Ok, I do not profess to be an expert on STAR WARS, or even the STAR WARS soundtracks, but I do know what I like. As with every STAR WARS soundtrack, the score for THE LAST JEDI, opens with the now iconic theme that was penned by composer John Williams way back in the day, when we lived in, A FAR NICER AND SIMPLIER WORLD THAN WE DO NOWADAYS. The familiar brass flourishes and Erich Wolfgang Korngold inspired fanfares that in my opinion returned the world of film music back to where it should have been and reinstated the symphonic score to cinema, still send a chill of excitement and anticipation up one’s spine and make the hairs on the back of the neck bristle anticipation and expectation at the thought of what the composer might have in store for us. As with all scores for the STAR WARS saga, the opening theme soon segues seamlessly into the opening cue of the score, in this case the MAIN TITLES run for 1 min and 36 secs, then rumbling and booming percussion introduce the fast paced and driving track entitled ESCAPE, which oozes everything that is STAR WARS musically and is filled with the finesse, genius and perfection that we have come to expect from John Williams. In fact, this is a great opening that is filled with tense and edgy brass stabs and underlying dark strings that combine with the percussive elements of the piece to create a composition that verges on the Wagnerian and the operatic because of its powerfully enigmatic and commanding presence, the composer weaving the central theme into the cue and every so often lifting the darkness and foreboding atmosphere with mini fanfares and brass laden hope filled stabs. The brass and percussion work overtime for this opener and drive the piece forward with strings lacing and enveloping the already emotive and inspiring composition. For any soundtrack collector this will indeed be a feast of the artistry of John William’s at his dramatic and action packed best. This is a cue that is STAR WARS through and through, it contains, emotion, drama and a real romantic undercurrent that relays to the listener the ethos of the STAR WARS scores and evokes memories and thoughts of past triumphs of the previous movies and their soundtracks. There is a richness here, but also a degree of darkness and a romantic sense of adventure which to be honest only William’s can purvey via his heartfelt strings and flyaway woods, it is enchanting, beguiling and gets right to one’s core.

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As with his music for THE FORCE AWAKENS we hear the familiar themes and nuances that we expect, but are also treated to new and fresh material, with the familiar being given a new lease of life as the composer arranges and orchestrates them in varying ways at times combining elements of the original with the new, as in the SUPREMACY, which is a variation on DARTH VADERS theme.

 

With the near mournful and solitary horn leit-motif for Luke Skywalker, which is instantly recognisable that raises its head every so often throughout the work beginning as a poignant and fragile sounding piece but becoming a full-blown arrangement with the poignancy heightened and transformed into a more substantial and lush piece by surging and proud sounding strings that are embellished by brass, giving it a mesmeric quality that tugs at the heartstrings and washes over the listener in waves of emotion. The composer utilises this and it has a more pronounced impact in the cue, OLD FRIENDS, which in the first instant is low and ominous, but swiftly develops into a combination of both Luke and Leia’s themes. I cannot really say a lot more about the score, it is after all a STAR WARS soundtrack, and its John Williams, so what more could you possibly want, I will say however, that in my very humble opinion, THE LAST JEDI, does stand out more than its predecessor, there seems to be more for us to get our teeth into here, the last track, FINALE, is a delight, it is after all an overture of sorts, and contains all of the major themes from the score, thus combining old with new for a glorious 8 minutes or so. For a series of movies that has endured for so many years, it is surprising that the musical side of things has not become a little cliched or stale, but on listening to THE LAST JEDI, there is no chance of that happening, William’s unearths old and familiar themes and introduces new and vibrantly fresh pieces that will delight, thrill and inspire. Love the score, all 1 hour and 17 minutes of it. Buy this NOW….

 

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ROGUE ONE-A STAR WARS STORY.

 

 

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ROGUE ONE-A STAR WARS STORY opened in cinemas this weekend in the UK, the film has never been out of the news or so it seems. It is they say the first STAR WARS movie that is basically a spin off from the main films in the series, but there were of course a couple of other spin off pictures when the Ewoks were given their own stories in THE BATTLE OF ENDOR and THE CARAVAN OF COURAGE. Which I must say I quite enjoyed and I still have the videos and the soundtrack LP music courtesy of Peter Bernstein. ROGUE ONE of course is a little more sophisticated than the Ewok adventures and I suspect it had a larger budget than both of the aforementioned combined. The music for ROGUE ONE has also not been out of the news as far as film music collectors are concerned. Composer Alexandre Desplat was originally named for the project but this altered recently and American composer Michael Giacchino was announced as the man for the job. In a very short period of time the composer completed the score and I have to say has managed to create a score that is not only in keeping with the John Williams style (after all Star Wars film without this type of music would not be Star Wars, would it?) but it also has to it a style and sound that is for the most part original or at least has certain musical trademarks and quirks of orchestration that is now something that we as collectors associate with Michael Giacchino. Like his score for JURRASIC WORLD the composer has built his themes around the ever-familiar foundation of motifs created by John Williams, i.e. THE IMPERIAL MARCH, DARTH VADER’S THEME and THE CENTRAL THEME etc. This a powerful and high octane work filled to bursting with adventurous and pulsating thematic material and has more twists, turns and gut wrenching moments than the most volatile rollercoaster ride. Plus, it has its fair share of emotive and romantic sounding pieces, lush and sweeping strings creating lavish and opulent sounding passages, thundering percussion underlining the urgency and action, commanding and threatening brass demanding you listen to it and then there is the wistful and flyaway sounding woodwinds that dart here there and everywhere bringing a certain magical or delicate layer to the score. These elements and more combine to create a sound and purvey a score that is robust, entertaining, and highly exhilarating. The score opens with HE’S HERE FOR US, the style of John Williams shines through here more or less straight away, but as I have already said Giacchino fashions the music to incorporate this style and then kind of turns it around and integrates his own musical character and sound to bring us a piece that is exciting and filled with an up-tempo urgency, yet at the same time oozes with apprehension, and foreboding. At times one can hear little snippets of his Star Trek action music or at least the action pieces within ROGUE ONE do resemble the full-on cues that we heard earlier this year in BEYOND. Does this make ROGUE less enjoyable, No, certainly not.

I think that one of the more prominent tracks within the score is also one of the shortest, HOPE (track number 16) has a duration of less than two minutes, but it very quickly establishes itself and sets the scene for the remainder of the cue, swirling strings and choir combine to make a grand opening statement, these elements are supported by the brass section, the initial opening collaboration soon fades and the brass section intervene with a short lived but strong fanfare of sorts which has the beginnings of THE IMPERIAL MARCH, again brief but affecting. Frome the one of the shortest cues to one of the lengthiest which is track number 9, CONFRONTATION ON EADU. This is pure action and classic Star Wars material, Giacchino bringing into play rasping and growling brass, dramatic and driving strings, with booming percussion and woods to add a touch of intensity. However, after the powerful and tense atmosphere there is a calm and melodic interlude as the composer introduces a wonderfully lyrical but tragic sounding theme which is performed by heartfelt strings and powerful horns that complement and embellish perfectly the string section. Another highlight is THE IMPERIAL SUITE, this is magnificent, timpani backed brass lead the proceedings and are joined by strings which punctuate and augment the central thematic material of the piece, this is Giacchino’s IMPERIAL MARCH or at least his take on it and I must say he does a good job. ROGUE ONE is in my opinion a good score, and any STAR WARS fan will not be disappointed. It is tense, fast paced, action led, romantic and has themes new and old which Giacchino masterfully fuses. Recommended.

 

 

 

1. He’s Here For Us
  2. A Long Ride Ahead
  3. Wobani Imperial Labor Camp
  4. Trust Goes Both Ways
  5. When Has Become Now
  6. Jedha Arrival
  7. Jedha City Ambush
  8. Star-Dust
  9. Confrontation on Eadu
  10. Krennic’s Aspirations
  11. Rebellions Are Built on Hope
  12. Rogue One
  13. Cargo Shuttle SW-0608
  14. Scrambling the Rebel Fleet
  15. AT-ACT Assault
  16. The Master Switch
  17. Your Father Would Be Proud
  18. Hope
  19. Jyn Erso & Hope Suite
  20. The Imperial Suite
  21. Guardians of the Whills Suite

JOHN WILLIAMS 2016, CONCERT,THE ROYAL PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA.

Saturday October 1st, 2016.
THE ROYAL ALBERT HALL, LONDON.
THE ROYAL PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA PRESENTS.
JOHN WILLIAMS 2016.
A TRIBUTE TO THE WORLDS LEADING FILM COMPOSER.

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ROBERT ZEIGLER.
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ROBERT ZIEGLER Conductor.
Presented by Tommy Pearson.
Leader/Solo Violin, Tamas Andras.

This was a concert I was really looking forward to and the demand was so great they had a matinee performance as well as the evening concert. I was pleased to see that the massive and imposing Royal Albert Hall was filled to capacity in both performances, even the gallery with standing only was packed and it was also great to see a lot of youngsters there as in teenagers and Uni students all of whom seemed to know what they liked by their reaction to the performances by the RPO. I would not say that the programme was anything I would not have expected, so no surprises like TOWERING INFERNO or POSEIDEN ADVENTURE, but the themes that we love and adore such as SUPERMAN which opened the concert wonderfully, the RPO acquitting themselves marvellously in their rendition of the Main theme from the first movie in the franchise with the man of steel being played by the sadly missed Christopher Reeve. HARRY POTTER AND THE PHILOSOPHERS STONE was next in the running order, the mystical and magical sound created by John Williams being purveyed to perfection by the RPO under the more than able baton of Mr Ziegler. From its quiet and almost enchantingly beautiful opening to its more pronounced and windswept aura HEDWIGS THEME resounded around the great hall and left the audience spellbound and mesmerised.

 

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Tommy Pearson introduced sections of the concert and a very good job he did too, I felt that he spoke to the audience as fellow soundtrack collectors and interacted with them affectively, raising a few laughs and a number of grimaces which were responses to a few lame but entertaining one liners, even inviting them to tweet him with their thoughts on the night, dedications, etc. I have to say felt sorry for the young lady who had come along expecting to see Pharrel Williams, but as Tommy said I think we have heard better tunes tonight, much to the amusement of the crowd. Jaws was third in the running order, with Williams now iconic low and menacing strings setting the scene for a theme that still terrifies and puts people off going in the water, the orchestra performing an arrangement of the famous theme which delighted the assembled audience and drew a long and deservedly loud reaction from the crowd.

 

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HOME ALONE came next and as Mr Pearson reminded us John or Johnny Williams was known for scoring comedy movies during his early career before becoming attached to nearly every blockbuster ever released, SOMEWHERE IN MY MEMORY was giving an airing by the RPO the arrangement being more of an easy listening version than the original within the film, but it still hit the spot and whilst listening to it memories of that madcap and highly amusing movie came flooding back. INDIANA JONES THE RAIDERS MARCH came next, and this I have to say was simply superb, the audience thought so too much applause and whistles for the RPO on this one. SCHINDLERS LIST MAIN THEME was also met with much applause as we heard the solo violin part of the theme performed by the RPO’S leader Tamas Andras, who should be given a special mention for his highly emotive and flawless performance. For the next piece we moved a little more up to date to the chaotic and mud filled battle scenes of WAR HORSE, the cue being performed was the subtle and beautiful THE REUNION, which has always reminded me of the style and sound of Vaughn Williams. The last performance before the intermission was from ET THE EXTRA TERRESTIAL the orchestra throwing themselves into ADVENTURES ON EARTH which again as soon as heard conjured up images of that icon last twenty minutes of the movie, with the BMX chase, leading to ET being taken to his spaceship so he can at last go home. I think this was the highlight of the first half of the concert, the famous ET theme echoing around the Albert Hall and drawing wild applause and shouts of delight from the crowd.

 

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FLIGHT TO NEVERLAND from HOOK opened part two, and then an absolute treat FIDDLER ON THE ROOF, which was like an OVERTURE including a number of the popular songs as arranged by Williams for the movie version of the musical, these ended in the music that acted as the main credits music or main title for the movie, again Tamas Andras took the lead and again mesmerised the audience with his wonderful performance, the RPO literally propelled themselves into the piece giving it a marvellous rendition to the absolute delight of the full hall. The PROLOGUE from JFK was next, a downbeat but at the same time inspiring piece, with snares building the tension and leading into a glowing trumpet solo by the RPO’S principal trumpet player James Fountain. 1976 THRU TO 1977 was a busy time for John Williams it was in this year he scored the first STAR WARS movie for George Lucas and also the alien epic CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND for Steven Spielberg, and it is CETK that we went to next, I was hoping for the end section of the score to be performed as I had heard it earlier in the year performed by The Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, but sadly the RPO chose to perform a more commercial arrangement of the theme, and although tis was also very good, I have to admit to being a little disappointed. From space and aliens, we returned to earth but an earth that had via the wonders of DNA wizardry been able to bring back dinosaurs to life in JURASSIC PARK, released in 1993 it was like most Spielberg movies a box office hit and Williams score became a classic almost overnight. Next we came right up to date, with STAR WARS THE FORCE AWAKENS, from this score the RPO performed REYS’THEME and MARCH OF THE RESITANCE. We then returned to a galaxy far far away, with STAR WARS the original movie. PRICESS LEIAS THEME has never sounded so emotive, romantic and lush, with the familiar STAR WARS THEME being the last item on the programme bringing the concert to a thundering end with the whole Albert Hall on its feet. So was there an encore, yes there was, THE IMPERIAL MARCH thundered out from the stage and resounded around the hall, the delight and pleasure upon the faces of the crowd was evident even in the dimmed lighting. A resounding and undoubted success a great concert, well put together and performed to a high standard by the ever polished and flawless ROYAL PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA, with their conductor Mr Robert Ziegler. Concerts of film music are few and far between I hope that there will be more in the future and they are of this high standard and as entertaining.

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THE BFG (2016).

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The creative collaborative partnership of film maker Steven Spielberg and composer John Williams has endured for many years, together they have worked on no less than 27 movies. This amazingly fruitful partnership began with THE SUGARLAND EXPRESS back in 1974 and has continued through the 70,s the 80,s and up to 2016 with the latest offering THE BFG which is soon to hit cinema screens in the UK. The Spielberg/Williams collaboration can be likened to other director and composer partnerships such as Attenborough and Fenton, Leone and Morricone,Howard and Horner and Hitchcock and Herrmann. The directors thoughts and ideas being transformed to images on screen and then given greater depth and atmosphere by the composers in question with their musical scores. THE BFG is no exception to any of the films that Williams and Spielberg have worked on together, as always the movie itself is excellent and it is aided greatly by John Williams musical prowess and inventiveness. I will say however that maybe the music for THE BFG is not that original as in you can tell right from the offset that this is going to be another wonderfully thematic listen from the pen of a master music-smith. The CD opens with THE OVERTURE which is a relatively short cue running for just under two minutes. Flyaway flutes are ushered in by delicate sounding harp which then give way to a lusciously rich sounding theme performed by the string section in a way that can only be written by Mr Williams. Track number two THE WITCHING HOUR, begins with a slightly more apprehensive atmosphere which is relayed by piano underlined and supported by strings and woodwind, it moves into a slower and solitary sounding piece that is scattered with little comedic nuances performed on oboe that is enhanced by woods and a light dusting of harp here and there, its like the theme is just waiting to erupt or turn into something grander at any moment, instead the composer gives us a subdued and rather lilting piano theme for a while and as this develops the strings and woods are in the background causing little stirs of activity, eventually the cu changes direction and becomes more and more threatening, gaining tempo with the composer adding percussion and brass to the proceedings that are themselves underlined by strings which begin to fly but soon are quelled as the cue reaches its conclusion. I may be mistaken but in the opening section of the track I am certain I heard a rather more down tempo and delicate arrangement of Williams theme from THE FURY and this is repeated within other cues as the score progress’s.

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Track number four DREAM COUNTRY is a delight, Williams at his melodic best providing us with one of those low key but at the same time hauntingly beautiful themes that he does so well as in STAR WARS, SCHINDLERS LIST and MUNICH etc. It begins very slowly but soon develops with the strings being bolstered by woodwind, shimmering sounds from the percussion and eventually luxuriously rich strings that melt the emotions of any listener. There is similarities here between CLOSE ENCOUNTERS when Williams brings into the equation flyaway fast flutes that are underlined by jaunty strings. With track number five, SOPHIES NIGHTMARE the score returns to a more urgent and apprehensive mood, strings again but this time setting the pace for a highly charged piece that includes more from the woods and brass as they join with percussion to create a track that is filled with tension and fearfulness. This is as one might expect a soundtrack certainly worth having, maybe not a classic but indeed one that will be listened to and returned to many times. Recommended.

STAR WARS – THE FORCE AWAKENS.

 

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For me any score by John Williams is a delight and also a treasured moment from film music, it was Williams in my opinion who basically saved the orchestral film score with his music from STAR WARS, SUPERMAN,THE TOWERING INFERNO etc, bringing back to Hollywood some of the lush and romantic musical notions that were first heard in movies from the golden age and written by the likes of Korngold, Rozsa, Newman and their like, when the majority of movies were being scored with tacky sounding synths and artificial and cheap sounding electronics. Williams also acted as inspiration for new composers who wanted to either pay homage to this extraordinary music smith or mimic his grand opulent approach to film scoring. His latest offering is from the seventh STAR WARS movie THE FORCE AWAKENS, well yes its Williams that’s obvious and it’s a STAR WARS score that’s another obvious statement, but for me its kind of lacking, there is just something that is not there like in other STAR WARS soundtracks, most of the cues are action orientated with lots of dramatic and urgent strings being embellished and accompanied by proud and at times rasping brass flourishes, booming percussion and the William‘s trademark flyaway sounding woodwinds.

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The familiar central theme is present and there are also a handful of motifs and sounds that we all now associate with the STAR WARS movies, but there are a number of new comers but like I said these are not as developed melodic or indeed as appealing as anything that we heard before. The movie I think does not allow Williams to fully develop any of his rich or romantic thematic properties as before simply because the storyline does not call for them and is an all action fast paced affair. This is great for the fans as the movie is an edge of the seat full throttle adventure and one that has certainly hit all the right spots and pushed all the correct buttons with at least 99.9 percent of the cinema going public. Williams music is good but its not breathtaking as in previous instalments, by this its familiar and grand but the wow factor seems to be lacking here. Maybe it is because JJ Abrahams approach is somewhat different to that of the STAR WARS creator George Lucas, it was said that when writing the screenplays for the original STAR WARS Lucas would often include set static scenes which would allow the music to basically flow and tell the story or enhance and support the scene more prominently, the music becoming integral rather than background similar to the way Leone worked with Morricone and Hitchcock did with Herrmann, with the new STAR WARS however the music I feel has reverted back to being a musical wallpaper or a background its not up there with the characters racing along or if it is it is drowned out by the sound editing and effects etc. I am not going to analyse and examine each and every cue, but maybe just a select few of them.

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MAIN TITLE opens the compact disc, the familiar strains of the anthem like STAR WARS theme boom out with the proud brass leading the way with the tumultuous fanfares that open each episode of the series. The man theme or opening segues nicely into THE ATTACK ON THE JAKKU VILLAGE which is urgent, fast paced, dramatic and imposing, Williams swirling strings creating an atmosphere of chaos and fear and being underlined and punctuated by fierce brass and driving strings which push the composition along and breakneck speed. Track number two is THE SCAVENGER, this is one of the very few quieter moments from the score, it does evoke memories of past Williams compositions and not necessarily STAR WARS linked, low strings which are melodic but at the same time have a dark side to them take the lead and soar momentarily to create a near romantic and melancholy moment, the composer employing harp as well as strings and a faraway sounding horn which conjures up a sense of loneliness or solitude, subdued woodwind then take on the central thematic material adding a delicate and touching sound to the proceedings. Track number three, I CAN FLY ANYTHING, is filled with bravado and drama again brass and strings having the lions share of the performing duties, for me this is a treat as it introduces a variation of the central theme which at first is not totally recognisable, but then the familiar strains do manifest themselves fleetingly. The track continues at pace with strings swirling and dodging around the brass exclamation marks and together creating a exhilarating piece. Track number four REY MEETS BB-8, starts out as a lullaby of sorts, it is gentle and calming, building into a somewhat sombre piece that concludes with low and somewhat fearful sounding strings. Jumping ahead to track number six, REY’S THEME this is a piece written to accompany one of the new characters, woodwinds introduces the cue which are joined by strings that build into a full working of the motif, one can hear that this is from a STAR WARS movie or is it the Williams sound, maybe RAIDERS coming to mind? But it is unlike any theme we have encountered before since our musical journey started in 1977 within this series, it is a more upbeat and jaunty sound than one normally associates with the series and maybe not so robust or rich, with ascending strings and woodwind uniting, again its Williams through and through with the trademark sweeping strings that are mirrored and supported by horns and other brass and interspersed with woodwind but different that’s all I can say.

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Track number seven THE FALCON has shades of the cue HERE THEY COME from A NEW HOPE, exciting and fast paced with jagged brass and every so often the audience being thrown the familiar central theme amongst all the action orientated music where Ostinato strings mingle with staccato brass creating urgent stabs and jumps that support and enhance the scene perfectly.
Track fifteen HAN and LEIA is a return to the original STAR WARS sound as in LEIA,S THEME, or at least a momentary glimpse of it, as the cue moves up a notch into a more dramatic and martial sound, brass and strings combining again heralding a more dramatic turn of events within the cue, before returning to a more down beat and settled ambiance, which has to it a kind of quirkiness that is laced with a romantic atmosphere. Track number 16, MARCH OF THE RESISTANCE, is a fusion of the drama that Williams created in THE IMPERIAL MARCH and also elements of THE THRONE ROOM which bring into the equation the ceremony and also the sense of pomp from that particular piece. The score is an entertaining one and within it we are treated to a number of familiar themes and a handful of new and vibrant ones also. Is it equal to any of the previous scores, in a word no I don’t think it is, but it is John Williams and that alone makes it a worthwhile purchase.

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