As part of the yearly custom, John Williams conducted the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra at the Hollywood Bowl this past weekend (July 13-14, 2001). Performing his own compositions from films is standard (the evenings were called "Movie Memories"), but that didn't stop Williams from performing the concert work "Jubilee 350", which he wrote commemorating the city of Boston's 350th anniversary. The rousing work was your basic Williams concert piece - plenty of diverse use of the orchestra, with that "classic" Williams touch - particularly in the brass. After jumping into a suite from The Cowboys, Williams addressed the audience and explained the next two pieces: "The Ballroom Scene" and "The Devils Dance" (also know as "The Ride Home" on the album). As expected, these performances are never quite the same as the film versions; Williams has added a bit here and there to make it a concert version. But it's still quite enjoyable, and remains one of my favorite moments from the evening.
Now for a bit of multimedia - there was a screen hanging down in the middle of the bowl (above the orchestra) with a still picture of a bunch of clouds for the whole evening, but now it turned to video imagery. Steven Spielberg's Celebration 2000 film (for the millennium) was shown, in excerpt, as Williams performed three movements from the film with actors Paul Winfield and Anna Deavere Smith providing live narration on stage. The second movement (which Williams had performed last year at the Hollywood Bowl concert) still reminds me of The Patriot, which does nothing more than help diminish my view of the originality of that film score.
After a 20-minute long intermission, Williams returned to the podium, and took us on "The Flight to Neverland", from Hook. A lyrical piece, it's perfect for a concert performance, and lets the Philharmonic show their stuff. Then we were treated to something I had never heard before in a Williams concert (although it doesn't mean it's the first time he's done this): a concert suite of music from his Academy Award winning adaptation of Fiddler on the Roof. Starting out as a montage of main songs from the film, Williams ends up with "Tradition" - at which point lead violinist Bing Wang comes to the fore to perform the main title solo from the film (with orchestra backing). It was a truly magnificent performance. Wang didn't sit back down though; Williams had more plans for her. She then performed the key violin role in "Remembrances" from Schindler's List - another Academy Award winning score by Williams - and a devastatingly emotional cue.
Next week, Jurassic Park III comes out in theaters. While Williams didn't write the score (that honor went to Don Davis), he is still credited with the themes. So it was fitting that Williams perform his (much performed) concert theme from Jurassic Park. As expected, Williams also performed his latest score - in this case, it was A.I.: Artificial Intelligence. With a piano solo building into a soft orchestra piece, the music was tender and emotional. This moving cue was followed by another classic Williams love theme - that of the "Love Theme from Superman". The performance was sweeping and uplifting - but a wrong note from the brass section really killed it for me towards the end. Still, I can appreciate the performance nonetheless. If the audience wasn't happy enough, Williams now launched into the "Main Title" from Superman - to the cheers and whistles of the audience. As the hour was late, to appease the kiddies Williams played "Flying" from E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial. Again, the performance was great, and the energy was high. With that, Williams bowed, and left the stage.
But this is a Williams concert - and you're always going to get an encore or two. Or three, in this case. First up is the encore that everyone always wants: Star Wars. The crowd went wild. Then, as expected, Raiders of the Lost Ark. Again, the crowd couldn't get enough. Finally, as Williams did last year, he commented on how since people had probably missed the news, they would bring it to you here. And with that, they performed Williams's "Mission Theme", which is more commonly known as the "NBC Nightly News theme". With that final encore, the concert was over. It was a rather enjoyable one, but a a few problems in the brass section resulting in flubbed notes can really take the energy out of a cue you're immersed in. Nonetheless, the highlight of the evening had to be (for me) the Fiddler on the Roof suite. I hope Williams uses it again in future concerts.
Special thanks to Rochelle Roe at the Hollywood Bowl Press Office. Photo by Dan Goldwasser