John Williams held his annual concert at the Hollywood Bowl this Labor Day weekend, on Friday September 1, and Saturday September 2. The focus of the evening was "John Williams and the Music of the Movies", featuring the maestro conducting the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra beneath the stars. Broken into two parts, the first half focused on "The Golden Age of Hollywood", where Williams hand-picked a few of his favorite older pieces to share with the crowd.
Beginning with Alfred Newman's "20th Century Fox Fanfare" (no doubt teasing those in the crowd who didn't have the program guide into thinking that Star Wars was coming up), we were treated with "Conquest" from Newman's Captain from Castille. Two solos stood out in the first half: Dan Higgins on alto saxophone during a suite from Waxman's A Place in the Sun, and violinist (and concertmistress) Bing Wang on Steiner's "Theme from Now, Voyager". Rosza's "Madame Bovary Waltz" was sandwiched between those two pieces.
After very playful "The Inquirer" from Citizen Kane, the first half ended with a tribute to Bernard Herrmann and Alfred Hitchcock, with synchronization to moving images on screen. A montage from Psycho, "Scene d'Amour" from Vertigo and the main Theme from North by Northwest were played, and the climaxes from a few of Hitchcock's films were shown, aptly ruining them for anyone who has not seen them. By the time the intermission rolled around, we hadn't heard a note of music by Williams - but the second half would more than make up for that.
Not credited on the program guide, Williams opened the second part of the concert with "Flight to Neverland" from Hook, a pleasant surprise. After that, he brought us his concert rendition of the "Theme from Jurassic Park", followed by "Sayuri's Theme" from his Oscar-nominated score to Memoirs of a Geisha. Easily the highlight of the evening, the suite from Fiddler on the Roof (composed by Jerry Bock, but featuring Williams' Oscar-winning arrangements) was played. Bing Wang returned to perform the very difficult violin solo, which garnered a huge crowd reaction. From there, the "Love Theme" from Superman was played, as well as the "Superman March".
The concert officially ended with "A Tribute to George Lucas and Steven Spielberg". This featured a montage of video clips set to music from Jaws, Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial. It was a nice way to close the concert, but as with all Williams concerts, there was still more to come.
There were four (yes, four!) encores: "The Imperial March" and "Yoda's Theme" from The Empire Strikes Back, "Harry's Wondrous World" from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, and "The Mission Theme" which Williams had composed for NBC News. Overall, it was a satisfying concert, with most of the expected "standards" played for the audience. It would still be great for Williams to play some of his more obscure pieces, and remind people that he's more than just the guy who does those movies for George Lucas and Steven Spielberg. Perhaps next year...