well, it was not what I expected–I thought I was in for john williams playing his greatest hits. unfortunately, it was not very rememberable as a whole.
there were two separate parts separated by an intermission. the first part was hosted by martin scorsese and the second part was hosted by steven spielberg and of course each part was conducted by williams.
the first part was dedicated to bernard herrmann and williams only performed herrman’s pieces during this part. I was not expecting to hear williams not play his own work so that was a bit of a surprise, but it worked. many of the pieces performed where those written for hitchcock. during the performance of those pieces, scenes from movies (including the dialogue) were played in the background. it was neat to see vintage movie clips (such as from psycho and north by north west) accompanied by suspenseful music played live by the NY phil and conducted by williams.
the second part focused on williams playing pieces he wrote for speilberg. it opened with williams conducting the jaws main theme and it was fantastic. it was the first time during the concert that I felt utterly excited by the experience. it was also the first time that I believe the entire audience was fully energized. I mean, this is why we all came right?
close encounters followed jaws and it was pretty good. not fantastic, but pretty good.
the remaining portion of the second part was flat or disappointing.
indiana jones was next. raider’s march right? wrong.
spielberg and williams thought it would be great if they played the entire first scene of Last Crusade both with and without williams accompaniment. speilberg talked us through the scene (river phoenix playing a young indiana jones) and told us what williams accompaniment was going to add. then the scene was replayed and williams conducted through the scene. during the entire accompaniment for the Last Crusade scene, the Jones hero music is barely noticeable-only touched upon for a moment (when young indiana escapes from harm). this segment of the second part felt like a classroom experience for art students. it was at most barely interesting and at worst, a complete waste of time. Indiana Jones was not visited again during the night.
then another piece from jaws was conducted-but it was not a piece anyone could probably identify. it sounded like something you’d hear while killing time at a movie theater before previews. with all the pieces that spielberg and williams could select from, why visit jaws twice? and why select an unknown piece?
then came ET. this was entirely overdone.
the last 15 minutes of ET were played and williams conducted through it. while the movie (albeit 25 years old) was grand, and everyone cried with drew barrymore when ET flew back to the moon, the experience as a whole was very awkward. I found myself not paying attention to the score and rather I was completely distracted by the dialogue between the characters and the action in the movie. I am sure speilberg would have been thrilled by that 25 years ago, but in a john williams concert, today, I felt that the wrong call had been made by whomever put this thing together.
then came munich. I don’t have a strong feeling about munich so I was not moved. perhaps others felt differently. I would have rather heard jurassic park, but that is me, but I don’t want to be too picky. munich is his more recent work and we cannot live entirely in the past.
then the second part ended and williams came out for the first encore. he started the encore by saying “although lucas is not here, I don’t think he’d mind”. everyone in the audience was standing and cheering again (for the first time in my recollection since the jaws theme) and williams went into the star wars theme. it was fantasitc.
that is where the concert might as well have ended for me.
the next encore was another piece from munich (why?). then the NBC nightly news theme (why? why?). then something that williams composed in 1988 for leonard bernstein, something with a hint of “west side story” (why? why? why?). all I could think was “Superman can you save us?” but the answer to that question was no. the concert ended.
I hope some people out there were more moved by the experience. I don’t see myself paying to see williams again, however. for free-maybe but with low expectations.