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Jaws, Star Wars, Schindler's List, Jurassic Park, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Raiders of the Lost Ark it's the film music most of us think of when we see the name John Williams. This collection has those themes, but also raises the curtain on his beautiful pieces for the concert hall: Hymn to New England ; the CD debut of Suite from Memoirs of a Geisha for Cello and Orchestra (written for and recorded with Yo-Yo Ma and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra); Air and Simple Gifts (written for President Obama's inauguration); Elegy for Cello and Orchestra , and more!
Top Customer Reviews
another great addition to any good music library
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Disc 1 opens with "Air and Simple Gifts" (2009), the piece commissioned for President Obama's inauguration. This is followed by the six-movement American Journey (1999), which runs about 25 minutes and is a characteristically optimistic, bright bit of Americana that sounds like a film score. Next up is six-movement Suite from Memoirs of a Geisha for Cello and Orchestra (2008), written for Yo-Yo Ma based on themes from the 2005 film's score, which runs about 29 minutes. Rounding out Disc 1 is "Song for World Peace" (1994), a rather lovely piece. Overall this disc is very good; my only complaint is that neither American Journey nor "Song for World Peace" is so much as mentioned in the liner notes -- it would have been nice to have had some more context as to the origins of this music.
Disc 2 starts with "Summon the Heroes" (1996), written in commemoration of the Centennial of the Modern Olympic Games, which has been one of my favorite pieces of Williams' music ever since it was originally released. Next is "Hymn to New England" (1987), about which the liner notes have nothing to say. The centerpiece of Disc 2 is The Five Sacred Trees (Concerto for Bassoon and Orchestra) (1995), which runs about 26 minutes and is probably the most interesting piece in the set, occasionally sounding not too far distant from CE3K. "Inspired by Celtic lore," it "evokes the secrets of the forest, with a solo part that runs the gamut from the mysterious to the majestic." Next up are "Sound the Bells!" (1993) and "Elegy for Cello and Orchestra" (2002), neither of which is mentioned in the liner notes. The latter is based on a theme from Seven Years in Tibet and was first released here. Following this is "The Mission Theme" from NBC Nightly News (1985), the "March" from 1941 and "The Olympic Spirit" (1988), commissioned by NBC sports for that year's Summer Olympics. The decision to use a piece commissioned during an Olympics taking place in Seoul and omit "Call of the Champions" commissioned for the 2002 games in Utah seems bizarre given the "music of America" theme.
Disc 3 is the least interesting disc, devoted entirely to film works -- and the usual suspects, at that, mostly familiar from Sony's John Williams Greatest Hits 1969-1999 and any number of other compilations. Star Wars Main Title and Finale, Jaws Theme, Sugarland Express, E.T., Schindler's List, Jurassic Park, Empire of the Sun, Raiders, CE3K, plus a three-track suite from Born on the Fourth of July, in keeping, I suppose with the music of America theme. Surely a little more effort could have yielded a disc's worth of John Williams film music Americana instead of all the stuff that John Williams fans will already have, probably several times over. But it doesn't really matter, because the meat of this release is on the first two discs, which do provide an admirable array of Williams' concert work including what I believe is the premier release of the Memoirs Suite.
So if you already have most of Williams' released concert music, this set may not be for you, but if you're only familiar with him through his film music, this may be the best place to start exploring his concert music as well.
The disk of film music is more familiar, some unnecessary (do we need another recording of "Star Wars?"), but if you do not know his music for "Born on the Fourth of July" you will be very, very glad that it's here.