Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Williams: Star Wars Suite

Few people alive today will not recognize the music from the 1977 blockbuster movie Star Wars, which along with 1975’s Jaws turned the names John Williams (b. 1932), George Lucas and Steven Spielberg into household words ­— and Hollywood gold.

What fans of his movie scores may not know is that he started out as a talented recording musician whose playing is heard on scores by Jerry Goldsmith, Elmer Bernstein (no relation to Leonard Bernstein) and Henry Mancini. The famous opening riff of Peter Gunn was actually played by John Williams.

His composing career first gained traction with well known television themes from the 1960’s for shows like Gilligan’s Island and Lost in Space. The first of his 49 Academy Awards nominations came in 1967 for his score adaptation for Valley of the Dolls and he is now the second most recognized artist by the Academy, behind Walt Disney.

In addition to his famous original scores for Superman, the Harry Potter and Indiana Jones series, Schindler’s List and Saving Private Ryan (among many others), he has written concertos for some of the world’s finest soloists, a symphony, and numerous works for official occasions. His accomplishments include many awards from around the world, honorary degrees and Hall of Fame inductions. In 2005, the American Film Institute designated Star Wars as the greatest American film score of all time.

All this success is owed to his gift for creating musical imagery of grand scale and force in the manner of Richard Strauss, and his connecting succinct musical ideas to characters and themes in the fashion of great programmatic composers like Richard Wagner.

Besides composing, Williams has been a distinguished guest conductor with many of the world’s greatest orchestras, and succeeded Arthur Fiedler as the Principal Conductor of the Boston Pops Orchestra, a post he held from 1980-1993. As Laureate Conductor, he continues working with the Boston Pops, and frequently performs at the site of Leonard Bernstein’s final concert: the Tanglewood Estate.

The next installment of the famous series — Star Wars: The Force Awakes — is scheduled for release in December 2015, with music written and conducted by — who else? — John Williams.

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