John Williams turns 90 on February 8. And the world’s most famous film composer shows no signs of slowing down.
The five-time Academy Award winner, and creator of many of the most popular movie themes of all time — everything from “Jaws” and “Star Wars” to “ET” and “Harry Potter” — has finished work on two new movie scores and if COVID allows, plans to To hold concerts with at least five orchestras between April and November.
Commemorating the Unborn Williams is the release of “John Williams: The Berlin Concert”, a two-disc from the Deutsche Grammophon group recorded during the composer’s October 14-16 concerts with the Berlin Concert Orchestra.
The 93-minute set includes many of Williams’ familiar tunes — “Star Wars,” “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” “Jurassic Park,” and “Superman” — as well as some of his lesser-known tracks, including his Solo theme. : The Story of Star Wars” and “The Elegy for Cello and Orchestra” is a moving film.
The Berlin album can be considered a companion piece to last year’s “John Williams: Live in Vienna,” another example of an American composer leading one of Europe’s most famous orchestras. This includes music not on the Berlin album, including music from “Jaws,” “Schindler’s List,” “The Witches of Eastwick,” and “Hook.” Williams will return to Vienna for Christmas parties on March 12 and 13.
Already receiving honors from the Kennedy Center, he will revisit this Washington landmark on June 23 for what the National Symphony Orchestra bills as its “90th Birthday Party” featuring violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter, cellist Yo-Yo Ma and longtime filmmaking partner Stephen Spielberg.
Williams wasn’t available for this story as he is finishing work on the score for Spielberg’s upcoming movie, “The Fabelmans,” which is expected to be taped next month in Los Angeles. The film, inspired by Spielberg’s childhood in Arizona, is scheduled to be released on November 23.
“Fabelmans” marks their twenty-ninth film collaboration since The Sugarland Express, their first in 1974. Seventeen of Williams’ 52 nominations (a record-breaking record) for Spielberg films, including three of five wins (“Jaws,” ET”, “Schindler”).
Williams is also working on the score for the fifth film “Indiana Jones,” scheduled for release in mid-2023. He continues to write music for the concert hall: last year, he performed with his second Violin Concerto Stringer.
Younger composers routinely cite Williams as a role model, not only for his classical scores but for his compositional prowess (as in the modernist complexity of a score like “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”) and his talent for finding the right dramatic approach to each story ( minimalism for “AI”, jazz saxophone for “Catch Me If You Can”, Japanese colors for “Memoirs of a Geisha”).
Following his popular success with 1977’s “Star Wars,” Williams began performing in public, eventually making film music a staple at pop concerts. And while Henry Mancini had this started in the 1960s, it was Williams who became the kind of rock star on the concert stage, as tens of thousands of fans waved plastic lanterns just in time for the music at the Hollywood Bowl and beyond.
Composer David Newman, who often directs film music at live concert venues, cites Williams’ 14-year tenure as music director for the Boston Pops (1980-1993) as the launch pad that eventually led to the popularity today — and lucrative orchestras. Live music shows.
Newman notes that “John convinced a fairly conservative institution to play more and more movie music.” He adds that world-class orchestras such as those in Berlin and Vienna now play film music in concert, “it would have been unimaginable had it not been for John’s insistence on providing not only his own music, but the entire world of film music.”
Williams’ longevity in business surprises even his closest colleagues. He had been writing music for films and television since 1958, an unprecedented career that lasted six decades. This is Williams’ jazz piano on Mancini’s original “Peter Gunn” sessions, recorded at the time he was beginning his career as a composer but still working as a prominent keyboardist for other composers including Alfred Neumann, Elmer Bernstein and Jerry Goldsmith.
As Spielberg said when awarding Williams with the American Film Institute Life Achievement Award: “Without John Williams, bikes don’t really fly, nor brooms at Quidditch matches, nor men in red capes. There is no power. Dinosaurs don’t walk the earth. No wonder, no We cry, we don’t believe. John, you breathe faith into every movie we’ve made.”