Film music LSO / John Williams Barbican, London
Tuesday 02 July 1996
The first item was not film music at all, but the official theme for the Atlanta Olympics, Summon the Heroes. Williams summoned up the usual suspects - brass (clambering as usual up and down the harmonic series) and martial snare - for his grandiloquent opening. But as well as a particularly rich horn-trumpet psychomachia, there were some lovely modal passages for skittering woodwind, and a Copland-esque angular spaciousness throughout. Intelligently rousing stuff.
The rest of the evening - essentially a Greatest Hits compilation - divided into two sorts of piece. Either hearing the music unencumbered by zapping lasers and dialogue is a revelation or (notably in the extracts from JFK) you get the feeling Williams was simply stuffing time with notes. But when it's good, it's terrific. Williams's harmonies are surprisingly adventurous: Princess Leia's theme from Star Wars, for instance, has some astringent whole-tone counterpoint under the naive melody. And he avoids stodginess in the epically noisy sci-fi marches with closely interwoven textures - theme and accompaniment playing exclusively in the syncopated interstices left by one another, teasing, until they coincide at the climax.
As a reprieve from the fortissimo showboating of Star Wars and Superman, an excerpt from Close Encounters of the Third Kind offered some of Williams's most imaginative colourings, with weird tuba glissandi and a twittering piccolo intersecting dissonantly with sighing cello runs, until the film's five-note leitmotif is smuggled in beautifully with a solo oboe over sostenuto violins. Later on, the spare, romantic lines of the Schindler's List theme proved Williams's underexploited talent for sensitive orchestration, but the solo violin played with such terrible, drama-queen vibrato (the antithesis of Itzhak Perlman's restrained performance on the film's soundtrack) that the effect was almost ruined.
After a final burst of ET, came two encores: the first a bluesy theme from Sugarland Express, which unfortunately came down to straight musicians trying to play jazz; the second the irresistible Raiders of the Lost Ark theme - hugely exciting, and utterly shameless when it modulates up a tone for the finale. The LSO shook off its unusual torpor: the horns, which had sounded tired and inaccurate most of the evening, gave their all. A raucously appreciative capacity crowd saved its biggest cheer for last.
TV review Nick Hewer, the man whose eyebrows speak a thousand words, is set to leave The Apprentice
Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites
TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Nigel Farage: Me vs Russell Brand on Question Time – he's got the chest hair but where are his ideas?
- 2 Harry Potter fans can apply to the Hogwarts-inspired College of Wizardry
- 3 Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
- 4 Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
- 5 Orange Wednesdays are no more
Peter Lik: The self-proclaimed 'fine-art photographer' whose work sells for millions
The best underrated Christmas movies from Love, Actually to While You Were Sleeping
Grace Dent on TV: The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies was a beautifully shot, immensely considered drama
The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies, review: Jason Watkins is brilliant, but real victim Joanna Yeates is reduced to a footnote
Marilyn Manson denies involvement in shocking Lana Del Rey rape video
Disgruntled RBS worker writes hilarious open letter to Russell Brand after anti-capitalist publicity stunt leaves him hungry
Nigel Farage defends Kerry Smith 'ch***y' comment: 'If you are going for a Chinese, what do you say you’re going for?'
Nigel Farage's approval rating hits 'record low' as popularity suffers in wake of Ukip sex scandal
Pakistan school attack live: Taliban kill at least 132 children in 'horrifying' massacre
Sony hack: Angelina Jolie branded 'seriously out of her mind' in further embarrassing leaked email saga
Panic Saturday: 13 million Britons spend £1.2bn – while 13 million others across the country live in poverty unable to afford food