The Talented Life Of John Williams Part Five
I feel in a good mood, which means to watch(only), the first six films of STAR WARS, and you can’t get those great John Williams tunes out of your head. In this blog The Talented Life Of John Williams Part Five, I’m going to start where I left off yesterday on The Talented Life Of John Williams Part Four, so let’s get to it and read and see John Williams.
I’m In February 2013, Williams expressed his interest in working in the Star Wars sequel trilogy, stating: “Now we’re hearing of a new set of movies coming in 2015, 2016… so I need to make sure I’m still ready to go in a few years for what I hope would be continued work with George.” He also scored the 2013 film The Book Thief, which marked his first collaboration with a director other than Spielberg since 2005. The score earned him Academy Award, Golden Globe and BAFTA nominations and earned him a Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Composition. It was his 44th nomination for Best Original Score (and 49th overall), setting a new record for the most nominations in that category (he previously tied Alfred Newman’s record of 43 nominations in 2013).
In 2015, he scored Star Wars: The Force Awakens, earning him his 50th Academy Award nomination. Williams was also set to write the score for Bridge of Spies that year, which would have been his 27th collaboration with director Steven Spielberg. However, in March 2015, it was announced that Thomas Newman would replace Williams for the film, as Williams’s schedule was interrupted by a minor health issue and he became unavailable to score the film. This is the first Spielberg film since The Color Purple (1985) not scored by Williams.
In 2016, Williams composed the score for Spielberg’s The BFG, which opened in July 2016.
Williams will score the animated short film “Dear Basketball” directed by Glen Keane and based on a poem by Kobe Bryant.
Williams has expressed interest in composing the score for Star Wars: The Last Jedi, to be released on December 15, 2017. On June 9, 2016, an interview with Variety stated he “expects” to start working on it in 2017 if attached to the project. At a Tanglewood concert in August 2016, Williams confirmed he is scheduled to start scoring the film. He has also been attached to compose the scores for Steven Spielberg’s The Post and the fifth Indiana Jones film, and is also presumed to be working on Star Wars Episode IX.
A three-disc box set compilation of all of William’s musical scores for Steven Spielberg’s films, titled John Williams & Steven Spielberg: The Ultimate Collection, was released on March 17, 2017, which includes two previous score compilations from 1991 and 1995.
Williams’s body of work in film composing was featured in the 2017 documentary film SCORE: A Film Music Documentary.
Conducting and performing
Williams signing an autograph after a concert
From 1980–93, Williams succeeded Arthur Fiedler as the Boston Pops Orchestra’s Principal Conductor. Williams never met Fiedler in person but spoke with him by telephone. His arrival as the Pops’ new leader in the spring of 1980 allowed him to devote part of the Pops’ first PBS broadcast of the season to presenting his new compositions for The Empire Strikes Back.
Williams almost ended his tenure with the Pops in 1984. Considered a customary practice of opinion, some players hissed while sight-reading a new Williams composition in rehearsal; Williams abruptly left the session and turned in his resignation. He initially cited mounting conflicts with his film composing schedule, but later admitted a perceived lack of discipline in, and respect from, the Pops’ ranks, culminating in this latest instance. After entreaties by the management and personal apologies from the musicians, Williams withdrew his resignation and continued as principal conductor for nine more years. In 1995, he was succeeded by Keith Lockhart, the former associate conductor of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and Cincinnati Pops Orchestra.
Williams is now the Pops’ Laureate Conductor, thus maintaining his affiliation with its parent, the Boston Symphony Orchestra (BSO). Williams leads the Pops on several occasions each year, particularly during their Holiday Pops season and typically for a week of concerts in May. He conducts an annual Film Night at both Boston Symphony Hall and Tanglewood, where he frequently enlists the Tanglewood Festival Chorus, the BSO’s official chorus.
Williams has written many concert pieces, including a symphony; a Concerto for Horn written for Dale Clevenger, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s Principal Hornist; a Concerto for Clarinet written for Michele Zukovsky (the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s Principal Clarinetist) in 1991; a sinfonietta for wind ensemble; a cello concerto premiered by Yo-Yo Ma and the Boston Symphony Orchestra at Tanglewood in 1994; concertos for the flute and violin recorded by the London Symphony Orchestra; and a trumpet concerto, which was premiered by The Cleveland Orchestra and their principal trumpet Michael Sachs in September 1996.
His bassoon concerto, “The Five Sacred Trees”, which was premiered by the New York Philharmonic and principal bassoon player Judith LeClair in 1995, was recorded for Sony Classical by Williams with LeClair and the London Symphony Orchestra. Williams was the subject of an hour-long documentary for the BBC in 1980, and was featured in a report on 20/20 in 1983.
Stanley Donen (left) and John Williams at Avery Fisher Hall
In 1985, Williams was commissioned by NBC to compose a television news music package for various network news spots. The package, which Williams named “The Mission,” consists of four movements, two of which are still used heavily by NBC today for Today, NBC Nightly News, and Meet the Press. He composed the “Liberty Fanfare” for the Statue of Liberty’s rededication, “We’re Lookin’ Good!” for the Special Olympics in celebration of the 1987 International Summer Games, and themes for the 1984, 1988, 1996, and 2002 Olympic Games. His most recent concert work, “Seven for Luck”, for soprano and orchestra, is a seven-piece song cycle based on the texts of former U.S. Poet Laureate Rita Dove. “Seven for Luck” was given its world premiere by the Boston Symphony under Williams with soprano Cynthia Haymon.