A New March King

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John Williams and the Concert Band

How the Maestro explored one of the richest American musical traditions and brought it into the 21st century

Some of the most celebrated and stirring compositions by John Williams, including many written for films, find one of their roots into one of America’s most fruitful and longest musical traditions, namely the music for concert band, also known as symphonic band, or wind orchestra. Continue reading “A New March King”

A few words with Gil Shaham

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Violinist Gil Shaham is certainly one of the world’s greatest and most talented classical performers. Born in Urbana, Illinois (USA) from Israeli parents, he was raised in Jerusalem when the family went back to Israel. He started studying violin at the Rubin Academy of Music in Jerusalem and debuted at the age of 10 as a true enfant prodige. He then returned to the United States to continue his studies, up to the point when he received scholarship from the Juilliard School of Music in New York City. His career really started to sizzle in 1989, at the age of 18, when he was called in at the last minute to substitute an ailing Itzhak Perlman for a concert with the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas, performing violin concertos by Max Bruch and Jean Sibelius. From that point on, Gil’s career launched into the classical music stardom and he became a major live performer and recording artist for the violin repertoire. He received many accolades and awards for his achievements, including a Grammy Award in 1999 and the coveted Avery Fisher Prize in 2008. He was also named “Instrumentalist of the Year” in 2012 by the magazine Musical America.

Continue reading “A few words with Gil Shaham”

“Music is music”: Interview with Richard Kaufman

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American conductor Richard Kaufman (Portrait by Kevin McIntyre)

In the recent years, film music has seen almost an explosion of presence into the programs of many symphony orchestra around the world. The repertoire of great music written for films is nowadays seen as a very strong pole that is able to attract new and wider audiences into the concert halls. The immediacy of the lexicon used by film music, coupled with the fond memories of some great classic movies, is helping to shape a new generation of listeners toward the beauty of symphonic music and classical repertoire. The music of John Williams has played a pivotal role, as it’s been embraced by millions of people around the world and continues to be one of the most beloved to listen to live when people packs concert halls. This happened especially thanks to the strong endorsement and tireless enthusiasm of several conductors who are especially keen toward film music and Williams’ own repertoire. One of these musical heroes is American conductor Richard Kaufman. Continue reading ““Music is music”: Interview with Richard Kaufman”

Inspire in absentia: Memoirs from London and Vienna

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The London Symphony Orchestra performing the concert “A Celebration of John Williams” at the Royal Albert Hall on Friday October 26th, 2018 (Photo by Christie Goodwin, courtesy of Royal Albert Hall)

As it was announced just a couple of days before the show, John Williams had to cancel his appearance at the Royal Albert Hall in London on October 26, 2018 due to a last-minute illness that unfortunately caught him upon his arrival in the UK’s capitol. The composer was set to conduct the London Symphony Orchestra in a long-awaited concert featuring his beloved movie music in a career-spanning program. The event (which sold-out in a few hours after it was announced in February 2018) was tremendously anticipated by fans of John Williams all around the world–the concert would have been his first on the European soil after twenty years (his last concert happened indeed in London in 1998 with the LSO). Admirers from all corners of Europe and even from other continents booked flights, hotels and tickets to not miss the event. The orchestra, the Royal Albert Hall management and the composer himself were also anticipating with thrill what promised to be a once-in-a-lifetime evening. The occasion was all the more special because of the true “special relationship” between Williams and the London Symphony Orchestra and, as producer Mike Matessino wrote on the concert’s program notes, with the London music scene in general, a love affair that goes back since the late 1960s, when Williams ended up living and working in the city for several projects.

Continue reading “Inspire in absentia: Memoirs from London and Vienna”

Musical Accompaniment vs. Musical Enhancement

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In 2017, John Williams and Steven Spielberg collaborated on their 28th feature film together, The Post. The film recounts the story of the great cover-up that spanned four U.S. Presidents which pushed the first female newspaper publisher (Kathleen Graham) and the chief editor of the Washington Post (Ben Bradlee) to publish classifed top-secret files (known as the “Pentagon Papers”) that documented the involvement of the government in the Vietnam War, with an unprecedented battle between the press and the government that ensued later. Continue reading “Musical Accompaniment vs. Musical Enhancement”

The significance of a legacy

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This simple picture sums up what this blog is about and the purpose at its core. An old saying recites “a picture is worth a thousand words”. That is what comes to mind seeing such a lovely picture from 2016 (courtesy of Gloria Cheng).

The impact John Williams’ music has on young people is probably one of his most lasting legacies. Seeing the Maestro surrounded by so many young music students (namely, from the music program at the UCLA School of Music) is a view that warms the heart. Continue reading “The significance of a legacy”

Up close and personal: Conversation with pianist Gloria Cheng

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Gloria Cheng (Photo by Lefteris Padavos)

American pianist Gloria Cheng is one of the world’s leading instrumentalist who crossed musical boundaries and brought her own art to a wide variety of genres and styles. Over the years she specialized in contemporary classical repertoire and championed the music of a wide variety of composers who wrote pieces specifically for her, including John Adams, Pierre Boulez, Gavin Bryars, John Harbison, Joan Huang, William Kraft, Veronika Krausas, Magnus Lindberg, Terry Riley and Steven Stucky, among many others.

Gloria Cheng also works in the Los Angeles music scene as one of the most-requested session players for film music recordings. She performed virtuoso parts on the score for The Matrix (1999), composed by Don Davis. Then in 2005 she caught the attention of John Williams, when the composer asked her to perform a piano solo part for the end credits piece on the score of Steven Spielberg’s Munich. In 2011, Williams again gave Cheng a prominent part, a virtuosic solo piano on the score for The Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn in the track called “Snowy’s Theme”:

Continue reading “Up close and personal: Conversation with pianist Gloria Cheng”