With The Rise of Skywalker, composer John Williams has completed his own musical cycle, putting the final coda on a rich musical glossary he started to work on 42 years earlier. When the composer wrote and recorded that film score in 1977, he couldn’t imagine how big the impact of his music would have been, and how long it would have resonated with audiences throughout the subsequent decades. As he told recently to film journalist and film music historian Jon Burlingame:
“Forty years ago, if you said to me, ‘Here’s a project, John, and I want you to write 25 hours of music,’ I would have dropped my pencil case and said, ‘It’s impossible. No one can do that,’”
Yet the composer was able to return to that musical world always with the same amount of enthusiasm, creativity, and devotion for all the subsequent scores he penned for the intergalactic space opera initiated by George Lucas, which now covers a time span of almost half of his life.
The internationally acclaimed violinist talks with The Legacy of John Williams about her collaboration with the composer and their stunning recording project Across The Stars, featuring all-new arrangements of Williams’ iconic film themes rewritten especially for her.
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.
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”: