Even if you have never spared a second thought on film music, you will most likely be able to hum along to a few notes of the Indiana Jones or Star Wars themes. Composing themes and melodies that stay with us for days and years after watching the movies is an art that John Williams has perfected throughout his composing career. The highlights of said career were promised and duly delivered at the National Academic Bolshoi Opera and Ballet Theatre Minsk Orchestra’s concert “The Best of John Williams” in Hamburg.
Since the first thing that comes to mind when I hear Williams is “brass”, I was rather surprised with the low number of brass instruments in the Orchestra. Three trumpets, French horns and trombones and one tuba was about half of what I expected when I thought of the Star Wars main theme. But after some internet-research to compensate for my lack of actual musical schooling I found out that this is actually a rather common line up. When the orchestra, led by Maestro Claudio Vandelli, opened up their concert with a spectacular rendition of the original Star Wars themes, all my doubts about its brass section vanished into thin air. And while the Barclaycard Arena in Hamburg is – as most sports arenas – acoustically not the best place for a symphonic orchestra to play in, the orchestra did a fantastic job in filling the place with wonderful music and memories. The evening was presented by Knut Elstermann, a German film critic, who splendidly managed the balancing act between providing interesting facts about the music and not talking too much.
The music selection made for an emotionally diversified evening. The heart-rending solo violin performance for Schindler’s List and the quiet tones of Memoirs of a Geisha stood in contrast to more happy tunes like Indiana Jones and Hook. Generally, almost every well-known musical theme of Williams was represented during the evening.
This unfortunately also resulted in three different Star Wars suites being played throughout the concert and the “Imperial March” for the encore. Which was maybe a tiny bit too much emphasis on why we know and love John Williams. Especially the “Duel of the Fates” piece, which was possibly my least favourite part of the concert due to the lack of a choir, and the repeat of the E.T. theme for the second encore could possibly have made some space for a few pieces which are lesser known, but not any less brilliant for it. In the way that the concert was, it left me with a very pleasant recap of all the Williams pieces I love, but without the euphoria of having newfound appreciation for something I didn’t already love before I came to the concert.
Since the Programme was only available at a rather ridiculous price, the following list of played tracks might not correspond to the official program. It is written as I heard them:
- Star Wars – the original trilogy (including the Main Theme and Leia’s Theme)
- Hook (Flight to Neverland)
- Schindler’s List (Main Theme and Remembrances)
- Star Wars – the Prequels (Anakin’s Theme, Across the Stars and Duel of the Fates)
- Memoirs of a Geisha (including Sayuri’s Theme)
- Jurassic Park (Welcome to Jurassic Park)
— intermission —
- Superman (Main Theme)
- Jaws (Main Theme)
- Harry Potter (Hedwig’s Theme and Harry’s Wondrous World)
- E.T. (Including Elliott’s Theme and the Flight Theme)
- Indiana Jones (Raiders’ March)
- Star Wars – miscellaneous (including Yoda’s Theme, Rey’s Theme, and the Throne Room)
Encore 1: Star Wars (The Imperial March)
Encore 2: E.T. (Flight Theme)