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John Williams: Concerto for Violin and Orchestra

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Customer Reviews

Gorgeous work, highly recommended.

There isn't much of Williams' Hollywood style in this concerto, which is basically a neo-Classical work that flirts with atonality and uses a fully chromatic harmonic and melodic palette that builds on the same forms used by Bartók, Walton, and others. The work is in a fast-slow-fast three-movement layout; however, Williams' film music skills—or perhaps his native skills that make him an outstanding film composer, are visible in at least two aspects. No matter how chromatic or abstract they may become, the melodic lines command the attention of the listener and stay in the memory so that they guide the listener through the work, and the orchestration is clear and colorful. The opening movement is initially marked Moderato. It starts with solo violin, then woodwinds slowly appearing and entwining about the soloists' lines. Woodwinds do play an important part in the concerto. The 1988 revision of the score also adds an E flat pedal bass. The melodic opening theme contrasts with a cocky second subject and the main body of the movement is marked Allegro. After the dramatic high point of the movement, the violin gets a brilliant cadenza and the concerto quietly ends. The central Adagio is the emotional heart of the work. It is here, if anyplace, that Williams expresses the feelings occupying him at that time. For while just before he gained his great fame, he lost his wife, actress and singer Barbara Ruick Williams, who unexpectedly died in Reno of a cerebral hemorrhage during a film shoot. (Her best-known screen performance is probably that of Carrie Pipperidge in Rodgers and Hammerstein's Carousel.) This concerto as a whole is dedicated to her memory and the elegiac tone of this movement and its emotional arc leads one to think of these circumstances. The Adagio begins calmly with a lyrical theme, but the music explodes into frantic action, only later in the movement finding peace again. The Finale starts with an introduction that seems a battle between a Maestoso statement of six chords, but followed by a few bars of Presto tempo, then some more Maestoso. The movement then settles into the fast tempo, with the six introductory chords always seeming to try to repeat themselves, but always frustrated by the violin's interest in being fast and brilliant. Gorgeous work, highly recommended.
I'm the producer of his Clarinet Concerto written for Principal Clarinetist of the Los Angeles Philharmonic - Michele Zukovsky.

Bravo Detroit, Slatkin

I can't stand anything more than film composers who write a concert piece and it sounds nothing like the film music that their public knows and loves.

I know most of Williams' concert work and I think he gets shortchanged. Initially maybe audiences might not hear the bombast and triumphant trumpets playing in fifths, however, upon close listening the music is unmistakably Williams in every way that we know and love. His personal sense of harmony, sense of cadence, everything.

The difference I would say is subject matter. Most of Williams major concert works are in some way programmatic, usually finding their inspiration in nature, in trees to be more precise.

So the often somber bent that these pieces possess if often quite different from say the appropriate tone an emotions he complemented in star wars.

In the end, these works are very personal and quite beautiful. Bravo to Slatkin for championing Williams as as concert composer for so long. His commitment to the music dates to the 1970s. And bravo to the Detroit Symphony who despite the economic problems in their city and organization found the artistic vision and wearwithall to create such wonderful recordings.


Born: September 1, 1944 in Los Angeles, CA

Genre: Classical

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Leonard Slatkin is one of the world's leading conductors, noted for his performances of American, Russian, and British music, and Haydn symphonies. He was born to a famous musical family. His father was Felix Slatkin (1915-1963), a Saint Louis-born violinist who rose to become a film score and light music conductor, and founder of the Hollywood String Quartet. Leonard's mother was the excellent cello soloist Eleanor Aller, cellist of the quartet. Between them, they trained their boy in violin, viola,...
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