At 90, John Williams is still the lord and master of soundtracks

“If they keep getting me like this, I’m going to have to live to be 100,” John Williams told the gigantic audience that packed the Hollywood Bowl last night, shortly after appearing onstage to conduct the Philharmonic Orchestra. Los Angeles for the first of three consecutive dates at the charming open-air venue in Southern California (the second is today and the closing one is this Sunday).

It was not the first time that the creator of some of the most relevant musical pieces in the history of cinema had done something similar; in fact, these kinds of performances by him alongside the same orchestra have been taking place at the Bowl for a long time. But we have never seen such an excited crowd, especially for a concert of this kind; and that reaction undoubtedly had to do with the fact that, beyond being a legend, it was the first time that Williams appeared here after having turned 90, on February 8.

Requiring no assistance, the prolific American maestro walked in and out of the stage on more than one occasion, stood through a performance that lasted approximately an hour and a half, and frequently chatted with those in attendance. , providing interesting details about the compositions he presented, as happened after the greeting described above, when he gave an account of “Hedwig’s Theme” and “Harry’s Wondrous World”, two numbers specifically created for the Harry Potter film saga. (If you ask us, the first one is much better: the forays into the solo celesta – that instrument that looks like a piano, but from which comes a sound, well, heavenly – is simply sublime).

Given the many contributions he has made to contemporary music, Williams cannot please everyone during his recitals, and it is clear that he is not only interested in performing the “greatest hits” – which are what the crowd wants to hear. -, which is why he includes recent pieces in his current repertoires that are not necessarily on the same level as his best works (although they are often surprising) or completely omits some that we thought were inevitable (such as the central theme of “Jaws”, which we have never seen before). heard with his baton in command and that he really deserved to have been present this Friday, since the film has just been re-released in US theaters in 3D and IMAX formats).

In that sense, it could be said that the beginning of the show was anticlimactic, because it corresponded to “Olympic Fanfare & Theme”, a piece made for the 1984 Olympics that, at least for me, was quite unknown. But it was accompanied by a series of recent images of American athletes -including Kobe Bryant-; and in those moments, I could notice the emotion that it provoked in my companion, a colleague from the Sports section. In the end, it all depends on the glass with which you look.

Nor did we expect to hear a compendium of the musical themes of “Fiddler on the Roof”, especially since the authorship of the musical later transformed into a film does not correspond to Williams, but to Jerry Bock. However, Williams presented the selection with his own arrangements of authentic luxury, and, in addition, he used it to display in style the talents of Bing Wang, an unquestionably virtuoso violinist who left the square speechless as she indulged in the extremely complex solo that crowned the segment.

Fans of “Star Wars” did not stop showing their enthusiasm.

(Farah Sosa/LA Phil)

The Chinese-born instrumentalist then took charge of the central theme of “The Schindler’s List”, managing to squeeze our hearts with the overwhelming melody of a composition that may refer to the Holocaust, but is capable of moving anyone.

In any case, there was no shortage of novelties, such as the debut at the Bowl of the theme song for the Obi-Wan Kenobi television series, included in the inevitable segment dedicated to the “Star Wars” saga that, tonight, included “Scherzo for X-Wings” -from “The Force Awakens”- and to “Throne Room & Finale” -from “A New Hope”-, giving rise to the aerial dance of toy lightsabers that is part of the experience, and that is a separate show.

Outside the official program, Williams was encouraged to offer an absolute premiere of the most significant: that of the theme corresponding to Helena, a character who will be played by Phoebe Waller-Bridge in “Indiana Jones 5”, a blockbuster that still does not even have a official name.

“[El director de la película] Jim [Mangold] He said why didn’t I play it at the Bowl, and I said, ‘But it won’t be out until next year!’ ‘No matter; play it!’”, recalled the teacher, before describing the character as “a femme fatale and adventurer” who deserved a piece worthy of “an old movie star”. Indeed, the delicate and easygoing piece – which is nice, but didn’t blow our minds – had echoes of classic Hollywood.

Next, Williams attacked with the main theme of “Raiders of the Lost Ark” -which is indeed remarkable- and gave the final blow with “The Imperial March”, the masterful cut of “The Empire Strikes Back” that has even been adapted to ‘metal’ versions due to its forcefulness. And despite the fact that everything he led – with the exception of the Olympic segment – was devoid of the respective images on the giant screens (we still do not fully understand the problem of rights), the public adored him.

The screens themselves were much busier during the show’s opening act, where David Newman led the Philharmonic in a series of vivid performances, most of which featured their visual counterparts, as was the case with excerpts from “Sunset Blvd.” .” who showed up; of the hilarious interaction with animated scenes of “Batton Bunny” (starring a Bugs Rabbit with the pretense of an orchestra conductor) that could be seen, and of “With Malice Toward None”, the part of the “Lincoln” tape that was written by Williams and that also interfered in the evening with the accompaniment of shots from the Steven Spielberg tape.

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