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John Williams and film-music recitals

Lydia Leong

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Well, after some weeks of anticipation, I finally received my CD of John Williams' violin concerto from Amazon. (Performed by Mark Peskanov.)

I'm disappointed to report that there's a reason nobody plays this work. An atonal work, though Romantic in idiom -- much like Nicholas Maw's recent violin concerto (just recorded by Joshua Bell) -- it seems to wander aimlessly through a forest of chromaticism. Though not actually unviolinistic, the work just fails to be attractive. Written some years prior to the score for "Star Wars", there's nothing about it that seems characteristically Williams. My initial impression was not favorable, and repeated listenings have done nothing other than to let my ear tune it out as background noise.

However, today, I was pleasantly surprised to find the sheet music for the Devil's Dance from "The Witches of Eastwick", in a local music store. Interestingly, it is dedicated to Gil Shaham, making me wonder where the composer encountered Shaham, who must have been very young indeed when the movie was made.

I wish someone would commission Williams to write a basically tonal, Romantic concerto in the vein of, say, Samuel Barber's. Clearly, based on his film music, Williams can write extremely idiomatically for the violin; if not a concerto, a suite along the lines of Korngold's "Much Ado About Nothing" would be a wonderful contribution to the repertoire.

Changing gears a little:

Have any of you enterprising recital-giving folk ever considered giving a short recital of film music?

You could do something like:

Humoresque from "Humoresque" (Dvorak/Kreisler)

Three Pieces from "Schindler's List" (Williams)

Chaconne, "The Red Violin" (Corigliano)

Tristan and Isolde Fantasy from "Humoresque" (Waxman)

and the Devil's Dance from "The Witches of Eastwick" (Williams) as an encore.

I believe this program would be somewhere from 45-60 minutes long (have to look up track timings to be sure).

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Lydia, I didn't know at all that John Williams has written a Violin Concerto. I like most of his music -though I don't know all his film scores-, but I didn't expect he wrote something atonal.

About the movie melodies recital, it's a great idea, thanx!! Now I'll try to find someone who likes to accompany me... I would also add some music of Ennio Morricone or Nino Rota. Are there some arrangements from "the Godfather" for violin and piano?

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How about finishing off the recital with Heinz Prevost's "Intermezzo"? It was in the old Ingrid Bergman movie and it is really gorgeous. There is a lovely recording by Toscha Seidel.

Not quite a film music per se, but Korngold's "Much ado about nothing" suite is very beautiful as well.

Some of the movie music by Charlie Chaplin may be useful as encores.


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