The Music of John Williams – Concert Review – Hull City Hall

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music of john williams at hull city hall royal philharmonic orchestra review

The Music of John Williams, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra – Review

Hull City Hall, February 2017

by Roger Crow

When you host a John Williams concert, choosing which tracks go into the running time is a tricky choice.

Obviously, the main themes from Star Wars, Superman, Jaws, ET, and Raiders of the Lost Ark are high on the list. As are Harry Potter and Jurassic Park. It’s the sort of track list you’d find on ‘Now That’s What I Call John Williams’ Greatest Hits’.

Every one of the above is masterfully played by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra at Hull City Hall. The opening Superman theme is a moving experience; the last minutes as that 1978 opener reaches its finale are as breathtaking as anything I’ve enjoyed in recent years. That includes a couple of gigs at the Albert Hall in which orchestras played to screenings of Star Trek and ‘Raiders’.

“Show-stealing turns from violinist Tamas Andras”

But there’s so much more to each of Williams’ best known scores than the main themes to this film or that film. The ‘love theme’ from the Man of Steel’s opening adventure, ‘Blown to Bits’ (Jaws) and ‘Desert Chase’ (Raiders) are stunning pieces which deserve some exposure. As for Close Encounters, that finale is far better than the one chosen.

music of john williams at hull city hall royal philharmonic orchestra review (c) Bill Hiskett

image: Bill Hiskett

But while we may have a while to wait for ‘The John Williams B-Side Concert’ in Hull, just getting the RPO to the City of Culture, playing music by the greatest living film composer is a terrific achievement.

Kudos to Tommy Pearson for doing a splendid job of introducing the show and guiding us through the proceedings. The Tweets from punters sent doing the interval are a nice touch, but the stars of the show, of course, are the Royal Philharmonic, the Rolls-Royce of orchestras.

Robert Ziegler conducts brilliantly, with show-stealing turns from violinist Tamas Andras during renditions from Schindler’s List and Fiddler on the Roof. The Schindler violin piece never fails to touch a chord, and surprisingly features an early echo of Harry Potter’s main theme. Though Williams was probably unaware of it when he worked on The Philosopher’s Stone in 2001.

music of john williams at hull city hall royal philharmonic orchestra review groupNo matter how good your headphones or home entertainment system may be, they will never be better than seeing the RPO live, playing the greatest film scores ever composed.

“Pleasure to hear some of his greatest works without having to trek to London”

As it’s only my second visit to Hull City Hall, I didn’t realise how good the acoustics were. It’s a beautiful old building that helps deliver some stunning sounds, and the sight of regeneration around the city is a great end to the night.

I’m not surprised the show is sold out, and while I could do without a sideshow of nail-biting, Facebook updating and coughing from fellow gig-goers, thankfully it doesn’t spoil the entertainment too much.

For this fan who fell in love with Williams’ work in 1978, and has been heartened by his recent return to form with The Force Awakens score, it’s a pleasure to hear some of his greatest works without having to trek to London for the privilege.

I doubt John has ever made it to Hull, but given the calibre of the RPO’s performance, the multi-award winner would be proud.

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