Music review: RSNO - The Music of John Williams, Glasgow Royal Concert Hall

Not every film composer’s music warrants a concert programme all of its own, but John Williams is undoubtedly one of them. More than most – he’s on a par with Herrmann and Korngold – his scores have a life of their own. Richard Kaufman, the Hollywood conductor who has worked with the best in the business, and who directed this all-Williams programme with the RSNO, offered this thought from the mouth of Steven Spielberg: “John’s music becomes a character in the film.”

Daniel Radcliffe as Harry Potter, with Rupert Grint and Emma Watson
Daniel Radcliffe as Harry Potter, with Rupert Grint and Emma Watson

RSNO: The Music of John Williams, Glasgow Royal Concert Hall ****

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That character so often, though, is Williams himself. His music – a frenzy of stylistic derivatives from Wagner onwards, self-defined by timeless melodies, and all woven within intoxicating orchestrations – never fails to hit the button cinematically, yet close your eyes and the music tells its own story.

The joy of this concert were the scores many of us have either never heard, or never consciously associated with Williams. Who remembers The Cowboys, a classic Western featuring John Wayne in 1972, its music driven by that signature cowboy syncopation, and a stirring wakener to Saturday’s two-hour feast?

Between concert numbers from Harry Potter, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Jurassic Park and Schindler’s List, were the pastoral delights of Jane Eyre (more Vaughan than John Williams), the exotically flavoured Memoirs of a Geisha, and the rumbustious Witches of Eastwick. Cellist Johannes Moser’s solos, especially in Elegy for Cello and Orchestra, offered periodic respite from the swashbuckling fullness of the RSNO. - Ken Walton