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Happy Birthday Johnny! Film Legend Celebrates Milestone with Pair of Compilations

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The music catalogue world is celebrating one of Hollywood’s truest living legends with two, count ’em, two, compilations next month.

Whether you’re a die-hard film score collector or a mere appreciator of good movie music, John Williams has made a mark on your consciousness. His list of credits spans decades, first as a Juilliard-trained pianist working under the greatest batons in Tinseltown (that’s him plunking the low notes in Henry Mancini’s iconic Peter Gunn theme), then a light, jazzy composer and arranger of some renown (this period saw his first Oscar nod, for 1967’s Valley of the Dolls). But it was his transformation in the 1970s to ultra-symphonic composer for disaster films (The Towering Inferno, The Poseidon Adventure) and mega-blockbusters (JAWS, the Star WarsIndiana Jones, Jurassic Park and Harry Potter film series, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Superman: The Movie and others) that made him a household name, the likes of which had not been seen in generations with the likes of Max Steiner, Alfred Newman and Erich Korngold.

Williams’ career has seen five Oscar wins and 45 nominations (tied with Newman for the second-most nominations in history), 20 Grammys, three works on the American Film Institute’s list of the 25 greatest film scores of all time (including list-topper Star Wars (1977)), a healthy tenure as the conductor of the world-famous Boston Pops Orchestra from 1980 to 1993 (Williams remains their conductor laureate and performs with them annually) and some of the most indelible themes for television ever written. (His “The Mission” is still the theme for NBC’s nightly newscast, and the network will use his many pieces for their Olympic coverage; he has written pieces for the 1984, 1988, 1996 and 2002 games.) And Williams has steadfastly refused to retire, even as he approaches his 80th birthday on February 8: last month, audiences heard the soundtrack to War Horse and The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn, directed by longtime collaborator Steven Spielberg, and he will pen the music for the director’s forthcoming Lincoln in addition to several new chamber works and a typically robust schedule of live conducting gigs across the country.

So how does one celebrate such a rich musical legacy in just a few CDs? Sony Classical and Decca have each taken up that task this year – and you can find out more after the jump!

Sony Classical, a label with which Williams has enjoyed a long-standing relationship with for over 20 years, will release a new compilation, A Celebration!, in honor of Williams’ 80th birthday. While some of his legendary works are represented, including JAWSStar Wars and E.T., a surprising portion of the disc is devoted to recent film works (War Horse, Tintin, 2008’s fourth Indiana Jones film), underappreciated scores (the 1995 remake of Sabrina, 2005’s Memoirs of a Geisha) and concert works (“The Mission,” “Elegy for Cello and Orchestra,” recorded with Yo-Yo Ma in 2002). One vault track rounds out the set, a fitting set of variations of “Happy Birthday to You” recorded under Williams’ baton in 1999.

Before Williams signed to Sony Classical, much of his work with the Boston Pops was released on the Philips label. That period is being explored in a new reissue by Decca Records, also titled A Celebration. This set is slightly more diverse, covering some classic Williams performances of both his own works and other classic moments from film scores, Broadway musicals and jazz standards over two discs. However, the set is identical to Philips’ Encore! compilation from 2004 – so if you’ve already got that on your shelf, there’s no need to pick this one up. Still, both look like excellent tributes to a man quite worthy of them.

Sony Classical’s A Celebration! hits stores February 28, while Decca’s A Celebration is out a week earlier. Order links and track info are below.

John Williams, A Celebration! 80th Birthday Tribute (Sony Classical, 2012)

  1. Sound the Bells! – The Recordings Arts Orchestra of Los Angeles
  2. Out to Sea/The Shark Cage Fugue (from JAWS) – The Boston Pops Orchestra
  3. Theme from Sabrina
  4. March from 1941 – The Boston Pops Orchestra
  5. Adventures on Earth (from E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial) – The Boston Pops Orchestra
  6. Dartmoor, 1912 (from War Horse)
  7. The Adventures of Mutt (from Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull)
  8. Harry’s Wondrous World (from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone) – The London Symphony Orchestra
  9. Elegy for Cello and Orchestra – The Recordings Arts Orchestra of Los Angeles
  10. Going to School (from Memoirs of a Geisha)
  11. The Mission (Theme for NBC News) – The Recordings Arts Orchestra of Los Angeles
  12. Theme from Schindler’s List – The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra
  13. The Adventure Continues (from The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn) (2:58)
  14. The Throne Room and Finale (from Star Wars) – The Skywalker Symphony Orchestra
  15. Happy Birthday Variations – The Recordings Arts Orchestra of Los Angeles

Tracks 1 and 11 from The American Journey (Sony Classical, 2002)
Tracks 2, 4 and 5 from The Spielberg/Williams Collaboration (Sony Classical, 1990)
Tracks 3 and 12 from Cinema Serenade (Sony Classical, 1997)
Track 6 from War Horse: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (Masterworks, 2011)
Track 7 from Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (Concord, 2008)
Track 8 from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (Nonsuch/Atlantic, 2001)
Track 9 from Yo-Yo Ma Plays the Music of John Williams (Sony Classical, 2002)
Track 10 from Memoirs of a Geisha: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (Sony Classical, 2005)
Track 13 from The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn – Music from the Motion Picture (Masterworks, 2011)
Track 14 from John Williams Conducts The Star Wars Trilogy (Sony Classical, 1990)
Track 15 recorded in 1999 and previously unreleased

John Williams and The Boston Pops Orchestra, A Celebration (Decca, 2012)

Disc 1: Music from Hollywood

  1. Main Theme from Star Wars
  2. Princess Leia (from Star Wars)
  3. Flying Theme (from E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial)
  4. March from Superman: The Movie
  5. Love Theme (from Superman: The Movie)
  6. March from Raiders of the Lost Ark
  7. Main Theme (from Chariots of Fire)
  8. Tara’s Theme (from Gone with the Wind)
  9. Theme from A Summer Place
  10. Theme from The Pink Panther
  11. Never on a Sunday
  12. Trolley Song (from Meet Me in St. Louis)
  13. Singin’ in the Rain
  14. Pops Salutes the Oscars
  15. Suite from Close Encounters of the Third Kind

Disc 2: Salute to NYC

  1. Overture (from Candide)
  2. Theme from New York, New York
  3. Night Waltz/Send in the Clowns (from A Little Night Music)
  4. Memory (from Cats)
  5. There’s No Business Like Show Business (from Annie Get Your Gun)
  6. Selections from Gigi (The Night They Invented Champagne/Gigi/Waltz at Maxim’s/I’m So Glad I’m Not Young Anymore/The Parisians/Say a Prayer for Me Tonight/Thank Heaven for Little Girls)
  7. Sleepy Lagoon
  8. Moonlight Serenade
  9. Satin Doll
  10. In the Mood
  11. Sing, Sing, Sing
  12. Overture (from A Chorus Line)
  13. Seventy-Six Trombones (from The Music Man)
  14. Unchained Melody
  15. America Medley

This compilation consists of material recorded by John Williams and The Boston Pops between 1980 and 1989. It was previously released as Encore! (Philips B0002606-02, 2004).

Written by Mike Duquette

January 23, 2012 at 11:10

One Response

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  1. Congrats to Mr. Williams on having TWO scores, War Horse and Tin Tin, nominated for Oscars!


    January 24, 2012 at 10:38

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