Anything I ever said about John Williams and the Vienna Philharmonic…main
I don’t take back.
Here’s the original Lebrecht Album of the Week review in several languages.
However, the album has just been confirmed as the biggest classical best-seller of 2020, with 100,000 CD sales and 150 million streams.
Does that change anything?
Bringing joy to the masses, it should be titled. Nothing more, nothing less.
Or simply “Sour grapes on a slow news day”.
Those are the only grapes that NL takes pleasure in sharing via this blog, it would seem
Yes, the in-demand composer-Kapellmeister plans to be in Berlin next October (cf. BBC interview) and will hopefully premier Violin Concerto No. 2 (dedicated to ASM) in Tanglewood next summer.
Vienna was his “debut” and had a strong impact on the classical music sector.
Not to mention the RPS gold medal 2020. 😉
Ir sounds like bad soviet music, officially-approved stuff for the workers’ class. And this is not instructed by a totalitarian government, but by market forces.
There is a need to renew the repertoire: to have new pieces, i.e. unheard, but which are rooted in the aesthetics of the medium: the symphony orchestra. But instead of exploring neglected works which were written in that tradition, in the last century, but were condemned for being ‘not progressive enough’, people fall back on film music. It is very lazy and tasteless, while there is so much better music by, for instance, Paul Moravec, Jeremy Cavaterra, Richard Danielpoour, Pierre Jalbert, Aaron Jay Kernis, Stephen Albert, Daniel Asia, Karol Beffa, David Matthews, Nicolas Bacri. And others. But that takes a bit of time and attention instead of the lazy following of mass entertainment taste.
Dear Sir: On more than one occasion I have found your writing thoroughly enjoyable and informative. I now take the strongest possible exception to your senseless, spiteful and ghastly remarks. “Bad Soviet” music? For the love of God, sir! Where do you get off? “Officially approved STUFF for the workers class”? What could possibly exact such a toll on whatever musical sensibilities you could ostensibly claim to have? I probably lack the linguistic acumen to debate you and this certainly is not the forum, but it is deplorable that in this day and age an individual who clearly has had some sort of musical background can write such a vicious diatribe and feel that he has contributed anything to contemporary culture and aesthetics. Maybe it is due in great measure to attitudes such as yours that a corrective such as the Agony of Modern of Music had to be written some decades ago. Mr. Pleasants was right at the time and he still is. REQUIESCAT IN PACE, sir. Respectfully submitted because I still admire your way with words, Mr. Borstlap, if that is your real name…
Thank you for your comments, Mrs. Williams.
Oh, c’mon, everybody – I thought mine was a pretty funny response to the somewhat overwrought comment by “Rafael Enrique Irizarry”. (I still think it’s really Mrs. Williams.)
Williams’ music is effing FILM MUSIC for f’s sake; it’s not The Saint Matthew Passion.
Loosen up and have a chuckle!
I guess the isolation of the the Rona quarantine affects different people in different ways….
Don’t get worked-up….. the piece is misplaced because taken out of its natural context. If presented as concert music, one can and should compare the music in the video with concert music of substance by – to remain close to the idiom – Shostakovich, Prokofiev, Weinberg; or Hindemith, Schreker. Then it will be obvious that the Williams is poor and underdeveloped, may be good for under a screen but in itself it is empty, merely offering gestures imitated from Russian music. When this stuff is presented in the context of concert music, its poverty shows all to clearly. It should remain at the place where it functions best, and that is under a screen, in a cinema, for an audience that’s coming for the movie. With the VPO in the Musikverein, it is ridiculous…..!
How is someone supposed to make a statement here? It’s as if people think John Williams was supposed to do the impossible and bring some art into Hollywood. Well… I think he did. And that’s OK by me!
During one of our many John Williams-themed concerts, I often found myself thinking “This is what Prokofiev would sound like… if it wasn’t good.” (Or substitute Shostakovich’s name as well, almost as often)
I know lots of people love his music, and they’re welcome to it. Doesn’t mean I have to love it too.
Daniel Asia? He’s a scribbler. He’s lucky to have his teaching job because his music is just bad. Dull, boring, academic in the worst sense. I know: living in Tucson I’ve been to premieres of a lot of his music. First performances a likely the last. He’s no John Williams.
I heard some truly good music by Asia, who uses traditional means to create something new. Maybe it’s about the ears.
I fully agree – it does have the feeling of “officially-approved stuff.” And if you admit to not liking it you _will_ be judged. There is no solution. The word “soviet” is amusing in this context.
It shows that the pressures of soviet governments and the market are to some extent comparable – the extremes meet. Like when you go into extremes politically to the left, you end-up with a dictatorship, and the same happens when you go to the extreme right.
Experience real Soviet pressure, then we talk again. How ridiculous and pompous.
John Borstlap is absolutely right.
Williams always sounded to me like Prokofiev light, with many motifs outright plagiarized (Jaws, etc…)
I have no idea who John Borstlap is. I did an Amazon search to see if I could find any of his music. The best I could do was someone called Freek Borstlap. At least give John Williams his due. More than a few people know who he is and have listened to his music. Mr. John Borstlap (Freek?), not so much.
You can find some music on: http://www.johnborstlap.com – under ‘audio’.
It’s all for later preparation. Only recently some orchestras began to understand what it is.
You are a bit of a musicology Nazi for labeling JW’s music like that. It’s not even snobbish, it’s just nonsense. It’s common knowledge in the trade that JW is an excellent composer and orchestrator. Surely he is not exploring uncharted territories, but he is genuine in reaching other people affectively and effectively. Unlike many other composers, who might be more “unique” but fail in reaching anyone, because their music is neurotic and constructed, or simply uncreative but pretentious, coming out of the false end, lacking human compassion. JW is never pretentious. And he makes people get goosebumbs and cry. And you are just envious.
When I want to get goosebumbs and cry I play Williams and Boulez! Both are great! I never thought music was for ‘meaning’, it’s for the bumbs and the tears! What more can you wish for.
Sally, the meaning of music is in how YOU perceive it. There are some people out there, who, despite having studied a lot, never understood the perceptional psychology of music, how it needs all parts of the brain to collaborate. Not like some intellectual Castrati, who think it’s all about the cerebral brain, and who cut off their lower parts, the subconscious. They are academic fools and poor souls, never finding salvation. Pity them.
That’s reassuring. I always listen with the lower parts!
Inform yourself: JW does not even orchestrate his scores. His orchestrations are done by Conrad Pope, while JW takes all the credit.
Not at all. JW gives the orchestrators “condensed scores” which include all details of the orchestration. They are just written in short score (8 staves, sometimes 16) because it takes less time to write them in this way and schedules in film industries are always tight. The job of orchestrators (with him, surely not with all film composers) is to take the short score and copy out the individual lines for all instruments in the full score. There is not a single instrumental voice that was decided by anyone else than JW (except for minor issues such as some minor woodwind doublings, which are however finally approved by JW, who anyway always conducts the recording of his scores). How do I know? 1) Conrad Pope said as much whenever he had to talk about his orchestration job for JW; 2) Herbert Spencer (main orchestrator of the old scores such as Star Wars) said the same and praised JW’s great orchestration skills; 3) in the last years, JW did without orchestrators and sent his condensed scores directly to the music preparation service (i.e., the copyists), and 4) I have seen myself a fair number of his manuscripts and I can personally confirm points 1, 2, and 3. You can even find videos on youtube showcasing some of such manuscripts. For your information, Prokofiev did something similar with his assistant Pavel Lamm.
So, please inform yourself better.
The days are long over when JW wrote an 8-staved condensed score! Probably not since the 1970s.
For the last decades he writes a piano score with instructions as to which instruments should play what material.
I don’t know which manuscripts you have been looking at.
No, sir. Your statement is false. I know this, and you must know as well. He writes on 8 staves (or 16 when there are too many details to fit into 8), including every single instrumental line, and complete indications for the instruments that are supposed to play them. Besides what I have seen personally (of course, you might not believe me), this is confirmed in every interview given by his orchestrators, just check around (Conrad Pope, Herbert Spencer, Angela Morley…). He has never written “piano scores”, if with this you mean 2-stave sketches (which would necessarily contain partial information).
You have full right to like or dislike whatever you want, but not to spread info that is objectively false, and that are only aimed at diminishing the stature of a great composer in the eyes of those who do not know enough. And it is obvious to me that you also know that what you have written is false.
You have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about.
Why don’t you check out this video to see how John Williams writes his music: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=smnuXlDg5-s
He definitely does orchestrate his own music, just not in the sense that most classical composers do; that is, he doesn’t sit and write out every instrumental part of his 200+ page scores. He’s quite old and he often doesn’t have the time, probably.
Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt.
Yes, it’s all very difficult, isn’t? Keep trying!
It’s funny how Borstlap doesn’t even realize, how he himself sounds like a small minded Soviet Polit commisar, telling everyone what is acceptable and what not, according to his ideology. Thankfully he doesn’t have the power those commissars had in the Stalin era, so we can ignore him and enjoy art without his ideological dry powder.
A beautiful example of the kind of thinking that results from ignorance, worthy of the collection of Modernist Falsification Attempts in the British Museum. We pick it up with pincers and paste it in the middle of the page….. you made my day!
He’s reading the Communist Manifesto as bedtime lecture!! and last month it was Mein Kampf, it’s a disgrace.
“Not every concert has to be a sacramental experience” -Erich Leinsdorf. Take a chill pill and enjoy it for what it is, or don’t, but the VPO seemed to be enjoying themselves.
However, John Williams’ Vienna concerts were sacramental experiences – probably for everyone who attended.
“Besuch vom lieben Gott” etc.
Could have done with a chill-pill while purchasing tickets…and in 2018 when Maestro had to cancel.
I was booked to see them at Carnegie Hall but of course that’s been cancelled. I also like the John Wilson Orchestra playing film music and “pops” – at the very highest level.
Anyone who appreciates music-making at the highest level, whether or not they think said music is also at the highest level, should watch the John Wilson.
Yes John, the JW Orchestra is wonderful,they play the classic american songbook to perfection.Take away the Continental naval gazing that is soo musically incestuous and narrow minded and you have some of the finest and most enjoyable ‘classic’ music of the last 100 years.
Sir: for many, many, many people, all over the face of the planet, this music means something. What right do we have to devalue their experience because of this despicable superiority we think we are entitled to because we “know” the “classics” and they “do not?” For them it is very personal. In a surprising number of instances that emotional investment has very little to do, if at all, with the film for which that music was written. In summary: for many individuals concerts such as these are a sacramental experience. I have seen it happen time and again and I will stand witness to that anytime, anywhere. We are indeed fortunate to have been alive in the times in which this music was new. We are now entrusted with the duty of telling this magnificent story. Feel blessed, sir. I do…
Rafael, no one is trying to devalue their experience. The fact that millions of people have a sacred experience doesn’t mean they know anything about music. Millions of people have sacred experiences going to church as well. I say let them enjoy their delusions.
The course of music history, like the sciences, is not shaped by democratic consensus. Literotica is not great literature because millions of people consume and enjoy it.
Criticizing Williams when presented as concert music is not condemning the masses and their entertainment. There is nothing wrong with enjoying a type of music which, in comparison with what is available as something better, is quite poor. It is the enjoyment that counts and for everybody that may be something else. This is not the point at all. It is the CLAIMS of something that it’s definitely NOT. Every type of culture has its standards, measured according to what has shown itself to be meaningful, and that is not merely a subjective impression, there is objective truth in such experiences. The quasi-democratic idea that there are no differences in quality in anything cultural, is a misunderstanding of what democracy means in the context of culture: it means, that all culture should be accessible to anybody, and not that everything has the same value.
I’m sorry, but there are really great differences in terms of value and meaning in the entire cultural field. That is its richness.
“There is nothing wrong with enjoying a type of music which, in comparison with what is available as something better, is quite poor.”
What is your point? Are you the person, who when in Vienna, orders a Sacher Torte and then complains to the waiter why it doesn’t taste like Wiener Schnitzel?
Is Schnitzel better than Sacher cake, or are they just two different things and both enjoyable for what they are?
As another famous Viennese once said: sometimes a great film music is just a great film music.
Is it therefore bad? Inferior? Poor?
No it isn’t. And JW himself also can write like a Penderecki et al, if he wants to and has time for it.
Wasn’t on his last album with ASM a track called ‘Markings’ that is not film music?
It’s boring to read your small minded opinions.
The world is big enough for John Williams and Stockhausen. Even a small Borstlap somewhere.
I repudiate your petulant expostulations.
You seem to miss the point that it is about claims.
A sacher torte which claims to be a Beethoven symphony greatly diminishes its real function and is an offence to the conductors in the Golden Hall of the Musikverein.
The moment that the Musikverein serves Schnitzeln instead of concert music, it has turned into a restaurant.
But, one would protest: what is wrong with a restaurant? Indeed, nothing. But not in a place which was probably designed for something very different.
Making distinctions is one of the basic conditions for understanding cultural products. Without distinctions, development is impossible.
A straw man argument per excellence.
Only you seem to be unable to eat more than one kind of food.
The Musikverein can bear it. All can make distinctions and grow.
The limits you put in your own existence do not exist for others.
Do you know the word “enjoy”?
Some people take their own narrow mental framework for the wide horizon of indiscriminating appetite, where size-cut pleasures are found under every rock. It reminds me of the happy peasant claiming his own field is the centre of the world, because that is how it feels.
It is such primitive ideas (which are deeply populist), that threaten classical music’s existence, in an attempt to bring it down to their own level. And people like JW are happy to help that happening.
You are clueless about the most basic reality of classical music. “Primitive and deeply populist ideas” were always present. The majority of music ever composed was quickly forgotten again. And usually rightfully so. Exceptions apply. JW is a hard working great composer and master of the craft. Time will tell what remains, time separates the master pieces from the ordinary, not you. (thank God…)
I know, for many people, classical music is very difficult to understand. Maybe you should listen to it more regularly. Most of the stuff that survived the passing of time, has never been subject to primitive and deeply populist ideas.
I don’t think John said it’s not enjoyable. He said it’s not great art. He’s right of course – and actually quite polite when one reflects on how derivative Williams’ work really is
Simon, surely not all that is performed in Musikverein is great art. Some of Mahler’s music is not great art. Some of Beethoven’s even. Now everyone relax and enact Voltaire: ““Life is a shipwreck, but we must not forget to sing in the lifeboats.”
Sea travelling in those times was greatly underdeveloped.
Maestro Williams, who is well-loved by the public, has never pretended to be anything more than what he is, a gifted composer and orchestrator with a genius for writing music underscoring and enhancing the drama in films. That people enjoy listening to his music in concert is perfectly fine, in my estimation. So much of modern music, particularly that which is being produced in the academe, and on occasion played by major and minor orchestras, is neither profound or entertaining. It is just boring. Mr. Borslap seems to have eaten too many sour grapes. May I suggest that a few slices of Sachertorte with a thicker slice of apricot jam and lots of whipped cream might sweeten his disposition.
Entirely agree. As my Prussian mother-in-law says, “it’s kitsch”. Enjoy it, don’t enjoy it, fine: but it’s kitsch
I love Leinsdorf’s quote and way of thinking. Concerts that worship at the altar of Saint Musician the Earnest have their place. So does a concert like this, which obviously pleased many. Sometimes, when I feel exceptionally subversive, I even allow myself a smile while listening to André Rieu. On such occasions, I also treat myself to flavored yogurt.
‘Anything goes….’ the slogan of the lazy and the uncultured, too bored to make choices.
If only one could order a sense of humor from Amazon …
Last month I ordered the popular ‘Humour Surprise Package’ from amazon, that circulates in intellectual circles nowadays, but when I opened it, it was a CD box with all available versions of Cage’s 4’33”.
Ahem. Looks like you got a lemon. I think maybe you should return it. Perhaps instead something to cure the I-must-always-have-the-last-word compulsion.
Americans are deluded into believing that only that which is consumed in the largest quantities has value.
You are absolutely right in your assessment, Norman.
“Americans are deluded into believing that only that which is consumed in the largest quantities has value.”
To me that sounds more like a stereotypical European misconception of the US.
A European expat in the USA.
Wondering how many “Americans” were in that audience in Vienna.
There are over 328 million “Americans.” Marvelous that you are able to judge all of them.
There is nothing marvelous about it. American commercialism has spread throughout the world. Vienna programs this Dreckmusik because it sells, not because it has any worth.
Why didn’t you say “Entartete Musik”, in line with your convictions?
Dreck ist Dreck, entirely separate from Entartete Musik. The modernist totalitarians used that silly entartete argument to condemn tonal composers in the postwar period.
Ah music for the great unwashed eh? How disgusting! But at least it does give the sour-puss critics something to moan about other than the pandemic. Mr Williams has that air about him that disgusts the failed critic the most – success! However much they try and pour cold water on it, the flame simply burns brighter. Cheer up though – some horrible noise by some modern composer no-one wants to listen to is sure to come your way. Then the critics can say how marvellous!
It is a lamentable but true fact that no one one wants to listen to modern composers.
You think it follows, therefore, that we should simply worship the successful. I think you are wrong.
You can continue worshipping the Trumps, Jay-Z’s, and Beyonce of the world, all of whom are far more successful and ergo more worthwhile than John Williams.
I will stick with Lachenmann and Ades. Keep eating your potato chips and drinking Coca-Cola. They are successful brands.
The music of French new-tonal composer Nicolas Bacri (who started as a brilliant modernist but had a conversion when he matured) demonstrates that there is a much better alternative to Ades, and definitely to Lachenmann who is not even a composer:
I do. I have 23000 tracks in my library – almost 50 years of listening to and collecting classical music. About one-third was written after 1900. I listen to all the music that Borstlap disparages, including Boulez and Ades. He is a good guide to what one should listen to – whatever he takes aim at I am interested in. The only Williams in my library is the score to Empire Strikes Back, which is one of the best of his scores. It’s enriching to listen to Rossini, Mozart, Beethoven, Janacek, Shostakovich and Kurtag all in one day.
Good for you! A healthy appetite.
What an utterly ridiculous comparison.
Whether some type of music is successful or not, has not much to do with its qualities. There are no rules for success, and also there is no serious definition of what success really means in any given situation. Hitler was also quite successful, to give an example, and the Islamic conquest of the east and south is another example. The trend since WW II to measure anything in society according to its economic potential and nothing else, thereby empying Western civilisation to the bottom and destroying the planet, is another example of a really successful trajectory. But are we happy with it?
Indigestible modern music pushed through audiences’ throats (‘yes, it’s terrible, but it’s good for you’) is as despiccable as commercial kitsch sold to ignorant music lovers who cannot hear any difference between a Mahler symphony and Star Wars.
Mr. Borstlap -again if that is your real name- you disappoint, sir. The statement above is so egregiously inaccurate I find it depressing, especially coming from you. Dear sir: they -the ones you so pedantically describe as “ignorant music lovers”- can (very well, mind you) tell the difference between Mahler and Williams even if they cannot apply to their reactions encumbered language and technical jargon. Let’s not go there, sir. You are completely wrong and your dangerous prejudices are the main cause for the self-destruct sequence in which classical music and its attendant milieu has been engaged since the 1980s. I had this discussion with distinguished composer Roberto Sierra; it started when he reacted to the following meditation: Has anyone noticed that when we think about twentieth century music, the vast majority (if not all) of the masterworks we acknowledge as such in that century were composed before 1945? Oh, boy! I am glad I did not miss what transpired afterwards, and I have the highest possible regard for Roberto Sierra. I was not worked-up then, neither am I now, in this exchange with you. I reacted to all this because I respect and admire your intelligence, sir, even now. To cap this “querelle des bouffons” I offer the following anecdote from an unimpugnable source: an affable and well to-do medical practitioner in California recognized Maestro Williams at some golf course (he is indeed a golf aficionado). The congratulatory geyser of inanities -mostly unwelcome- erupted. At some point the Maestro stated: “Well, you see: to write something popular, that is easy. To write something that has permanence, now that is difficult.” That said, there is no need to equate Mozart with Mahler, Gershwin with Copland of Williams with Penderecki, for that matter. To each his own. Take your pick, sir, as we are all entitled to. A long time ago I learned that music is much more than memorizing the cycle of fifths. Be well, Mr. Borstlap and stay safe!
The point is / was, the suggestion that the concert given by the VPO conducted by JW conainted concert music. That suggests the claim that JW writes concert music, and that is a false claim. Then one gets all the people who definitely WANT film music to be treated and appreciated as concert music, as having the same status as the status of concert music. And I say: no, that is a misunderstanding of both genres, they want to do something very different. That is all…..
By the way, the links hereunder demonstrate that the hard challenge of writing music nowadays of substance and endurance is brilliantly achieved by Nicolas Bacri, with simple means, but deeply felt:
I also often doubt whether it’s his real name.
I must agree with NL’s assessment of the CD. While I’ve always thought John Williams to be a good conductor, I think the Vienna Phil just takes the music too seriously. When I first heard this CD, I found myself thinking that the recordings of these same pieces, played by the Boston Pops under Williams(or even the LA Phil under either Dudamel or Mehta) are so much better.
You may be onto something here, because it’s obviously not something the VPO is accustomed to playing – I never forget Bernstein doing his own Prelude Fugue and Riffs with the VPO – the clarinet soloist played it like it was a Mozart concerto, not very idiomatic at all. Mind you, the VPO horns sound absolutely spectacular as Vienna horns can – the CD is worth it just for the sound of that section in full cry…………..
Williams’ music is hard. If you play it often, like the BoPops or LA Phil do (or most American orchestras for that matter), then you can kind of breeze your way through it after a couple of performances — it’s still hard, but now it’s music you know — and you can have a certain amount of fun playing it. The first time, though, it’s an incredible number of notes to have to learn for one concert.
Zu viele Noten ?!
Maybe JW is also hard for the odd music critic (those who don’t get the hang of Franz Schmidt and can’t get their heads and hearts wrapped around Sinfonia domestica, Heldenleben, and Mahler’s 8th).
………….hopefully they are reading the notes rather than “learning” them, but your point is well made, repertoire experience counts for a lot (think Czech Phil playing Dvorak). Lots of film scores are hard – for example, Korngold’s score for Robin Hood – fiendishly difficult.
(oops, forgot to turn off the italics after the word “hard” in the first sentence)
Except for The Imperial March which topped all previous accounts.
Sharp trumpets = fingernails on a chalkboard
as did most of the other pieces. The Americans and the English taste sour grapes. JW is their cultural icon. They thought they own it. Here comes Vienna Phil under the composer and blasts most of their recordings out of the water. They feel humiliation and defeat. Have you listened to that recent LA JW album – also on DG – with Dudamel? LA sounds like a lame college orchestra in comparison to Vienna. It’s there for everyone to hear.
The Vienna Phil is great but the orchestra couldn’t even play together at times, and the brass did crack a few notes. The only thing on the recording that made it stand out from others, is that the horns had a fantastic sound.
I heard he recording, and the others. Get real. Sour grapes as I said. Or penis envy, to stick with a famous Viennese’s ideas.
As movie music John Williams is one of the greatest there has been. If you want some indication of that then check out this original Star Wars trailer with dull placeholder music rather than his soundtrack https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XHk5kCIiGoM
You can see how much duller a film it would have been without his music, and probably his work counted for much of what made the movie such a phenomenon. That alone is testament to a great soundtrack.
That doesn’t mean I think it is as sophisticated as Beethoven, Mahler or Schoenberg, but from the attitude of Williams, the VPO and the audience in that clip neither do most people. Within the genre of film music, though, much of his work is first class.
Right: that is what it is, a sound track.
The problem is about the claims, suggested by the context of the performance.
There is no problem.
The same hall in the same “context of the performance” sees yearly New Years concerts of music by the Johann Strausses. Light and simple music for the masses. Much less complexity than a “Close Encounters” film score by John Williams for instance. And nobody has a problem with it’s great worldwide success, or thinks it’s a threat to “serious music”, either.
That is a confusion of musical value: the Strauss repertoire is sophisticated and refined, and in terms of musical substance above the vulgarity of JW’s products. Not a matter of taste; entertainment music could get at a high artistic level in the 19th century, in strong contrast with entertainment in the 20th century which offered less and less material to be used by serious composers. The differences between entertainment and serious concert music was not so great in the 19th century, as it was not in the 18th, when concert music often used material from the folky strata. Simple folk music in the 18th century had an innocence and purity that almost completely disappeared in the 20th century – apart from some notable exceptions like some songs by groups like the Beatles.
John, your attempts to educate these noble savages are laudable and I salute you. But sadly they just want what they want… as you so rightly say, aesthetic discrimination is all but dead
But it’s funny to see how so-called ‘music lovers’ reveal themselves in most indecent ways without realizing it.
I think you confuse observation of value with personal taste. They may overlap, but are not the same. And then: of course there are stretches of music in the classical repertoire which are kitschy – Mahler is full of them but he ironed them out in his later works and in his songs – but they were not intended as pandering to the mass entertainment taste, they were unintended flaws. That does not in the least affect my point.
The more you delve into aesthetic questions of, for instance like here, the classical music repertoire, the more the reality of the matter presents itself. Confusing some obvious truths out there in the field with totalitarian attempts at subjugation, is like school children protesting against 2 + 2 = 4 with accusing the teacher with: ‘Who do you think you are?’
It was an ironic comparison. And it is not about undeniability but about perception, because it is about art, not science.
A wise critique. All three of the composers you mention- and even lighter fare like Johann Strauss- were advancing the art forward. The same can’t be said for JW.
Bach + Mozart + Beethoven collectively never earned as much as John Williams.
Which shows where many people put their value.
Let us compare apples with apples, and pears with pears. Has JW earned as much as Michael Jackson? Or Madonna? Or Snoop Dogg (I’m not sure about the spelling)?
So? In 200 years they will ask: “Jeff Bezos who?”
If that’s the sort of music you like, you’ll really like that sort of music.
If that’s the sort of music you like, you’ll like that sort of music.
I did not intend to post this twice. Either my computer or this website (or both?) is hinky.
There is no such a thing as a ‘computer error’.
Don’t these little people know they’re entirely incapable of making sound decisions regarding their own musical tastes? They simply must be stopped and informed by us, the effete musical intelligentsia, as to what they should and should expose their boorish minds to. [Adjusts monocle in irritated disgust]
I agree, and their silly obsession with emotions. It’s like deluded children crying over spilled milk or global warming. Like those irritating savages thinking they own the mother earth, rather than it’s there for mankind to exploit for mankind’s amazing economic interactions and productivity. Emotions are just dangerous and they defy all reason. JW’s music is just full of such weakness!
I think emotions are greatly undervalued. It’s about time they get through the patriarchal barrier! It’s all those men stopping us from having them right, it’s very frustrating. Only Boulez offers emotional satisfaction and look how he’s treated. I think he’s almost as good as Williams.
Sally, I’m so glad you and your holy other have found each other, and you have found emotional satisfaction. With all of the diligent work from you two, I can safely say that you offer emotional satisfaction just like Boulez does. You’re just so full and ready to explode with appropriate responses, and of course with an appropriate mindset. GOOD WORK!
Thanks! But keep it quiet, I’m preparing for a pay rise.
You might want to try something other than the “rise.”
Taking up the sounds like Prokofiev comment above, has anyone noticed how similar the opening of Jaws is, to the bit in Peter and the Wolf where the wolf has been caught and Peter ties the rope to the tree?
It was Beethoven who had been swimming:
Great craftsmanship. Great dramatist.
Claims beyond that are bewildering. I have a feeling JW would agree.
I rarely come to the Internet to say things like this… but this time I must.
Die, critic scum. Die.
Does anyone remember this? Good times. https://youtu.be/SzhRRiV1ncc
It sounds as if the players took the wrong transposing instruments.
A nonsense article, written by a snobbish stuck up self appointed “aficionado” of classical music. It’s people like this that give classical music a bad name. Music is a pleasure that should be enjoyed by all and no one should be ostracized for enjoying a particular style or type of music. Perhaps if he opened his eyes, the writer of the article may realize that concerts such as the one given by the VPO could serve as a way of enticing people to enjoy other forms and types of classical music.
Hi. I agree. JW is a film composer. It was a concert of film music. I find Lebrecht’s music criticism deeply problematic. I don’t know if he
was ever a musician, but i can tell you as a trumpet player – its not easy music to play. But thats not the point. This kind of article is basically symbolic of the crisis in the classical music industry. Noone is listening. I am speaking as someone who buys classical lps in serious quantities. Of course the cd is going to do well. Does John Williams comopare himself to Mahler etc. Of course not. Could he explain a Mahler score? Of course. The whole debate is kind of pointless. JW has produced a very well played cd of his film music in a concert setting. Is it enjoyable – absolutely. Is he a good film composer who understands orchestration well. Yes. That should be it.
Playing the trumpet is obviously easier than thinking through the situation where a film composer is presenting his work as concert music.
You may say this and I may agree with you, but look at the reviews on Amazon: Lots of them and almost all 5-star. If only hacks like Henry Cowell and Zoltán Kodály got this kind of attention…..
What? He beat Lang Lang at the movies? Respect!
I like Andre Rieu too so what does that say about me?
That you’re not above having a little fun. Good for you. I’d personally rather hear the VPO and Boskovsky or Kleiber playing the Strauss waltzes, but there’s no denying that the audience that turns up for AR’s shtick is apparently having a great time.
Having a great time is all that counts!
Besteller confirmed by whom exactly? Cant be in Germany, where Igor Levit Beethoven Box Set is the official classical bestseller (check Opus awards 2020). I believe this is just DG propaganda – it is a great recording for sure and def selling quite well, especially compared to any other DG release this year!
Opus 2020 award is for releases the year before, the JW Vienna album is in the 2021 Opus cycle I suppose.
That may explain why JW hopes to be in Berlin next year?
Someone needs to brief Maestro that it’s not worth coming over for that commercial prize.
Nothing can top the RPS gold medal anyway – maybe a life-achievement Oscar?
But conducting the Berlin Phil – with a time slot to meet NL for an exclusive interview – may be worth the ride.
Haha, funny. NL should get chased out of town after his “review” of JW’s Vienna recording. Why should anyone let him anywhere near, it’s for his own good to protect him from it in the future. He disqualified himself for the job.
But honestly, I think it would make an intriguing interview. John Williams is quite down-to-earth and has nothing to lose, while NL may finally become a JW fan (like we all became fans of Riccardo Muti following a very informative and humorous interview by NL).
Nothing sadder than musical snobbery of any kind.
When one has to put down an alternative category of music to help support their own musical taste, they’ve already lost the argument. Sadly, it’s rife amongst classical music enthusiasts, especially in relation to film music. I’m pretty sure the composer greats of their day would have jumped at the chance to write for film, had it been invented. I Have Spoken.
Sorry to have to inform you that you have spoken wrongly.
No composer of stature and who had at least some freedom to make a choice, would like to write music to merely create a mood under a screen, for an audience who did not come for the music but for the visuals.
Just a bit of thinking would have made this very clear.
Even with Wagner, for whom a stage work was a total work of art, including visuals, music was the heart of the work.
Give up your silly narrow minded crusade, Borstlap. Get a life (and some inspiration, doesn’t have to be as good as JW’s)
Ralph Vaughan Williams? William Walton? Malcolm Arnold? Arnold Schoenberg? Benjamin Britten?
Were all these people forced at gun point to write film music?
I would like to understand this disdain for people who enjoy listening to John Williams’ concert arrangements of his film scores, but I probably never will.
I would also like to understand people who do not understand that cinema is the twentieth century’s greatest contribution to art, encompassing everything from the tawdry to the magnificent.
These composers lived pre-WW II and still suffered from the illusion that the sound movie medium would create a new quasi-theatrical art form, comparable with opera. That is why they seriously tried it. Where their music has substance, it has substance as concert music. It was a historical phenomenon, dying in later periods.
To call cinema the greatest 20C contribution to art, is not necessarily a positive assessment….
Cinema CAN be a serious art form, and where it is, it’s great indeed. But it is an art form which presents itself entirely completed, without any part the viewer’s imagination could play. It is ‘canned’, a ‘lazy’ art form because of its realism: to be consumed passively, no imagination needed. Compare that with reading literature or poetry, where the reader’s imagination, stimulated by the text, creates worlds of and on it’s own. That is why the film industry has taken-off in the last century: easy opium for the masses, to escape for a moment the dreariness of their own lives.
I think I just about remember my grandfather saying something like that, or was it my great-grandmother?
The laziness lies in the viewer, not the art form. There are lazy listeners to serious music too. I find many movies (even ‘popular’ ones) quite challenging, quite stirring of my imagination, quite thou-ght-provoking – and often worth rewatching, as good novels are worth re-reading.
As one of the masses, I think of music as an essential part of life, not a substitute for it, as a companion of the other arts, joining with them in speaking to the many, not the few. I can even occasionally find some value in listening to Mahler.
Esoteric excellence, appreciated only by the few, is all very well; but look what aien aristeuein did for Achilles.
“I can even occasionally find some value in listening to Mahler.” Even?
There’s still a long way to go.
Concert music: the dreary experience of sitting in quasi-religious silence, frowned at for tapping a foot, listening for expensive hours to the dying throes of the great tradition of symphonic music, nourished and finally stultified by the rise of the concert hall in the nineteenth century. Give me real contemporary orchestral music, such as talented composers, in great numbers, write to accompany film/television productions, performed by talented musicians, who might starve if they had to depend on ‘concert music’ as approved by the elite cognoscenti.
(Not that I have never enjoyed a symphony concert …)
Correction – not in silence, alas, just enforcedly silent oneself.
A comment not by a music lover. Wrong website.
Mr Bortslap, you are right, as always. I will now, to console myself as I depart, listen to Bizet’s incidental music to Alphonse Daudet’s L’Arlésienne, arranged as an orchestral suite, conducted by Nathalie Stutzmann; then, if I feel like it, Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker; and as a grand finale, Mendelssohn’s music for A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Just a small cavil, if I may, on one of your earlier points, “These composers lived pre-WW II” [accurate as far as it goes]: the film The Battle of Britain, for which Walton wrote some stirring music, was 1969; Scott of the Antarctic with a score by Vaughan Williams was 1948 (Sinfonia Antartica 1952); the others all survived into the second half of the twentieth century: Arnold (many film scores between 1947-1969), Britten (mostly in the 1930s), and Schoenberg (just, and I was wrong about him as a composer for film).
That’s true, some of these prewar style attempts spilled-over into postwar years. They were by composers developing before the war.
Schoenberg almost wrote for Hollywood but the condition that no note should be altered by someone else was too much to take. We have, nonetheless, the ‘Begleitungsmusik zu einer Lichtspielszene’, music for an imaginary silent movie that was never made:
It sounds awful – a nightmare which doesn’t need any visuals to get the creeps.
Since this thread is now obsolete, and nobody will read this comment, I feel it safe to respond (as a non-music lover). All that you say is no doubt true; and I confess I was roused more by your contempt for the masses than by any real interest in film scores. But I felt I should know more, and I had a look at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_film_score_composers.
It is fun to scroll through it picking names at random and looking at their careers. Sofia Gubaidulina is there, a recent SD topic.
I still maintain that music belongs with the other arts just as much as it does alone in the concert hall. I also insist that films, combining vision and movement, sound effects, music, speech, narrative, acting (I’ve probably missed something out), can take their place alongside works of static visual art and works of music.
I’m willing to think about recanting my Mahler heresy!
Thanks for speaking on behalf of all those long dead composers of stature. They really appreciate it.
The days when a handful of orchestras (ie.VPO,LSO,BPO) outshone all others are long gone.The VPO are now ‘just another’ very good band,no more than that.
Just finished listening, thought I should. Fun, but a bit plodding really: I agree that the John Wilson band is far more idiomatic. How anyone could think this stuff is great art is staggering, though. And orchestration – what orchestration? These are show tunes and shouldn’t be mistaken for anything more
A healthy cry from the real world.
I would say that any body’s favourite piece of music does have a claim to be the greatest piece of music ever written?