Berlin Phil has a new conductor. Name of John Williams

Berlin Phil has a new conductor. Name of John Williams


norman lebrecht

June 14, 2021

When the Vienna Philharmonic hired the Hollywood film composer to conduct a couple of concerts last year it looked like a gimmick to blolw cobwebs off the orchestra’s stuffy image.

Well, it must have worked because arch-rivals the Berlin Phil have booked Maestro Williams to make his debut with them next season.

Maybe he’ll do a spot of Stockhausen for an encore?


  • Pierre says:

    I’ll be eagerly waiting until octobre for Bruno Delepelaire’s (their Principal Cellist) interpretation of William’s Elegy for cello and orchestra.

  • John Kelly says:

    He’s also conducting the Phillies with ASM in NY in 2022. Fun. “Not every concert has to be a sacramental experience” (Erich Leinsdorf)

  • Novagerio says:

    It could be, it’s becase JW is a musician, and not just a “mediatic gimmick”.

  • MacroV says:

    What’s the big deal? He’s one of the most important musicians of our time. Perhaps worth taking ourselves a little less seriously?

    • Petros Linardos says:

      Maybe we should take John Williams’ music more seriously and the Stockhausen encore less seriously.

  • Gustavo says:

    I seem to recall from an interview that if it hadn’t been for film music, John Williams would have gone purely “contemporary”, presumably composing in a style close to Berio.

  • pvl says:

    Is it the one who is 90 yo?

  • Gustavo says:

    After the pandemic, symphony orchestras will play even more Mahler and John Williams than ever before.

  • Couperin says:

    Good for Johnny Williams! And Berlin Phil will play his music with WAY more care and commitment than Vienna. I very much look forward to this concert.

  • Needstobesaid says:

    If anyone has listened to this recording with the Vienna Phil, you’ll know it is a catastrophic mess. Absolutely horrible music making which even an orchestra of this calibre can’t survive. I do wish people would get over this obsession with composer/conductors. It’s nonsense that a composer with very little conducting skill will somehow miraculously show some deeper musical meaning when they can’t even keep the players of the Vienna Phil in the same bar of 4/4. I always thinks it’s rather funny how there are far fewer conductors who dabble in composing getting their works plays by the Berlin and Vienna Phils… perhaps nobody really knows what a conductor does…

    • Peter says:

      John Williams has been conducting some of the finest musicians in the U.S. on his soundtracks going back to the ’60s with outstanding results, and often without luxurious amounts of rehearsal time.
      I’ve listened intently to the VPO album, and while it’s not note-perfect, there is a great deal of spirit in the playing that tops some of their recordings of the standard rep under non-composer/conductors. Hardly a catastrophic mess.
      What people with an obsession with composer/conductors do you refer?

    • Tamino says:

      Did we hear the same recording? Quite an excellent live recording in my humble opinion. Your comments seem a bit strange. Do you have some personal axe to grind here?

    • Saxon says:

      Hiring the composer is a way to pay him more. Unfortunately, the conductor gets much more money than composer for the performance.

  • E says:

    Nice photo!

  • Sue Sonata Form says:

    An amazing nonagenarian is John Williams. Where does he get his incredible energy? I very much enjoyed the VPO concert and this next one with the BPO should be excellent. I’ve never really been interested in the films for which Williams composed music (except the brilliant “Catch Me if You Can”) so his works are ‘new’ to me; he’s not only an excellent composer but his orchestrations are good (unless somebody else did these).

    I’d really like to talk to Maestro Williams (of course I never will) about his connections to film musicals and particularly their great orchestrator Conrad Salinger from the MGM Freed Unit.
    There’s be a wealth in invaluable knowledge to be had from John Williams!!

    • BilderBehr says:

      Hello Sue,

      Williams would have had help with his film orchestrations; not for reasons of ability, but rather because of the sheer speed with which they have to produce these things. His sketches, which he passes on to someone like Herb Dean, are detailed and could easily be done by Williams himself given the time.

      As a young man Williams started out as a pianist and played at MGM, and apparently used to sneak peeks at Salinger’s manuscripts when there was a break in proceedings. He has written a nice musical tribute to Salinger called ‘Hooray for Hollywood’ which can be found on YouTube.

      I’m sure you’re aware too of the John Wilson orchestra, but I’ll mention it here in case you are not. They’ve done a great deal of work in reconstructing Salinger scores, many of which were thrown out of the studio by an executive who needed the room for something else.

  • Does Berlin not have a “Pops” series?

    They would have had him a hundred times over.

  • John Williams, the most eclectic of musicians,a wonderful appreciation of all musical genre.

  • Bratsche Brat says:

    It’s mostly about the money and name recognition, but JW is also an accomplished composer who can conduct better than most other composers – deal with it!

  • giampi says:

    There aren’t female conductors (Oksana Lyniv will conduct just a late night with Berliner soloist)…

    • Gustavo says:

      They’re simply not renowned enough and would put subscription sales at risk so shortly after the pandemic.

      • giampi says:

        Mallwitz, Grazinyte-Tyla, Canellakis and others are known today. And Antonello Manacorda is not so renowned….

        • Gustavo says:

          But you cannot bank on Grazinyte-Tyla these days.

          Wile Rattle is always a best seller.

          He’s everyone’s darling in Germany.

  • BASIA says:

    Wainting for a next step…

  • Tamino says:

    They are not arch-rivals.

  • Gustavo says:

    The three concerts were sold out in one hour on Monday.

  • Gustavo says:

    So why did Slippedisc go mad about John Williams in Vienna but has so far ignored John Williams in Berlin?