John Williams, done with film, is writing for Yo Yo Ma

John Williams, done with film, is writing for Yo Yo Ma


norman lebrecht

February 08, 2022

From today’s NY Times interview:

“I don’t particularly want to do films anymore,” he said. “Six months of life at my age is a long time.”

In his next phase, he plans to focus more intensely on another passion: writing concert works, of which he has already produced several dozen. He has visions of another piece for a longtime collaborator, the cellist Yo-Yo Ma, and he is planning his first proper piano concerto…

Read on here.


  • Y says:

    This is good news. I listened to Williams’s second violin concerto when it premiered recently and was quite impressed. If nothing else, this will bring more attention to classical music, as Williams’s fans (at least some of them, anyway) will follow him to the concert hall.

  • Monsoon says:

    This is a great line:

    “At the end of his film career, Williams is making time to pursue some longtime dreams, including conducting in Europe. His works were once considered too commercial for some of the great concert halls. But when he made his debut with the Vienna Philharmonic in 2020, players asked for photos and autographs.”

    • John Borstlap says:

      There’s a confusion here. JW wrote two entirely different kinds of music: the commercial film music, and serious music which harks back to Viennese early 20C expressionism (Schoenberg, Berg). His success in Vienna was because of the film music, I thought. Adn that is not to be taken serious at all.

      • EagleArts says:

        Williams film music not to be taken seriously? What a ridiculous and foolish comment. His scores from the 80s alone are legendary, great compositions, beloved and challenging to perform. His film scores are all serious music.

        • John Borstlap says:

          Film scores can be good as film scores, but in the cinema they are meant to provide mood, so entirely subjected to the visuals. Concert music is music to be experienced for its own meaning. It is not difficult to understand, just a bit of thinking. These two different genres require two different listening attitudes and different types of concentration and attention. We demand something different from concert music.

          • EagleArts says:

            False dichotomy. Williams’ music stands up in the concert hall. Would you say the same about ballet scores? Misinformed.

      • Monsoon says:

        I find it really amazing that people with no credibility in the field of orchestral music snipe at John Williams, while members of the Vienna Philharmonic swoon over him.

        Sorry, but you and the rest of the haters don’t know better than the VP musicians.

        • John Borstlap says:

          The VP extend their repertoire to attract new audiences, that’s all. The players know damn well what the quality of JW’s film music is. They are just very generous, or rather: tolerant.

          • Erica Boman says:

            Watch the footage pf the VPO on YouTube. Look at the faces of some of the players, Milan Šetena for example. They are giddy with excitement! Part of that, for sure, is they are realizing a fun part of their lives going back to childhood.

            The orchestra responds well to JW. Especially the horns in the so-called “Imperial March” are magnificent.

            There is another, older video at Schönbrunn with Welser-Möst. The best from that concert is “Leia’s Theme”, and it is clear the orchestra is giving it their all, especially the strings and solo flute, Wolfgang Schulz.

            Yes, the VPO know this is not Beethoven, but they still seem to think it worthy.

  • Barry Guerrero says:

    Good. They deserve each other. He should write a film score suite for Andre Rieu while he’s at it.

    • Monsoon says:

      You sound like a fun guy at parties.

    • MacroV says:

      Don’t equate John Williams with Andre Rieu. You may look down your nose at Williams, but he is a very capable composer. Andre Rieu seems to be a very decent person, but is an average violinist with an impressive capacity to commercialize waltz schmaltz; amazingly his act even sells in Vienna.

  • BigSir says:

    I admire his fire in the belly to continue composing! Best wishes to him.

  • he says:

    John Williams is the Johann Sebastian Bach of our time. What the church was to Bach, the cinema was to Williams. You go! And don’t be afraid, just like your predecessor, of borrowing your best tunes and redeploying them in other works!

  • Nijinsky says:

    EXCUSE ME, but what a F@#$*()king cult behavior: Here: “But Williams, whose music permeates popular culture to a degree unsurpassed by any other contemporary composer, is at a crossroads.” from the New York Times article. That’s interesting because it’s completely not true, and points out that “whoever” it is that’s more enmeshed in what’s truly going on in popular culture, they have to stay out of the limelight.


    Why is this stupid stuff going on!? Someone whose compositional style promotes that anyone trying to follow what music is further than the little bytes he puts out, they can get diagnosed as ADHD, because they just can’t take in these little blurts as if “that’s all folks.”

    It certainly stopped with Beethoven to a certain degree. This is the kind of Wizardry you won’t get from those chumming it up with (up there). Or with Brahms, or Bartok, or Prokofiev or Rachmaninoff……

    Give him his apple for Christ’s sake, let him shine it. Sooner the better to get it over with.

  • Gustavo says:

    Will he dedicate his piano concerto to:

    a) Barenboim
    b) Lang
    c) Yuja
    e) Ax


  • John Borstlap says:

    JW has two musics: the commercial film music, which is not serious, and his concert music which IS serious and sounds like early 20C Viennese expressionism. In that 2nd category he is to be taken seriously indeed. But it seems that many people don’t hear any difference.

    He earned a lot of money with serving the worst taste of commerce, and paid the price of not being takens eriously for his concert music (like Korngold before him). If his concert music finds a late recognition, that is well-deserved.

    The selling-out to American commerce is, however, a serious flaw, and quite telling for the world we live in, and for the lure of money for people who are yet talented for better things.

    • Enquirer says:

      There is a small subset of elitist classical musicians who despise JW’s film music mainly, it seems, not because it is bad, but because lots of other people like it. I suppose the same attitude would condemn Handel, who sold out to the vogue for popular opera instead of concentrating on providing serious art music for wealthy aristocrats. Had he followed JB’s way of thinking, he would be as little known today as his contemporary Manfredini, and we would all be the losers.

      • SunnyCub says:

        Indeed, you’re 100% correct and thank you for saying so. The pretentious pseudo-intellectual preening by some in these comments is a bit much.

      • John Borstlap says:

        No, it’s quite different.

        See my comment above about the difference between the genres and what we expect of them.

        In Handel’s time the vulgarity and violence of 20C and 21C film music was impossible. Even the folky stuff had quality. Oceans of difference form the divide between our own egalitarian and vulgar time and the 18th century.

        • Enquirer says:

          John Borstlap knows or understands as little about Handel’s time as he does about film music. But if it makes him feel good to sit on his lonely eminence despising the rest of us, the vulgar crowd, so be it.

    • D. Touper says:

      That kind of snobbery is rapidly becoming laughable.

    • Timothy Eckert says:

      Dude, stop being such a blowhard. JW is beloved, a fantastic composer and conductor whose music has inspired generations of musicians and audience alike. John Borstlap, you are incredibly incorrect in your assessment.

    • Fsm says:

      I don’t read where he himself says he’s going to compose concert pieces for the sake of being a more serious composer, he’s a composer of the highest order already and the movies have inspired him no doubt

    • “He earned a lot of money with serving the worst taste of commerce…”

      You write as if you don’t know much about the spectrum of commerce.

  • Richard Graber says:

    He’s not done with film music. Indiana jones 5 is coming out in. Couple years Bd he agreed to write for that.

  • fflambeau says:

    Never say never, even at the age of 90. If the right film comes along, Williams will be there.

  • Piano Lover says:

    These Violin Conerti were dedidacted to ASM…how does she manage to stand for such ugly works!!!