(March 3, 2012) – To mark film composer John Williams’s 80th birthday, Sony Masterworks is releasing A Tribute to John Williams: An 80th Birthday Celebration, a retrospective compilation album featuring some of the composer’s own favorite works, conducted by Williams himself. From his music for Jaws to his latest score for the critically acclaimed War Horse, the collection celebrates one of America’s best-known and most beloved musical voices, one with longstanding ties to the Berkshires as an artist-in-residence at Tanglewood, where he has been a presence every summer for the past few decades; as a part-time resident of Stockbridge, where he often stays and composes during the summer; and as a former music director of the Boston Pops Orchestra.
In addition to music for television, the concert stage, and festive occasion pieces, the recording also features selections from some of Williams’s iconic film scores, including E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, Schindler’s List, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and Star Wars.
Oddly omitted from the compilation, however, is any music from his startlingly avant-garde Americana score to the Arthur Penn film The Missouri Breaks, starring Marlon Brando and Jack Nicholson.
Starting with the effervescent splash of the concert piece “Sound the Bells!”, the collection emphasizes Williams’s flair for narrative drama. The playful and friendly opening of “Out to Sea / The Shark Cage Fugue” from Jaws builds into taut tension, while the “March from 1941” shows off the composer in his most spirited martial mode. “Adventures on Earth” from E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial illustrates the many moods of wide-eyed cinematic wonder that made that film such a beloved classic.
Williams has enjoyed a rich, forty-year collaboration with Steven Spielberg, having scored all but one of the directors films. This new collection celebrates the composer’s ongoing vitality with musical selections from Spielberg’s three most recent films: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, The Adventures of Tintin, and War Horse. The same creative energy is evident in the familiar, magical strains of “Harry’s Wondrous World” from the first Harry Potter movie.
The versatile imagination of Williams shines in fruitful collaborations with the renowned cellist, Yo-Yo Ma, both in the poignant and tender concert piece Elegy for Cello and Orchestra, and in the spirited and colorful “Going To School” from Memoirs of a Geisha.
Legendary violinist Itzhak Perlman joins the composer both for the sweetly romantic “Theme from Sabrina” and the beloved and heart-rending “Theme from Schindler’s List.” Williams’s iconic music for television also is represented in this collection with the familiar “Mission Theme” for NBC Nightly News.
This birthday tribute to the man Spielberg calls “the greatest of all maestros” closes, fittingly, with the world premiere recording of Williams’s joyously inventive and virtuosic “Happy Birthday Variations,” a work composed in 1995 to celebrate the birthdays of four of Williams’s renowned musical friends: cellist Yo-Yo Ma, conductor Seiji Ozawa, violinist Itzhak Perlman and pianist Leon Fleisher.
John Williams studied composition with Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco and piano with Madame Rosina Lhevinne at Juilliard, served in the Air Force, and worked in New York as a jazz pianist before embarking on a career in Los Angeles writing music for more than 200 television films and more than 100 feature films.
Also a prolific composer of music for the concert stage, Williams served as music director of the Boston Pops Orchestra for 14 highly successful seasons and is Artist-in-Residence at Tanglewood.
Williams has received numerous awards, including twenty-one Grammy Awards, four Golden Globe awards, five Emmys, five Academy Awards, the Kennedy Center Honor, the Olympic Order, and the National Medal of Arts. He has received 47 Oscar nominations, making him the Academy’s most-nominated living person, and the second-most-nominated person in Oscar history.