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 Posted:   Apr 24, 2009 - 3:08 AM   
 By:   Thor   (Member)

For the first time in history, I believe, there was a concert dedicated entirely to John Williams' music here in Norway. And it was performed by none other than our national orchestra, the Oslo Philharmonic at the Oslo Concert House. Still, it was sold-out several weeks ago, which goes to tell that even in such a "film music developing country" as Norway, Williams and especially the films he scored are household names. Here were elderly people, kids, STAR WARS nerds, cool guys and, I guess, a small handful of hardcore film music/Williams lovers - including myself and fellow FSM members Nils and Bjarte, who had come all the way from Bergen for this.

It was a bit surreal to arrive at the concert house and see the immense crowd, knowing this was a JOHN WILLIAMS concert, not a Madonna concert. Again, even though few were hardcore fans like us, it confirmed that there may also be a market for these type of concerts in Norway.

Anyways, we found our seats, and conductor Frank Strobel came on stage. Here's a brief breakdown of the program:

1. JURASSIC PARK - the main theme (both parts)

My all-time favourite Williams score and biggest "goosebump" moment of the evening for me.

2. SCHINDLER'S LIST - Main theme

I had hoped for the more emotional "Remembrances", but it was a heartfelt violin solo by André Orvik (perhaps just a little "weak"...I would have wanted more dynamic range).

3. TUBA CONCERTO

This time arranged for bass trombone, performed by Eirik Devold, it was great to hear this quite accesible concert piece live. The concerto has a middle part that is a bit boring and not the same flair and "pizzazz" as the first and third part, and it was obvious that some of the more casual audience members who were just there for the famous film themes got bored. The kid next to me released one of the biggest yawns I've seen in a while. But I enjoyed it very much; I loved the "warmer" and softer touch of the bass trombone. It somehow wasn't as "jaunty" as the original tuba version.

4. HARRY POTTER - Suite

A selection from the films, mostly the musical setpieces from AZKABAN, but curiously NO sign of the main "Hedwig's Theme" anywhere! That was a surprise. The performance of "The Knight Bus" was entertaining, of course, even though some of the percussion became a bit overwhelming at times. For some reason, they had added a sound gimmick in one of the pieces (a kind of bicycle pump or something?) - a wailing, peeping sound. I thought it was R2D2 who was about to "interupt" the performance. Perhaps amusing for the kids, but I just found it annoying and distracting.

INTERMISSION (and a much desired toilet break...I had some beers with Nils and Bjarte before the event; not so smart! smile)

5. CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND - Suite

A great suite from the opening mysterioso elements to the sweeping, Debussy-ian finale, I was reminded of just how great this score is (I hadn't listened to it in a while).

6. STAR WARS - Suite

Most of the typical concert setpieces were here - the Main Theme, Han & Leia, The Imperial March, Yoda's Theme, Parade of the Ewok's, Jabba's Theme (interesting to note the similarities to the previously-performed tuba concerto) and The Forest Battle. Again, some of the percussive elements were a little "on-the-nose" and "show-offey", IMO. Not that well integrated. Incidentally, before this suite, several "stormtroopers" entered the concert hall, followed by Darth Vader and one of those red-dressed Imperial guards. The stormtroopers lined up by the wall while two of them removed two of the audience members on the first row, so that Darth and his guard could sit there. Caused much cheer and laughs from the audience, of course.

A few words on the performance in general:

First of all, I was impressed by the fidelity to the original recordings for the most part. Mr. Strobel had selected a neck-break tempo for many of the pieces, at least compared to more languid tempi that we usually hear, and this clearly had some consequences in that the brass, in particular, had some problems keeping up (some faulty notes here, some timing issues there). The Oslo Philharmonic is a great orchestra, but it's not very used to performing film music (with its very specific HITS and SHIFTS), so it has something to work on there. However, all in all, it was a delightful experience, the first time I've been to a pure Williams concert. I hope we'll see more of this in Norway.

Nils and Bjarte, feel free to fill in with your own thoughts!

 
 
 Posted:   Apr 24, 2009 - 3:19 AM   
 By:   fommes   (Member)

For some reason, they had added a sound gimmick in one of the pieces (a kind of bicycle pump or something?) - a wailing, peeping sound. I thought it was R2D2 who was about to "interupt" the performance. Perhaps amusing for the kids, but I just found it annoying and distracting.

I think I know what you mean; I've seen (or rather heard) it used in the concert versions of Aunt Marge's Waltz and I think the Knight Bus, too. It must be notated in the concert suites.

 
 Posted:   Apr 24, 2009 - 6:30 AM   
 By:   Jim Phelps   (Member)

First of all, I was impressed by the fidelity to the original recordings for the most part. Mr. Strobel had selected a neck-break tempo for many of the pieces, at least compared to more languid tempi that we usually hear, and this clearly had some consequences in that the brass, in particular, had some problems keeping up (some faulty notes here, some timing issues there). The Oslo Philharmonic is a great orchestra, but it's not very used to performing film music (with its very specific HITS and SHIFTS), so it has something to work on there. However, all in all, it was a delightful experience, the first time I've been to a pure Williams concert. I hope we'll see more of this in Norway.

I'm relieved that the audience was spared a complete and chronological performance, with you sitting rigidly, arms folded, legs crossed, muttering expletives and your back to the stage!

Seriously, sounds like it was a fine show. Lucky you!

 
 Posted:   Apr 24, 2009 - 6:30 AM   
 By:   Jim Phelps   (Member)

DP

 
 
 Posted:   Apr 24, 2009 - 6:48 AM   
 By:   Thor   (Member)

Cripes, I almost forgot:

There was an encore, namely a brief statement of the E.T. theme (not the entire "Adventures on Earth"). But then it was over. No INDIANA JONES or SUPERMAN or anything. Or JOHN GOLDFARB PLEASE COME HOME.

 
 Posted:   Apr 24, 2009 - 8:42 AM   
 By:   mark ford   (Member)

Cripes, I almost forgot:

There was an encore, namely a brief statement of the E.T. theme (not the entire "Adventures on Earth"). But then it was over. No INDIANA JONES or SUPERMAN or anything. Or JOHN GOLDFARB PLEASE COME HOME.


Man I'd have demanded my money back with no John Goldfarb. Sheesh, what were they thinking. smile

 
 
 Posted:   Apr 24, 2009 - 8:42 AM   
 By:   MICHAEL HOMA   (Member)

thor, glad u got to go and enjoyed it so much.

 
 Posted:   Apr 24, 2009 - 10:36 AM   
 By:   Bjarte   (Member)

Great resume Thor! A little to tired for a detail go-through of the concert. I agree the goos-bump moment was the jurassic park music, for reason i told you yesterday. All in all a great concert with some of the best material by Williams. Less focus on the movies and they just made the music speak for its self (if we look beyond Mr. Vaders cameo)

It was definitely an evening to remember (even if the trip back to Bergen was not! Sleepless night...)

 
 
 Posted:   Apr 24, 2009 - 1:55 PM   
 By:   Nils   (Member)

It sure was a thrill to hear this music live. And in our own "back yard"!

The highlights for me were CLOSE ENCOUNTERS and STAR WARS, probably becuase those are the scores I've had the longest and closest relationship with, and I think the performances were great on both these two suites. I agree with Thor, though, that the tempi were quite breakneck at times (mostly on a few of the STAR WARS selections), resulting in some flubbed notes here and there. This (i.e. flubbed notes) also happened on the two LSO concerts (Williams, Goldsmith) that I've been to. Not that anyone should expect perfection at all times, even from professional orchestras, but I wonder if they assign less rehearsal time for a program like this than, say, a Shostakovich symphony? If so, they shouldn't - this is difficult music!

I too was a little surprised at the prominent percussion work on "Parade of the Ewoks" and "The Knight Bus". Could be a result of both differences in arrangements and in orchestral balance compared to the original recordings.

These few quibbles aside, I thought the perfomances were great. The ensemble sound of the OPO is terrific!
Apart from the aforementioned tempo choices, I liked Mr. Strobels interpretations. Which I guess is because they were generally quite close to the originals. wink

And it's always great to meet fellow fans and FSM'ers like Thor and Bjarte!

 
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