Excerpts from Star Wars, Harry Potter, Superman etc.
Shaun Micallef; SSO/Guy Noble
Sydney Opera House Concert Hall, August 12


Populist orchestral concerts designed to attract crowds that don’t know Mahler from marzipan can be hit and miss. Not in this case, however. American film composer John Williams has not only produced a string of hits, but is a particularly fine orchestrator. He brought the symphony orchestra back to the movies after the limp soft-rock scores of the 1970s. In this enjoyable concert, the Sydney Symphony played a cross-section of Williams’ scores from 11 movies, plus a march for the Los Angeles Olympics and an early TV theme, Lost in Space.

The Olympic Fanfare, with its tricky rhythms for brass, seemed to take everyone by surprise, but the orchestra quickly settled down and for the rest of the evening confidently revealed the myriad colours in Williams’ work. Every piece was subtly moulded and sensitively balanced by conductor Guy Noble. Leader Kirsten Williams played the sad theme from Schindler’s List beautifully. As expected, host Shaun Micallef was dry, witty and not the least bit condescending. He regaled us with in-jokes: for example, Spielberg’s 1982 film ET “even outgrossed Yes, Giorgio!

A whole program of Williams did leave me feeling that his bag of melodic and harmonic tricks had, like the Lost Arkbeen raided many times. Holst has plenty to do with his outer space music, and the Main Title from Star Wars is virtually a revamped Pomp and Circumstance March. Nevertheless there were surprises. The imaginatively scored Close Encounters selection and the swingtime march from 1941 were my personal favourites.

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