On September 23rd at 11:00 a.m., León Esteban attended the special concert dedicated to the music of maestro John Williams named ‘John Williams – Greatest Hits’ which was held at Teatro Real in Madrid. This concert was organized by the Excelentia Foundation, and was performed by the Santa Cecilia Classical Orchestra under the baton of Fernando Furones.
We have already shown you pictures and Leon’s comments about the rehearsals (read news), and now we leave you here his impressions about the concert, as well as an interview he conducted with its conductor, Fernando Furones, in an exclusive for SoundTrackFest.
Fernando Furones is a composer from Madrid trained at the University of Berklee, both in degree and master of Film Scoring, between Boston and Valencia. When he finished his studies, he made the decision to take the baton and enter the world of orchestra conducting. He began conducting when he was still a student in Valencia, and his love for film music led him to form an orchestra, in order to make film music concert cycles.
After having a great success in recent years, this young conductor faces the Orquesta Clásica Santa Cecilia (Santa Cecilia Classical Orchestra) at the Teatro Real in Madrid, to perform a concert with a total of 11 pieces, all from the best-known films of composer John Williams. Among these, are suites of Jurassic Park, Star Wars (including pieces of the latest films in the saga), Schindler’s List, Harry Potter, etc.
The concert, performed with mastery from beginning to end, had as the main attraction the family atmosphere that is usually perceived in concerts of this content: children excited next to the orchestra and parents who seek to listen live to the soundtracks of their adolescence.
From the concert itself, I highlight without a doubt Schindler’s List, Harry Potter (suite), Star Wars: The Force Awakens (suite) and Born on the Fourth of July. In Schindler’s List, performed in a spectacular way by the first violinist, she managed to imitate the sound and character of the original piece. It was even more natural than the original, since there the soloist violin stood out with its own microphone; while in this live performance, it was very good in conjunction with the orchestra.
The Harry Potter suite was simply masterful, in each and every one of the themes. I especially want to emphasize the performance of the violins, both first and second violins, that took the most complicated fast passages with rigid precision.
The Star Wars suite, as I was talking with the director in the rehearsals, is, along with Harry Potter, one of the big hits of this type of concerts; and in this particular one, it was the best. The piece of Rey, which appears in Episode VII, was performed with a lot of detail, especially the tempo, since, within the suite, it came from a much more accelerated theme. But undoubtedly, the best part of this suite was the part of Kylo Ren. The orchestra, in spite of not being as big as the one that was used for the recording, sounded very balanced in this theme, and a larger orchestra was not missed.
Personally, the piece that I liked the most was Born on the Fourth of July. The romantic part sounded very faithful to the original, but without a doubt, the highlight was the incredible performance of the trumpeter, not because of the fidelity and precision, but because of his ability to transmit, while the strings supported him with a static pad. The original composition, together with the wonderful group performance, created a feeling of solemnity, and it even seemed that the Teatro Real muted in an even greater silence.
Regarding the other pieces, all of them were performed and conducted with great mastery, closing a concert that undoubtedly pleased the audience, managing to make Fernando Furones come back a total of six times to salute the audience, and getting an encore from the orchestra: Superman.
What made you go into Conducting?
I was still a student when I first conducted. I arrived in Valencia knowing that it was the European city that had more musicians per capita, and I had the idea of forming an orchestra to be able to make film music concerts, since at that time there were hardly any film music concert cycles. The first concert we gave, when I had already managed to gather 70 musicians, was at the Palau de la Música four years ago. We managed to fill the Palau and all the funds collected went to a foundation to help children with disabilities. This year we hope to do the fourth edition.
When I arrived in Madrid I met Javier Martí, director of the Excelentia Foundation, who is the owner of the Santa Cecilia Classical Orchestra, and I was lucky enough to conduct a concert a year ago with a classical repertoire from Beethoven, Vivaldi, etc., mixed with soundtrack themes. From there we have continued doing concerts in which I have tried to learn everything I can.
What does John Williams’ music have, in order to be so special to prepare a concert only with his repertoire?
I think John Williams is a genius from another era, who understood the image and music in a very different way to how it is understood now from the point of view of composition. Technology has changed many things for the better, but nowadays, music technology prevents composing like John Williams did; it works against the movement, and yet Williams’ music has a lot of movement, parallel lines, fluctuations in tempo, etc. And that live, with orchestra, gets much better. It is music with answers, with harmonic changes, composed specifically for orchestra, and it feels like that live.
Sequencer music causes different emotions, works with textures, with sounds. Hans Zimmer, for example, when he’s performing live, goes much more to the “stomach”, and John Williams goes more to the “heart”, they are both music of a lot of quality, but totally different.
From the pieces of the concert, which piece do you like the most in terms of conducting?
Personally, they all have their secrets in terms of conducting, since they are all meant to be conducted, they do not work with a metronome. But if I had to keep one, I would stay with E.T. the Extraterrestrial, although all have difficulty to connect with the piece in a matter of tempos, fluctuations, conducting instrument families, etc.
From all the pieces that you have played, what pieces do you think the audience expects at a John Williams concert?
The piece that usually triumphs is always Harry Potter, and the one that is a safe bet is Star Wars. Those two pieces get the audience committed. However, this time we play new pieces that are Born on the Fourth of July and Memoirs of a Geisha. Although it is true that the public comes to listen to what they already know, and rejects the novelty. That is why we have introduced these two pieces in the middle of the concert, when we have already opened with Hook and E.T., and after having played them, we close with great themes like Indiana Jones, Star Wars, etc. In this way, the public, even if they do not know the piece, or do not know it as they know the classics, they practically receive them with the same affection.
In the future, do you see yourself as a composer or as a conductor?
I see they’re closely linked, whether you are a composer or a conductor, you maintain a close relationship with the other figure, because, among other things, they do not cease to be fundamental pieces for each other. In fact, Conrad Pope, John Williams’ orchestrator, says that Williams is like a god, because he does everything himself: he composes, orchestrates and conducts. When you conduct you try to find the process that the composer has made, and when you compose you have in mind the conductor at the time of writing.
When you return to MIDI, to the digital sequencer, you realize that it has nothing to do with conducting an orchestra, dealing with people, the diverse society that makes up the group, etc. Every time you get to work with an orchestra, you get closer to the orchestral work, and you begin to really appreciate the performing abilities of the people you work with. The Santa Cecilia Classical Orchestra, for example, is able to rehearse on the same day, at first sight, a concert by John Williams and then a repertory of Dvorak.
Article and Interview by León Esteban