We continue publishing articles that we had pending, and this time it is the turn of the opening concert of the tour dedicated to the soundtracks of John Williams, which is currently being performed by the Film Symphony Orchestra in Spain and Portugal during 2018-2019 (read news).
This opening concert was held at the Palau de la Música in Valencia (Spain), and Frederic Torres, who attended it and left us a great micro-summary of the concert with photos at that moment (read news), offers us this extensive article with detailed information of the concert, and lets us know what we can expect from the tour.
The evening of Saturday, September 22, began the new tour of the FSO under the baton of its usual conductor Constantino Martínez-Orts, with the first part of a program entirely dedicated to John Williams, which will continue in 2019 with a second program, also dedicated to the well-known North American composer.
And it did with a sold out; with a Palau de la Música full and with many expectations on what it is presented as “the year of Williams”, with two concerts that the artist will conduct in London and Vienna, in the months of October and November, in an unusual visit to Europe of the composer, after having passed more than twenty years since his last concert here.
So, with the usual paraphernalia before the beginning of the concert, a large number of attendees took the opportunity to photograph themselves in front of the announcement panel of the tour with the usual and willing extras. Extras disguised as the main and emblematic characters of the most representative of his compositions, Star Wars. With the stall ready to sell merchandising, in addition to the recordings of the previous tours of the FSO, the public was eagerly occupying their seats to attend at the beginning of the show. And that is precisely what Martínez-Orts had prepared, for good and for bad.
After the corresponding tunings of the orchestra, in which the massive attendance was aware of the artificial fog that was generated by a couple of devices arranged on both sides of the stage (and that did not stop fogging the landscape during the two long hours of concert), appeared the director-artificer of the FSO, who was dressed in his characteristic cassock taken from Neo (protagonist of Matrix) and immediately started, as an introduction, to assess the importance of the figure of John Williams in the world of film music and in the American culture.
For this, he chose as an opening piece of the concert the overture “Summon the heroes”, which the composer turned into the musical motto of the Atlanta Olympics held in 1996, locating most of the brass at the top of the choir, among the public, in order to achieve a greater musical impact.
However, the impact that immediately overwhelmed the public were the game of lights and lasers that were arranged on the stage, and that largely stole even the orchestra’s protagonism.
Choreographing carefully the rhythms of the pieces played, with flashes of lights and lasers of different colors, this idea, that has been so fashionable lately (in London they had already used the system, culminating with an end providing even fireworks) was the most relevant stage contribution. That night, the members of the orchestra premiered costumes by the hand of the fashion designer Jaime Suay, who said on TV that same day that he tried to give dynamism to his work, providing sequins to the costumes, so that they would highlight the members of the formation among the anticipated game of lights.
Knowing Martínez-Orts, after a few years of his tours, that the audience attending his concerts is not the usual audience of the concert halls, and that it is composed of a family audience with many children, the spectacular lighting system caused the astonishment of most of the auditorium, which vibrated with the combination of music and color.
Although it is possible to recognize that it had certain sense for some of the pieces and suites like Star Wars, the last Jedi; Jurassic Park: The Lost World; Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone; the scherzo for strings of Indiana Jones and the last crusade; the march of 1941; the fanfare of Superman and the well-known overture of Star Wars; however, it was strange for many others in which even conceptually it was contradictory, such as The Book Thief, Schindler’s List, Lincoln, Born on the Fourth of July, and even the western The Cowboys, which were really hard to digest emotionally and aesthetically, with all those lights and lasers swarming through the walls and ceiling of the Palau.
Precisely there may lie the main matter, of the somewhat televised conception of this show (which also includes a draw to visit Hollywood for two people by the way); to know how to manage with some restraint this audiovisual display, without renouncing completely to it, so that the aficionado can enjoy with more attention the performance.
A performance of the themes by an orchestra that sounds better every time, in which the work of the rehearsals of the past years is noted, with a correct execution in not easy pieces like the score for Born on the fourth of July, for example, developed with a more than correct trumpet solo and an interesting exhibition of the strings; or Catch me if you can, provided with a colorful sax solo and the participation of the orchestra members snapping their fingers.
It was also very interesting the inclusion of unusual pieces compared with other concerts dedicated to Williams, as the main theme of the opening of the NBC news, entitled “The mission”, a dynamic theme that immediately refers to the news today; the suite dedicated to a score as dark as Lincoln, or Born on the fourth of July, or the orchestral block that collects the first five minutes of BFG, an impressionist and little-known score for one of the films of Spielberg that has received worst critics.
All this is something very appreciated in a program dedicated to John Williams, from whom most of the times we end up listening to the same overtures (Star Wars, Jurassic Park, ET The extraterrestrial, etc.), and in which risk is not usually the predominant factor.
Fortunately, it has not been the case with this selection by Martínez-Orts, absolute demiurge of the show, who has managed to combine the program, as well as introducing and contextualizing it personally before the execution of each piece (something that, perhaps, it could also be reconsidered in spite of the implicit pedagogical purposes, since it lengthens too much the duration of the show) and it plans to follow this line in the second special show/program dedicated to Williams, scheduled for 2019.
The inevitable encores, with an “Imperial March” executed in the dark and with the bows of the strings illuminated like laser swords, and the jazzy melody of the “Cantina band”, with the musicians standing literally and dancing at their own pace, reached the paroxysm of a dedicated public.
It’s a pity that part of that audience, the most melomaniac, accustomed to visit the concert halls regularly, will stay, as who subscribes this text, “out” during most of the concert due to those lysergic effects of light, color, and artificial fog, that played a leading role in the execution of a really interesting program, converted into a whole show and which really didn’t need all these artifacts.
But those are the rules of the “show business”, and each one legitimately manages their interests as they see appropriate, of course. However, it is recommended to attend the concert provided with good sunglasses. And this is only a friendly warning.
Article by Frederic Torres