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David Denton
David's Review Corner, December 2015

The American composer, John Williams, one of the great names in music for Hollywood blockbuster films, has also written significantly for the concert hall. Born in 1932, and into a family of professional musicians, he showed early promise as an instrumentalist and composer, and was to study composition privately with Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco before entry into the Juilliard School of Music in New York. As a composer and conductor he was soon drawn into the film world, and began a long and distinguished career. That he still had an affinity with classical music resulted in a small but steady output on works that has continued into the second decade of the 21st century. Fundamental to this part of his life has been a succession of concertos for instruments of the orchestra, beginning with a Flute Concerto in 1969, and followed by a highly acclaimed Violin Concerto. In 1993 came the Bassoon Concerto, written for Judith LeClair, principal bassoon of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. It carried the sub-title The Five Sacred Trees, each movement representing a tree from Celtic mythology, though many are known today by modern names, the opening movement representing the oak, with yew and ash to follow. The score as a whole—which lasts almost thirty minutes—is a technical showpiece for the instrument, opening with a long and imposing solo leading to a powerful orchestral passage. That dialogue is a feature of the whole score, with a fast and furious second movement; a quirky fourth movement high on the instrument, and ending with a seemingly nightmare picture. Robert Williams, principal bassoonist of the Detroit Symphony, is the very fruity-toned and agile soloist, the engineers placing him well forward of the orchestra conducted by Leonard Slatkin. The release is available only as a digital download. © 2015 David's Review Corner





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