Compact Discoveries®
a series of one-hour radio programs produced, hosted, and edited by Fred Flaxman
©2011 by Fred Flaxman

Program 177
"John Williams, Part 1"


MUSIC: excerpt from John Williams: “The Raiders March” from Raiders of the Lost Ark performed by the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra conducted by Erich Kunzel [Telarc CD-80495, track 5] [under the following]

Hello and welcome to Compact Discoveries. I’m your guide, Fred Flaxman. Stay with me for the next hour and we’ll explore the tuneful music of the America’s most famous contemporary film composer, John WIlliams. And we’ll even sample one of his concert pieces.

John Williams has written so many terrific film scores that I could not fit all of my favorites into one hour. So this will be the first of two hours devoted to his music. In this first hour I’ll include music from Schindler’s List, Raiders of the Lost Ark, E.T. the Extra Terrestrial, Minority Report, Sugarland Express, and Jurassic Park. The concert piece will be his Elegy for Cello and Orchestra as performed by Yo-Yo Ma with John WIlliams conducting. The second hour of Williams’ music will include a suite from Star Wars and one from Harry Potter.

MUSIC: Fades out

Although John Williams was born in New York, he moved to Los Angeles at the age of 16 to study composition with Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco at UCLA.

He then served in the Air Force, after which he returned to New York to go to the Juilliard School of Music, where he studied piano.

He began his career in New York as a jazz pianist in clubs and as a studio musician.

Returning to Los Angeles, he continued to work as a pianist and orchestrator in film studios. He has since become the most prolific and sought-after film composer in Hollywood, winning 20 Grammys, 5 Academy Awards, 4 Golden Globe Awards, 2 Emmys, and 7 British Academy of Film and Television Arts Awards.

As if that weren’t impressive enough, John WIlliams has also excelled as a conductor, serving as principal conductor of the famous Boston Pops Orchestra from 1980 until 1993. He is now the Laureate Conductor of the Pops, leading the orchestra on several occasions each year.

But John Williams’ association with the Pops almost ended in 1984 when, during a rehearsal, some players hissed while sight-reading a new Williams composition. The musicians were following a customary practice of expressing their opinion on the pieces they were asked to play. But WIlliams abruptly left the session and turned in his resignation.

He initially cited mounting conflicts with his film composing schedule, but later admitted that he perceived a lack of respect from the Pops’ ranks, culminating in this latest instance. But after pleas from the management and apologies from the musicians, WIlliams withdrew his resignation and continued as principal conductor for nine more years.

Of Williams’ approximately 70 film scores, Schindler’s List is my personal favorite. DIrected by Steven Spielberg, it tells the true story of Oskar Schindler, a German entrepreneur who came to Nazi-occupied Poland to make money. He befriended and bribed the Nazi authorities in order to gain control of a factory in Krakow staffed by Jewish slave laborers. While making a fortune, Schindler also made it his mission to preserve the most vulnerable members of Krakow’s Jewish community in his factory, thereby saving nearly 1,200 Polish Jews from the Holocaust.

Although John WIlliams is known for his brassy, bold, swashbuckling film scores, he departed from that style for Schindler’s List, producing music that is rich with hauntingly beautiful melodies and a more classical, subtle, nuanced sound.

In 2009 a Canadian CD company, Atma Classique, issued a recording of a suite of three movements for violin and orchestra from Schindler’s List recorded by the Orchestre Symphonique Bienne conducted by Thomas Rösner with Canadian violinist Alexandre da Costa. Its three movements are labeled Theme, Krakow - Jewish Town, and Remembrances.

MUSIC: John WIlliams: Suite: Schindler’s List for Violin and Orchestra performed by violinist Alexandre da Costa with the Orchestre Symphonique Bienne conducted by Thomas Rösner [ATMA Classique ACD2 2579, Tracks 1, 2, and 3]

A Suite for Violin and Orchestra from John Williams’ filmscore to Schindler’s List. The Orchestre Symphonique Bienne was conducted by Thomas Rösner. The violinist was Alexandre da Costa in this compact recording from ATMA Classique.

You are listening to Part 1 of the music of John Williams on this hour of Compact DIscoveries. I’m you guide, Fred Flaxman.

[optional one-minute break not included in the total timing of the program]

In 1994 Telarc records issued a compact disc called “Cinematic Piano.” It featured solo piano music from the movies arranged and performed by Michael Chertock. Two of these arrangements are from filmscores by John Williams, and I think they’re both beautifully done.
First let’s listen to Chertock’s version of the theme from Schindler’s List. Then his take on E.T. - The Extra-Terrestrial, an arrangement he did with Frank Metis.

MUSIC: Williams/Chertock: Schindler’s List performed by pianist Michael Chertock [Telarc CD-80357, track 5] [2:55]

MUSIC: Williams/Metis/Chertock: E.T. - The Extra-Terrestrial performed by pianist Michael Chertock [Telarc CD-80357, track 11] [4:15]

Beautiful piano arrangements of music from two of John Williams’ filmscores performed by Michael Chertock. First we heard the main theme from Schindler’s List, then a medley from E.T. - The Extra-Terrestrial.

For the 1981 film Raiders of the Lost Ark, created and directed by George Lucas and Steven Spielberg, Williams composed a rousing main theme known as “The Raiders March” to accompany the film’s hero, Indiana Jones. The Denver Brass recorded an entire CD devoted to the music of John Williams which was issued by Klavier recordings in 2006. Here’s their take on “The Raiders March.”
MUSIC: Williams: “The Raiders March from Raiders of the Lost Ark, performed by The Denver Brass [Klavier K 77038, track 14] [5:49]

“The Raiders March” from Raiders of the Lost Ark performed by the Denver Brass.

In 2002 Steven Spielberg directed a dark, imaginative science fiction thriller called Minority Report. In the film Tom Cruise plays John Anderton, a top “pre-crime” cop in the late 21st Century, when technology can predict crimes before they’re committed. But Anderton becomes the quarry when another investigator targets him for a murder charge. Can Anderton find a glitch in the system and prove his innocence before it’s too late?

I haven’t seen the film myself and have no idea who Sean was in the movie, but here’s “Sean’s Theme” from Minority Report as performed by the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra conducted by Erich Kunzel on a Telarc CD.

MUSIC: Williams: “Sean’s Theme” from Minority Report, performed by the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra conducted by Erich Kunzel (Telarc CD-80600, track 13) [3:17]

“Sean’s Theme” from Minority Report, performed by the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra conducted by Erich Kunzel. Music by John Williams.

You are listening to the music of John WIlliams, Part 1, on this hour of Compact Discoveries. I’m your guide, Fred Flaxman.

[optional one-minute break not included in the total timing of the program]


John Williams was first approached by Steven Spielberg in 1974 to compose the music for his feature film directorial debut, The Sugarland Express. The young director had been impressed with Williams’ score for the 1969 movie The Reivers, and he was convinced that Williams could compose the musical sound that he desired for any of his films.

In fact, from then on Spielberg used Williams to provide the scores for all but two of his movies, and Williams went on to compose the music to Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, 1941, Raiders of the Lost Ark, E.T. - the Extra-Terrestrial, Indians Jones and the Temple of Doom, Empire of the Sun, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Always, Hook, Jurassic Park, Schindler’s List, The Lost World, Amistad, and Saving Private Ryan -- to name the films included in the Telarc CD, “The Great Movie Scores from the Films of Steven Spielberg,” released in 1999.

Let’s listen to one more cut from that compact disc, the main themes from the 1993 movie Jurassic Park. “Jurassic Park” is an island theme park developed by a millionaire to display dinosaurs brought to life through DNA research. The film is based on the best-selling book by Michael Crichton.

MUSIC: Williams: Jurassic Park performed by the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra conducted by Erich Kunzel Telarc CD-80495, track 15) [5:21]

Erich Kunzel conducted the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra in themes from Jurassic Park composed by John Williams, whose music we are featuring on this hour of Compact DIscoveries. I’m your guide, Fred Flaxman.

John Williams is very well known for his filmscores, for sure, and for succeeding Arthur Fiedler as the principal conductor of the Boston Pops.
What is certainly less known is that he has composed a great deal of concert music. These include 14 concertos and 19 other works for the concert hall and for various celebrations.

In 2001 Sony recorded a compact disc featuring cellist Yo-Yo Ma performing several concert works by John Williams: his Concerto for Cello and Orchestra, Three Pieces for Solo Cello, Heartwood for cello and orchestra, and an Elegy for Cello and Orchestra. My favorite piece from this CD is the Elegy.

MUSIC: Williams: Elegy for Cello and Orchestra performed by cellist Yo-Yo Ma with John Williams conducting (Sony Classical SK 89670, track 5) [6:22]

Cellist Yo-Yo Ma with John Williams’ Elegy for Cello and Orchestra. Williams conducted.

We began this hour with an orchestral suite of music from Williams’ score for Schindler’s List. Then we heard a beautiful arrangement for piano of the main theme. I’d like to conclude the hour with one more very compelling version of this gorgeous theme. It is arranged for piano quintet and performed by I Salonisti on a 1999 Sony Classical recording.

MUSIC: Williams/Mondvay: Schindler’s List performed by I Salonisti (Sony SK 61731, track 3) [4:08]

John Williams’ main theme for the motion picture Schindler’s List as played by I Salonisti. These were the musicians who were seen in the movie Titanic. Music from that movie as well as from Casablanca, The Godfather, Sense and Sensibility, Modern Times, La Strada, and several other films are featured on this very pleasing CD.

And that concludes this first hour of music of John Williams on Compact Discoveries. I hope you can join us for hour number two when we’ll feature a suite from Star Wars and another from the Harry Potter films.

I’d like to thank Kathy Levine of public radio station KREV in Estes Park, Colorado, for suggesting the idea of devoting a program to the music of John Williams, and I’d like to thank you for listening and for supporting your local public radio station.

MUSIC: Up and out

ANNOUNCER (Steve Jencks): Compact Discoveries is made possible in part by Story Book Publishers and their latest offering, a tongue-in-cheek memoir by Compact Discoveries host Fred Flaxman called “Sixty Slices of Life ... on Wry: The Private Life of a Public Broadcaster.” Information and ordering at sixtyslices.com. And by the financial support of Isabel and Marvin Leibowitz, and an anonymous donor from Palm Beach, Florida. And by contributions to local public radio stations by listeners like you. Thank you.

Total Program Timing: 59:00