Gustavo Dudamel And The Los Angeles Philharmonic
Celebrating John Williams DG (2 CDs), out now
I’m a big John Williams fan, and this rush-released double album is in my opinion the finest showcase for his film music yet to emerge.
It was recorded in concert at the Walt Disney Concert Hall, Los Angeles, at the end of January, though there is no intrusive audience noise whatsoever, except for some frantic applause at the end of CD 2.
There are no distractions then to enjoying the exceptional playing of the LAPO, recorded in state-of-the-art sound and well directed by Gustavo Dudamel, who got a well-deserved hug from Williams at the end.
There’s music from three of his Oscar-winning scores for Jaws and Schindler’s List, not always the stuff you expect. From Jaws you get the charming Out To Sea and The Shark Cage Fugue
The selections here are a winning combo of the familiar and the unfamiliar, beginning with Williams’s bracing Olympic Fanfare for the 1984 LA Games.
There’s music from three of his Oscar-winning scores for Jaws, ET and Schindler’s List, not always the stuff you expect. For instance, the Jaws main title theme is omitted (thankfully), but instead you get the charming Out To Sea and The Shark Cage Fugue.
Similarly, the Star Wars selection has the inevitable Imperial March but also finds room for the Adagio from Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015), a Sam Barber-inspired piece, beautifully scored, though perhaps lacking Barber’s killer tune.
The Star Wars selection has the inevitable Imperial March but also finds room for the Adagio from Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015), a Sam Barber-inspired piece, beautifully scored
I was also pleased to find a Jurassic Park suite, which shows that Williams’s score here is all too readily overlooked, but shouldn’t be. And also, Sayuri’s Theme from Memoirs Of A Geisha (2005), which fully justifies the liner note writer’s comment: ‘This extraordinary composer can write in any style, work in any genre, convey any mood.’
Yes indeed. And this album is an exceptional bargain at about £11.50. If you admire John Williams as much as I do, don’t hesitate.
Jack The Ripper
London Coliseum Until Fri
After all the hype, the reality. English National Opera’s Jack The Ripper is deadly dull. It’s not even about Jack. The title is an invention of ENO’s publicity machine. The piece is actually called The Women Of Whitechapel, and that’s what you get: the horrors of 1890s Whitechapel seen through the feminist eyes of today.
Sadly, Emma Jenkins’s libretto is dramatically totally inert. A situation not helped by Daniel Kramer’s dull- as- ditchwater production.
Had I not been reviewing the piece, I would have left at half-time, as five people did in the row in front.
If the first act is unbearable, the second is marginally better, because here men interact with the Ripper’s five victims. But they are stock characters (above, Alan Opie as The Pathologist)
If the first act is unbearable, the second is marginally better, because here men interact with the Ripper’s five victims. But they are stock characters: the police superintendent who is also a paedophile; the large but kindly PC; the saintly journalist with all the virtues of the Archangel Gabriel.
Iain Bell’s score is not uninteresting. Some of the instrumentation, like the frequent use of the cimbalom, is indeed imaginative. His music is tonal, but never superficially melodic – a bit like the operas of Benjamin Britten.
But Britten told interesting tales, written by librettists of distinction. Emma Jenkins wouldn’t have got a look-in with him. I hope Iain Bell will realise next time that Jenkins’s good intentions merely paved a road to hell for the audience.
This is all sad, because the cast is distinguished. But getting singers of the stature of Dame Josephine Barstow, Susan Bullock and Natalya Romaniw to sing this is a bit like assembling a team of the world’s finest footballers to play a game of dominos.