John Williams

A Tribute to John Williams: An 80th Birthday Celebration

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A compilation of the legendary film composer's work with a difference, A Tribute To John Williams: An 80th Birthday Celebration features a track list specially selected by the octogenarian himself. This personal touch ensures the 15-track collection avoids the usual, ubiquitous standards and allows some of his lesser-known musical numbers the chance to shine. Indeed, most of his major blockbuster work is represented here in some shape or form (Superman and Jurassic Park are the only major omissions), but instead of Jaws' iconic "duh-duh" theme tune, it's the slow-building suspense of "Out to Sea/Shark Cage Fugue" that makes the cut here, while his memorable Star Wars opening number is ignored in favor of the equally majestic "Theme Room & Finale." Elsewhere, the sweeping romance of "Sabrina's Theme" and the Oriental-tinged "Going to School" showcase the best from his under-rated scores for Sabrina and Memoirs of a Geisha, respectively; the haunting memorial of Elegy for cello & orchestra, and the triumphant fanfare of Sound the Bells! are contrasting but equally emotive occasional concert pieces. While Happy Birthday Variations is a previously unreleased piece, specially composed in 1995 for four of his musical friends, including renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma and esteemed violinist Itzhak Perlman, both of whom appear twice here. There are more familiar orchestral works, including several cuts from soundtracks written for long-term collaborator Steven Spielberg, both old (1941, E.T.) and new (War Horse, The Adventures of Tintin), while NBC News' The Mission Theme showcases one of his few excursions into TV. But fans looking for a greatest-hits should look elsewhere, as An 80th Birthday Celebration is an altogether more arbitrary retrospective that rightfully highlights the best of Williams' less-applauded but equally illustrious back catalog.

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