REVIEW: The Music of John Williams, the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall

Published by The Student Advertiser

When seasoned conductor Richard Kauffman announces that, “you won’t hear John Williams played better by anyone else”, in front of the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, we know he isn’t wrong. While some classical loyalists might “hmpf” at the popularity of John Williams, The Music of John Williams, an evening dedicated to the prolific cinematic composer’s most loved and decorated work as performed by the RSNO, has been stunning crowds, silencing Scottish spectators, defying chart music and playing testimony to Glasgow’s ever-surprising music culture for a few years now.

Like many, you will have been exposed to John Williams without realising it. Despite instantly recognising the Star Wars, Jurassic Park and Harry Potter leitmotivs, movie music generally tends to be a greatly ignored component of feature films, even though so much of a movie’s credibility rides on the back of an easily identified ring. If the score isn’t convincing by the closure of the opening scene, the likelihood of it massacring the quality of a picture increases ten-fold.

This is what Williams feared when he was approached by movie-maker best pal and life-long creative partner, the legendary Steven Spielberg, who required John’s expertise to bring his holocaust blockbuster Schindler’s List to life. However, swaying before the crowd with the power of a symphonic orchestra behind her, no hesitation or doubt was detectable in first violinist Emma Steele’s perfect portrayal of the haunting theme by which fans recognise the epic movie today. To say “you could hear a pin drop” is clichéd but accurate. To say anything less would be a complete misrepresentation of her skill, this young lady who effortlessly carried the entire Royal Scottish National Orchestra on the tip of her bow.

This past weekend, audiences’ ears were graced by music from Star Wars, Harry Potter, E.T., Hook and Jurassic Park to name a few. Richard Kauffman’s interjections between pieces were a welcomed addition to the programme and his wisdom, as well as his humour, added even more joy to the spectacle. If you were to ask the audience for a show of hands, without doubt, the most spectacular segment of the programme was Star Wars – not forgetting that John Williams himself granted special permission to the RSNO to play two pieces from the score of The Force Awakens, which was a particularly joyous occasion for one section of the upper tier made up of excitable Star Wars fans.

The fusion of the four sections of the orchestra created a totally spellbinding, whole-body experience which was enjoyed by all. Kauffman carried our emotions in the palm of his hand, uplifting our spirits with powerful crescendos in the brass section and cushioning our landings with peaceful and skilfully controlled diminuendos in the lower strings – a truly mesmerising and thoroughly good sensory experience. Hearing Williams’ work live stirred something inside the audience; his music threw us into a shrine of rainy days gone by that were spent watching good ol’ films on the VCR. No one wanted it to end.

Almost two and a half thousand people fought their way into the Royal Glasgow Concert Hall last Saturday evening, the 6th of February – and last Saturday afternoon… and last Sunday afternoon… and Sunday evening as well – for the Glaswegian leg of the event. Acknowledging that there have also been performances taking place in Edinburgh this year, it is not an exaggeration to declare that the RSNO’s delivery of John Williams’ is one of the most popular celebrations on the Glasgow orchestral calendar each year. This isn’t the first time that The Music of John Williams has found Glaswegian audiences ‘whoop-ing’ with the excitement of a Coldplay concert, and given the success of its return in 2016 it won’t be the last.

Read the review on the Student Advertiser website here.

If you missed it this time, the RSNO are set to stun audiences once again March with a musical tribute to Hollywood Heroes and Superheroes – think Batman, Spiderman, Superman and many, many more… The RSNO perform almost every weekend in Glasgow and stand today as one of the strongest orchestras in the U.K. if not the world. Student discounts are in place for Young Scot cardholders. Save up to 50% on tickets to performances like these and help keep the Royal Scottish National Orchestra going strong.


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