John Williams, the titan of film music, was recently honored with a concert by ABS-CBN Philharmonic Orchestra at Meralco Theater.
“The Magic of John Williams” paid tribute to the musical genius who won the Oscar for music scoring five times; the British Academy of Film and Television Arts award seven times; Golden Globe, four; and the Grammy, 21.
He was also the conductor of the well-loved Boson Pops Orchestra.
The concert was an epic rendition of the music for the movies mainly helmed by another titan, Steven Spielberg.
Williams (born 1932) has collaborated with the director-producer in the “Harry Potter” films, “Yes, Giorgio,” “Close Encounter of the Third Kind,” “E.T.,” “Schindler’s List,” “Superman,” “Jaws,” “Jurassic Park,” and “Raiders of the Lost Ark.”
The ABS-CBN Orchestra also played Williams’ scores for the 1984 Olympics and NBC Night News.
Virile wind section
The concert also trained the spotlight on the collaboration between young conductor Gerard Salonga and the newly constituted orchestra.
“Fantastic—never has this thing happened for a symphonic concert,” said Salonga as he thanked the audience.
The production was a feat. Movie clips made listening even more pleasurable and vivid. Amplification was superbly done to balance the orchestra sound: This was achieved through a virile wind section composed of the brasses and woodwinds, the elegant strings, and the well-tempered percussion.
Everyone played with gusto, in perfect rapport and collaboration. The brasses did not overpower the rest of the instruments; the strings, the violins in particular were always on top, providing the backbone for the entire ensemble.
Minutest parts of the piano and the harp were audibly appreciated as they added color to the entire symphonic sound.
Perhaps to showcase such talent, Salonga descended the podium and left the woodwind section to play sans conductor in “Nimbus 2000” (“Harry Potter”). The band played with agility and commanding presence.
In “Superman,” the brasses played splendidly. Salonga was met with thunderous applause when he faced the audience clad in a Superman T-shirt under his coat.
Characters from some of the featured films such as, R2-D2, Superman, White Soldiers, and Indiana Jones mixed with the audience at the lobby.
At “Star Wars” encore, the trumpet once more intoned the theme with such elan.
One commends Salonga and the orchestra for their collective musicality: the conductor for his proficient handling of the baton; and the musicians for their technical ability. It was such a fantastic symphonic sound the orchestra etched that underscored unalloyed musicality.
Salonga is no stranger to Williams’ music. He proved keen familiarity with it as he brought out the essence of Williams’ music in lush and brilliant sonorities.
José Mari Chan and Nikki Gil were the featured vocalists. They essayed a duo in “If I Were in Love,” from “Yes, Giorgio.”
Gil later did a solo, the very popular “Can You Read My Mind?” from “Superman.”
At one point in Salonga’s annotation, he told the audience that Williams’ music provided him access to the classical world of, for instance, Strauss and Wagner.
What Salonga said is hard to dispute. Popular music, in general, is inspired by the classics. Many of Tin Pan Alley’s songs were based on classical tunes.
Williams is successful because of his ability to echo Wagner’s idea of leitmotiv, or the underlying idea that is identified with a character.
Consider the theme of “Jaws” that is based only on two notes expressed in ghastly rhythmic undulations. Or the surreal, eerie sound associated with “E.T.”; or the touching somberness of the violin solo elegantly played by concert master Ralph Taylan to evoke a tragic sense in “Schindler’s List.”
Catch ABS-CBN Philharmonic Orchestra’s Inaugural Gala at Mandarin Oriental Hotel on Oct. 9. Call tel. 0915-94960/02-5866732; e-mail [email protected]; visit www.abscbnphilharmonic.com.