John Williams’ milestone birthday won’t go off without a hitch. On the contrary: for the star composer’s 90th birthday, orchestras, film and music associations are planning a veritable fireworks display of tributes and concerts.
Williams, who wrote the music for dozens of Hollywood blockbusters including Star Wars, Jaws, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Schindler’s List and Harry Potter, turns 90 on February 8 – but the celebrations last for months.
The famous Kennedy Center and the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington DC invite you in June to a gala concert with Williams’ most famous film music – with guests such as Steven Spielberg, star cellist Yo-Yo Ma and violinist German Anne-Sophie Mutter. In addition, the famous orchestra is planning two soundtrack concerts for the Spielberg classics “Jurassic Park” and “ET”. Orchestras in Portland, Nashville and Boston have also paid tribute to Williams.
He has already won five Oscars
Just in time for this milestone anniversary, cinemas in Germany and Austria are showing “John Williams – Live in Vienna” on the historic January 2020 performance, when Williams first conducted concerts with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. Vienna and star guest Anne-Sophie Mutter. The recording was the most successful classical album of the year in Germany in 2021, as announced by GfK Entertainment in December.
Williams and her mother previously released ‘Across the Stars’ in 2019. The star composer wrote tunes from classic films such as ‘Star Wars’, ‘Harry Potter’ and ‘Schindler’s List’ specifically for the violin virtuoso. “Film music is the music of our time, it’s contemporary music and Williams is a great contemporary composer,” Mother said in praise of the Hollywood legend.
Williams made her debut with the Berlin Philharmonic last October. This historic debut album will be released as the 90th anniversary album “John Williams – The Berlin Concert” (Deutsche Grammophon). The appearance was “a great honor and a privilege” for him, Williams said – and went on to hit some well-known Hollywood tunes, such as “Star Wars” melodies, “Superman” march and end credits. Jurassic Park.
“Perfect Marriage” with Steven Spielberg
Williams, who has been writing film music for more than 65 years – and has received five Oscars for it – can hardly be stopped even at 90. “I write every day – it’s a good habit,” Williams told BBC Music Magazine last year. Music is the oxygen he needs to live. Williams has already confirmed the long-planned sequel to “Indiana Jones 5” starring Harrison Ford, which is slated for theatrical release in 2023. Since 1981, he has provided the soundtrack for all Indiana Jones films.
With Steven Spielberg he connects “the perfect marriage” – this is how Williams looks back on decades of working with the Hollywood director. He wrote the film music for 29 works by Spielberg, including Jaws, ET – The Extra-Terrestrial and Schindler’s List. Williams praised Spielberg in 2016 when he was honored by the American Film Institute (AFI) for lifetime achievement.
Big melodies, powerful sounds and surprising twists often make up his film music. But even with a few notes – like on the “Jaws” soundtrack – it ratchets up the tension dramatically. The music was “undoubtedly responsible for half the film’s success”, Spielberg acknowledged appreciatively.
Williams recently wrote the music for Spielberg’s film “The Publisher” (2017). For once, this collaboration did not earn the composer an Oscar nomination. But he has already set a record. Williams received his 52nd Oscar nomination in 2020 with the background score to “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.”
This makes him the living person with the most Oscar rights. He has won the trophy five times since 1972: for “Anatevka”, “Jaws”, “Star Wars”, “ET – The Extra-Terrestrial” and most recently in 1994 for “Schindler’s List”. Animation legend Walt Disney (1901 – 1966) holds the record for most Oscar nominations with 59 chances. He won 22 trophies.
Williams was born in New York in 1932, the son of an orchestral musician. He studied piano at the famous Juilliard School. In addition to his Hollywood career, he appears as a guest conductor with numerous orchestras. He also composed the Salt Lake City 2002 Winter Olympics anthem “Call of the Champions” and the music for US President Barack Obama’s 2009 inauguration ceremony, for famous artists such as Itzhak Perlman and Yo-Yo Ma.
As a young musician, he wasn’t aiming to write film music, Williams told BBC Music Magazine. He was more interested in playing the piano and was “pretty good” at it. Hopefully, the Hollywood career went like this. “I just put one foot in front of the other.” (dpa)