Williams Conducts the Chicago Symphony – Reviews & Pictures

UPDATE: Listen to the full concert, recorded April 26, 2018

April 26-29, 2018, Chicago, IL
The Chicago Symphony Orchestra conducted by JOHN WILLIAMS and Richard Kaufman


Richard Kaufman conducting

  • Overture to The Cowboys
  • Suite from Jane Eyre
  • The Adventures of Mutt from Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
  • A New Beginning from Minority Report
  • Adventures on Earth from E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial


John Williams conducting

  • Flight to Neverland from Hook
  • A Child’s Tale: Suite from The BFG
  • Out to Sea and Shark Cage Fugue from Jaws
  • With Malice Towards None from Lincoln
  • Three Selections from Star Wars (The Rebellion is Reborn; Rey’s Theme; The Throne Room and Finale)


  • Marion’s Theme from Raiders of the Lost Ark
  • March from Superman
  • The Imperial March from The Empire Strikes Back


  • Fanthatracks – Listening to the myriad of music John Williams has composed over the years is astounding.  I am always amazed at how he can paint pictures with his music.  And his conducting is masterfully fluid and theatrical.  You know exactly what he wants from each note, from each instrument, and from each moment.  If you ever get a chance to see him conduct, I highly recommend you do so! – Full review
  • Chicago Tribune (April 26) – Williams is a master of colorful orchestration, just as he is one of the great melodists in the history of film music. Much of the fun of Thursday’s concert was hearing the CSO’s furiously whirling strings, roaring brasses and pounding timpani going full tilt in excerpts from three different “Star Wars” movies — also, at encore time, familiar tracks from “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” “Superman” and “Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back.” No composer for the movies does juicy strings soaring over pulsing, rhythmic brasses better than Williams. But he also does evocative delicacy and noble feeling like nobody else, as the charming, flute-filigreed suite from “The BFG” proved. Aaron Copland would, I think, have been flattered by the allusions to that American master’s wide-open-prairie style in Williams’ scores to “Lincoln” and “The Cowboys.” – Full review


Review by John Tenuto

Sunday, April 29, 2018, John Williams returned to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in a spectacular concert featuring his music. In addition, there was a League of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association fundraiser event entitled “A Toast to John Williams.” My family and I enjoyed both events and wanted to share some images and perceptions of the day with fellow John Williams Fans.

The Concert:

The concert began at 3:00PM with 7 selections conducted by Richard Kaufman. During the 1970s, Kaufman played violin on several of John Williams’ scores including Jaws. In addition, he conducts many of the film screenings at the CSO that are accompanied by the entire score played live by the orchestra. Almost immediately, Kaufman set the mood for the day with a fun introduction where he said that he felt a bit like an accordion player opening for the Beatles. He need not have felt that way because his conducting was dynamic, fluid, and compelling. Our absolute favorite moment was when he finished the bombastic selection “The Adventures of Mutt” from Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull with a motion that mimicked a ball player hitting a home run. His energy and enthusiasm – and his respect for Williams – was apparent during his introductions to Jane Eyre, Minority Report, and “Adventures on Earth” from E.T. The first half of the concert featured many rarely played Williams offerings, and his music from Jane Eyre was especially interesting because it was one of his earliest scores, and it has many of the flavors that would pepper Williams’ future and more famous compositions. We spoke with several people at the charity event who mentioned that they teared up during the selection from E.T. because for many in the audience, the film and its music represent either their childhood or their children’s childhoods as we approach the film’s 40th anniversary in 4 years. Kaufman was fantastic.

After the intermission, maestro John Williams took the stage. This was our third time seeing him during the past 20 years and his energy and enthusiasm are the same now as when we saw him two decades ago. He began with selections from Hook, The BFG, and Jaws. It is a joy to listen to his stories and introductions. For example, when he told us we would hear some music from Jaws, he told us that there would be no “ba dum dum” music referring to the main theme. The audience howled. His description of the music from The BFG painted a picture for those who may have not seen the film and reminded audiences who had seen the movie what the selection represented. A real treat was hearing the CSO perform “With Malice Toward None” from Lincoln because the score for the film was recorded by Williams and the CSO in the very room we were sitting in. The story of how Spielberg had wanted to include a middle-of-the-nation orchestra to connect more with Lincoln was fascinating. The crowd pleasing Star Wars selections included “Rey’s Theme” and it was obvious how much affection John Williams has for the material and for Daisy Ridley. He even called the theme “Daisy’s Theme” and also said that when he was asked if he would compose the music for The Last Jedi by Kathleen Kennedy, he first asked if Daisy was in the film. Since she was, he said jokingly that he agreed to write the music.

Three encores followed, including “Marion’s Theme,” “Superman,” and “The Imperial March.” Williams said he wanted to end the concert with a bad guy theme. The orchestra hall shook with thunderous applause after both Superman and Vader’s theme, ending the concert with an amazing amount of energy. Then, after a few more bows shared with Kaufman, John Williams made his signature “sleepy time” gesture and walked off stage. It was a remarkable experience and we were happy that our son got to see John Williams in person. Watching Williams conduct is like watching Michelangelo paint.

The Fundraiser:

A lucky few hundred of us got to gather in support of the very worthwhile League of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association for a pre-concert party and post-party dinner with Richard Kaufman making remarks. There were some great silent auction items themed around Williams’ scores, including some signed composition pages from John Williams himself. The decorations included a life-sized R2, movie posters, and tables that had popcorn boxes and music score sheets. There was some good conversation and a chance to talk about the concert with fellow fans after the event. The highlight was the comments from Kaufman who relayed how one of the musicians while recording the original Jaws music would cover her eyes (it was customary that there were large movie screens behind the orchestra showing the film for the conductor). He shared some great adventures during his own amazing career and even answered questions from the group. All in all, a wonderful day spent with a few hundred fellow fans who love the music of Williams as much as we do.


Report by Lee Allen (April 26) (original post)

What a dream come true! He was sensational tonight. Such energy and passion for each piece. Getting to watch his face as he conducted was something truly special. Just pure emotion and happiness on his face. At one point he even mouthed the words “oh wow” during the 3rd encore (The Imperial March) the other two encores were Marion’s theme from Raiders and the Superman March.

Oh and we all know he loves Daisy Ridley, but he really really really loves Daisy Ridley. He wouldn’t stop swooning over her. It was so charming and sweet to listen to him tell the story of scoring Ep 7 and 8. He even said (when introducing Marions Theme) that Karen Allen is wonderful on-screen with her energy and grace, much like Daisy. Which got a big laugh from the audience.

Report by ‘PokeDocMatt’ (April 26) (original post)

Thursday night was a phenomenal concert. While there were some struggles with conducting, following the orchestra’s lead, missing cues, etc… the stamina, energy and joy he had while conducting were quite heartwarming. In spite of the difficulties, there were many amazing moments. My favorite was during With Malice Towards None. In the middle of one of the solo trumpet miniature cadenzas, the Maestro exquisitely suspended the orchestra and adapted to the soloist. You could tell that he was really loving he opportunity to let the music breathe, without being limited by the screen.

Report by ‘Damien F’ (April 28) (original post)

Just back from the Saturday concert. My fifth time seeing him on stage. Amazing as always.

Loved how he referred to the Jaws theme as “thump thump” music and Rey’s theme as “Daisy’s Theme”.

The orchestra sounded absolutely stunning.

I never expected to see him performing a strip tease on stage either. First time for everything :o ;)

Report by ‘Will’ (April 28) (original post)

Just got back from the concert. Truly incredible. No time for full thoughts now but to expand on Damien’s reference to a “strip tease” (:lol:):

This was indeed the funniest moment. Really great. So JW finished one of the pieces (I believe “With Malice Toward None”) and then tugged a little at the white shirt he was wearing, looking a bit puzzled and saying out loud that it was bothersome. It looked like maybe one of the buttons had broken off or something, I don’t really know.

So then JW decided to take off that shirt (but don’t worry kids, he had another shirt and suspenders under it). So he took his jacket off, laid it down, took off that annoying shirt, put the jacket back on (was hoping he’d just conduct in his suspenders but I guess not LOL), and continued with the next piece, offering running commentary through the whole thing. Then at the end he jokingly said “I’ve never lost my shirt before at a concert.”

A really great improvisatory moment from the maestro. ROTFLMAO

He handled it so well that at first I wondered if it was some sort of pre-planned gag.

Report by ‘MikeH’ (April 28) (original post)

Wonderful time tonight!  Love how he talked about how the fugue was for when they “build the cage to capture the shark.”  My highlight was definitely experiencing Jane Eyre, my favorite, live for the first time. Tempo was a bit lethargic, especially during the last movement, but I’m thrilled that more people were exposed to this gem of a score. There were definitely sparks coming off of the stage once JW took to the podium.  Oh, and the striptease!  People lost their sh** when Superman began. It was the biggest reaction of the night, for sure!

ps. Before the encore of Marion’s Theme, JW mentioned that Spielberg is “threatening” to make a fifth Indy film. Nice laugh.


(Photo by John Tenuto)

Photos by Todd Rosenberg (From the CSO Facebook page)

Photos by ‘BuzzLightYear’ (original post)

Photos by John Tenuto
(‘A Toast to John Williams’ Fundraising event)