John Williams in Vienna: Reviews, Reports, Videos, Photos and More

January 18 & 19, 2020, Musikverein, Vienna, Austria
Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by JOHN WILLIAMS
Anne-Sophie Mutter, violin

These performances were recorded for release on Deutsche Grammophon (CD, Blu-ray and 2LP)


  • Flight to Neverland from Hook
  • Excerpts from Close Encounters of the Third Kind
  • Hedwig’s Theme from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (ASM)
  • Theme from Sabrina (ASM)
  • Donnybrook Fair from Far and Away (ASM)
  • The Dance of the Witches from The Witches of Eastwick (ASM)
  • Adventures on Earth from E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial
  • Theme from Jurassic Park
  • Dartmoor, 1912 from War Horse
  • Out to Sea / The Shark Cage Fugue from Jaws
  • Marion’s Theme from Raiders of the Lost Ark
  • The Rebellion is Reborn from The Last Jedi
  • Luke and Leia from Return of the Jedi
  • Star Wars Main Theme

ENCORES (Click on the links for YouTube videos)

Final applause



  • SoundtrackFest – It is impressive to see John Williams conduct for almost two and a half hours with such strength, vitality, and energy, from the beginning to the end, without a single moment of weakness. It is amazing to see how he collects the ‘crescendo’ of the string section with circular movements of his arms, how he points with the baton or with the fingers of his left hand marking the entrance of single instruments or complete sections, how he lifts the baton vertically to set the rhythm and ask for more intensity, how he brings the index finger of the left hand to his lips or gently lowers the same hand with the palm looking down to request a lower sound or to indicate a smooth passage, or how he stares into the eyes of the musicians and raises his eyebrows to indicate… ‘Beware, you’re next!’ – Full review
  • EN24  – You have to understand John Williams as a pop star, at the latest after appearances like this: At least half of those present are not dressed the way people dress for classical concerts – but like fans who think in pictures of the cinema and align their lives accordingly: to see are cowl carriers whose denim jacket is embroidered with Boba Fett on the front and Luke Skywalker on the back. People with Obi-Wan-Kenobi beards, fantasy dreamers. One could actually smuggle a plastic lightsaber into it. Japanese and Italians take selfies in front of the empty stage and hold John Williams dolls at the camera. There is even standing room, right at the top and back, and of course there is the greatest cheering after each piece. –  Full review


“Well, that was incredible! One of those concerts that completely enthralls you – happens only a few times a year, if at all. Energetic atmosphere in the hall, like I’ve never seen before (aided by the fact that the average attendee was like 30 years younger than usual). The Vienna Philharmonic – though not always perfect – was playing inspired with that string sound that is just to die for.

We also got the hall to stand up in the beginning – perhaps we even overdid it with the standing ovations. I counted 7, that’s probably more than the VPO gets in a season of subscription concerts.” (‘Matthias’)

“Strings were very good to great, particularily impressive in CE3K, and later in the concert, during string tutttis.

I had a place right in the crossfire of the concertmaster and the first double bass. The first double bass was just madly good. Loud, broad, with tons of reverb, nearly dancing with his instrument, and with a deadly serious face. I made sure to make an eye contact with him during one of the ovations and send him my regards.

There were some great woodwind solos as well.

Some musicians were smiling broadly, one violist was supposedly crying from joy, and it seems that they really enjoyed this unique evening. It was a historical concert.

After that a dozen of us met for some 3 hours of celebration in a restaurant, and it was very nice.


P.S. I only feel a bit sorry for the concertmaster, who was totally stressed, stayed whole intermission to rehearse, curled up when Mutter wanted to “play” with him during the Tintin duel, and had only a very brief/forced smile when Williams smiled at him. I think he did great!” ( ‘First TROS March Accolyte’)

“I travelled from London to come to this concert. Thankfully I managed to get tickets for both days. Todays concert was not disappointing with different arrangements and suites for his more established music.It was certainly nice to hear Cinderella Liberty performed as an arrangement for Ms Mutter. Yes there were some sequences where the sync was slightly out but us die hard JW fans would not have been disappointed with what was a terrific show performed by the Vienna Philharmonic.

What was amazing was whilst standing around with the queues in and outside, was that die hard fans had come from Australia, Japan,another from South Africa. Poland , and Russia. Also many like me from the UK, Paris and Berlin. There were a group of 4 who had flown in from LA, such is the appeal of this wonderful film composer.” (‘Amvanquish’)

“During HP, Anne Sophie was late in time when playing the pizzicati chords but Williams and her smiled at each other («OK, I have been spotted »). It was not at all a big issue.

But the concert was so magical, so full of joy from the crowd and the musicians. It was perfect.

Even Anne Sophie, she stayed to play the Raiders encore. Usually Soloists don’t accept to play Violin1 parts, because there is a lot of ego and they are above the other players.

She took the V1 music sheet and played with humility with the 1rst violins. It shows how the concert was quite a moment for everybody.” (‘Jar Jar’)

“That was an amazing concert.

I’m generally picky with european orchestras when it comes to performance of John Williams’s music, but the VSO surpassed all the other orchestras in the world.

As soon as the brass came in, I was literally shocked. What a powerful sound the french horns had.

I honestly never heard JW’s music as greatly performed as it was yesterday.” (‘rp75012’)


“What can I say after today ? This was a moment that will stay with me till the end of my life. First and probably only time seeing John Williams conduct his own music. I won’t deny I teared up a bit at some points. For example when Anne-Sophie Mutter started playing Hedwig’s Theme, or during E.T.’s final, or during Cinderella Liberty. And I don’t think I’m projecting if I say I felt emotion amongst the public and the orchestra as well.

The music itself was magnificent. The brass in Jurassic Park! Anne-Sophie Mutter virtuoso playing ! It was a blast hearing so many great pieces live for the first time, all those Among the Stars arrangements, plus The Rebellion Is Reborn, War Horse, Shark Cage Fugue… And the usual suspects didn’t disappoint obviously, with special mention to Raiders March and Imperial March, which I don’t think I have ever heard sound better, and were a terrific way to close the concert.” (‘Eitam’)

“The one thing that was the biggest revelation to me personally, and after 25+ years of listening to his music elevated my esteem of Williams as a composer and conductor even further:

Having lived in Vienna my whole life, I’ve heard the Philharmoniker and other orchestras play at the Musikverein numerous times. Occasionally on parterre seats (mostly when I got cheap tickets for dress rehearsals), more often from the balcony. I’ve always had the impression that 1) the Golden Hall can indeed sound great if played right, but can also be overly reverb-y and intransparent when played too loud, or without the right balance and 2) that the balcony seats seemed to suffer from that problem much more than the parterre seats. I’ve heard big name conductors with big name orchestras play massive symphonies by master composers like Mahler, Strauss, and Bruckner and regret only having a balcony seat because I could barely hear many of the details in these works I knew so well from various recordings – including the Philharmoniker, who’ve been at home in that hall for 150 years.

The Williams concerts marked the first time that I heard the same concert on two successive days, once from a parterre seat and once from the balcony. And the balcony sound was fantastic – slightly more reverb than below, but never at the expense of clarity. I didn’t feel I missed a single detail, and in fact heard a few new ones I’d never been aware of. I could swear I could actually hear the piano in the Imperial March. In short, I’ve rarely heard such a powerful and yet transparent performance at the Musikverein – a testament to Williams as a conductor and an orchestrator, and with music that was originally written for a single studio recording.

Some fact snippets I gathered from people who talked to people (in the orchestra etc.):

– The Philharmoniker were big fans of Williams as a conductor and specifically pointed out his sensible and no-nonsense style as opposed to exaggerated theatrics by many of their regular famous big name conductors. They also supposedly said that such an enormous audience reaction and general atmosphere is unprecedented, even considering the New Year’s Concerts.

– Originally, three encores (i.e. a “usual” number) were planned: The DuelRemembrances, and Raiders’ March. It was the Philharmoniker who had their go between ask Williams if they couldn’t do the Imperial March as well. When he heard the request, Williams was worried that it would be too hard on the horns after such a long and difficult concert – until they told him that it was in fact the special wish of the horn section. My own guess is that ASM requested to also add Nice to Be Around, based on her often citing it as one of her favourites in interviews.

– I spotted Austrian ex-president Heinz Fischer and his wife, as well as ex-chancellor Wolfgang Schüssel, at the Saturday concert. Fischer left before the final encore (Imperial March).

– The Imperial March was a fitting encore, give that Williams was staying at the Hotel Imperial (right next to the Musikverein).

Also: In both concerts, Williams said more or less the same things. He added a little anecdotal detail here, and left one out there (and apparently forgot to introduce Tintin today – he gave his comments on it afterwards, prompted by ASM), and he was very eloquent on both days – but he used different words. He clearly prepares *what* he’s going to say, but he just comes up with the appropriate words on the spot.

(Oh, and he also said Luke and Leia was from the second film… :P)”

(Marian Schedenig)

“I especially enjoyed the string-based pieces (and the percussion, and brass, oh well) – they really sounded rich and lush, not only in War Horse but also Marian’s, erm, Marion’s theme, for example…

…in the “first concert on Saturday”, for some odd reason, Sabrina did touch me in a special way (and yes, as somebody else already wrote, it might be considered better than the original version). Hook was a perfect introduction and a flight into this parallel universe (now I will never witness Olympic Fanfare and Theme, which got replaced in London back in 1996 as well – both times something more interesting took its place though), all the pieces (19, people, 19!!!) had their merits (an understatement!) – and on Saturday it was amazing how the orchestra got better and better, and the mood and excitement of the audience as well.

I especially enjoyed watching Williams conduct so energetically and see all these emotions playing out on his face; and even his speeches were more extensive, more insightful, and wittier than usual. (maybe that’s just me) This (and a couple of other wonderful things) made everything even more impressive. Except for that small emotional jolt for a couple of beats during E.T. (after being enthralled by it before and after; I didn’t mind the other very few small issues in this loong concert in all the excitement/excellence/joy of the players at all) everything, and I mean everything (also the circumstances, our journey, stay near the Riesenrad, our meet-up after the concert, etc.), was bliss for me/us.” (‘Martinland’)

“The pieces that moved me most were Hook (the magic of the beginning of the concert, and realizing this was actually happening), Close Encounters (just this sublime journey from chaos to triumphant harmony), Sabrina (how so many people can produce so intimate a sound, especially in the melancholic middle section), and War Horse (that aforementioned brass chorale!). And I was really happy they included the Duel from Tintin, which is just great fun with all it’s twists and turns, especially with Mutter coordinating the wild bouncing bows passages with the violin section!” (ChrisAfonso)

“I’m still in shock. Recovering from what feels like a dream (not even listening to any music still), but what I can say is that a big thing about this concert was hearing what one of the best orchestras is able to do under John’s own guidance. Playing without amplification, with music going from players straight to you, gives it the maximum range of dynamics, emotional opportunities and the immense delivery of power. John’s music is incredibly dynamic, so an orchestra like Vienna Philharmonic emphasises this, under his direction, to deliver nuances ranging from gentlest tones to projection of raw power of percussion and brass that can blow you away and push you back in your seat. I’ve never heard anything like this in my life and there are no words to describe it, really. My idea of music, orchestras and emotional power live music can have, has been completely changed. And as a composer, even more so. Unreal.” (‘St0rMl0rD’)

I was on the right hand side, front row on the balcony. I’ve seen Williams twice before (both Hollywood Bowl 2014/16 I think), but neither of those even remotely compared to yesterday. The intimacy of the venue, the sense of complete harmony of the audience to JW and of course the complete and utter respect of the musicians for someone whom even a decade or so ago they may have regarded with some disdain. The concert met and exceeded my expectations really beyond what I had hoped for – even the presence of ASM and the numerous revised arrangements seemed somehow befitting of the venue and atmosphere.” (‘The Psycho Pianist’)

“Others have remarked that ASM played just the 1st violin during the Raiders March. During the Imperial March she stood 2 meters from us behind the violas watching intendly the performance and clearly living with the music. I bet she would have liked to play this, too!
One last story from after the concert. We stayed some time after the last applause in the hall to take it in a bit more, make some selfies and relish the afterglow and the atmosphere, as did a lot of others. Then ushers approached and said we had to leave, because there would be now a recording. We stayed a few minutes outside the hall, wondering what the many people there were up to and found out when ASM emerged signing autographs. Since this is not something we are interested in, we finally went to the basement cloakroom to fetch our staff. There was also a small monitor on a wall with a video view on the podium from the organ perspective showing the first few rows of players and seats with the conductors podium in the middle.
We just wanted to leave when I saw some musicians come to their places and starting to play. And then Williams reemerged to the podium and started conducting. The sound was on, but very low. Obviously they played just a few bars from several of the pieces, where there was a need to patch the recording. Imaging, an almost 88 years old man after a close to 3 hours concert coming back after just about 20 min rest to make this additional recordings, astonishing. I am sure this is only possible due to his decades of routine in the studio recordings.” (‘Gurkensalat’)