Williams Writes Piano Duet

John Williams has written a piano duet that he and Leonard Slatkin will play to accompany some silent film footage during the “Soundtracks: Music and Film” festival, starting Thursday at the Kennedy Center.

“In the early days, someone would sit at the piano or organ and improvise something to go with the film, or grab themes from the standard classical repertoire,” Williams says. “I thought it would be fun for the audience to get a sense of what that was like. I wrote out this little duet to go with a three-part section of film – the first part is jeopardy, with the lady tied to the railroad track; the second, lovers in the desert; and third, the chases and pie-throwing associated with comedic films of the time. It’s what we might have seen in 1910 and what we might have heard played on an upright piano. Leonard will play the bottom part; I’ll play the top part.”

Williams, who is co-artistic director of the festival, will conduct the National Symphony Orchestra on Thursday 23, Friday 24, Saturday 25. Leonard Slatkin will conduct and all-Williams program Saturday, February 1.

UPDATE: The clips ranged from The Perils of PaulineThe Sheik, a Charlie Chaplin bit  to The Keystone Cops