Chicago, November 29, 2003 (Horn Concerto Premiere)

Chicago Symphony Center, Chicago, IL
Saturday, November 29, 2003
The Chicago Symphony Orchestra conducted by 
Dale Clevenger, Horn

Concert Review by ‘Next Spielberg’

John Williams’ Saturday concert offered viewers the world-premiere ofConcerto for Horn and Orchestra as well as a glimpse of Mr. Williams’ humor and personality. Every Williams piece brought thunderous applause from the crowd that was thrilled by the conductor and his work with Dale Clevenger and the Chicago Symphony Ochestra.

Beginning with Sound the Bells! and following through with Tributes! John Williams wowed the crowd and won thier vigorous applause as he wet the audience appetite for more. This was followed by John Williams new workConcerto for Horn and Orchestra which really consists of five movements, “Angelus”, “The Battle of the Trees”, “Pastorale”, “The Hunt”, and finally “Nocturne”.

The first movement begins with a distant angelus bell. The Battle of the Trees comes next and musically conveys the celtic poem in which trees become warriors and battle each other. This is followed by the nostalgic Pastorale. The Hunt is a traditional example of chase music. Nocturne represents the slow winding down after a long day. All five parts reflect Williams life long love of the horn, and were written for horn player Dale Clevenger. These are all prime examples of classic Williams music.

Then comes the JFK suite and several pieces from Far and Away. The theme from Schindler’s List is followed by “Adventures o­n Earth” from E.T. and is in turn followed by the Love Theme from Star Wars: Episode II (which is not in the program).

Then Star Wars is performed (also not in the program). The presentation is concluded by the NBC nightly news theme. The Star Wars encores were enthusiastically welcomed by the audience, which honored Mr. Williams with several standing ovations, some wearing their hands raw and red with vigorous clapping. The experience will undoubtedly leave a lasting impression for audience members of all ages.

If you didn’t catch Mr. Williams in Chicago there is always London in 2005!


ADDITIONAL INFO ON THE HORN CONCERTO (Some thoughts by JWFan member Kathy Allen):

First, there is a glimmer of hope of the concerto being recorded … in the pre-concert conversation Dale Clevenger stated that he would like to record the concerto, and hopes it will be recorded…

I really hope someone with technical knowledge posts their thoughts, because I can’t and only share how the music moved my emotions.

The 1st, 3rd, and 5th movements were beautiful, lyric, melodic, and spine-tingling. The 2nd movement was atonal and percussive (like “The Motorcade”) and the 4th movement was a lively and energetic scherzo.

I’ve tried to think of his movie music that has a similar “feel” and the 3rd mvt, wihich is almost a duet between the horn and oboe, makes me think of “Across The Stars” mixed with “Binary Sunset.”

The 5th mvt created (for me) the same mood as “Angela’s Prayer.”


The Chicago Tribune compares Williams’ new work to the score for an unwritten film:

The Horn Concerto’s five movements come with descriptive titles that suggest scenes from an unseen movie for which the solo horn and the orchestra provide color and mood.

Williams wrote the work in the middle of scoring of the third Harry Potter film, and it shows. A hazy atmosphere of Celtic-folkloric nostalgia pervades the opening “Angelus” (the muted horn sounds fanfare-like figures over softly chiming metallic percussion), the central “Pastorale” (with its plaintive, bardic oboe solo) and final “Nocturne” (where the horn doubles the soft, sighing lyricism of the strings). The disappointing thing about the score is how little it exploits Clevenger’s virtuoso chops. Indeed, it sounds less like a concerto than a suite of tone-pictures for obbligato horn often accompanying the orchestra.

Clevenger played it superbly, as did his colleagues. Williams may not be a great conductor, but his beat is clear and he knew what he wanted to elicit from the orchestra, here and in the remaining works heard Friday and Saturday.

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