Hooray for Hollywood

Tuesday August 23, 2011

LENOX -- Even in his 14th annual Film Night spectacular at Tanglewood, John Williams freshens the now widely imitated concept with innovative, creative programming and on-screen special attractions.

Following a generous two-hour concert featuring a salute to the late, lamented Hollywood Western with beloved actor Morgan Freeman and a sequence of cinematic highlights starring violinist par excellence Gil Shaham, it may have seemed churlish of the cheering audience to demand yet another encore.

But the throng, perhaps 15,000 strong, was simply voicing its boundless enthusiasm for a Tanglewood favorite sons.

"Iconic" is the best term for the composer of well over 100 film soundtracks, a bundle of special-occasion fanfares and NBC News themes, as well as nearly two dozen concert-hall scores.

As we know, Williams is enamored of Tanglewood. On Saturday night, there was a lot to love about a program that offered a half-dozen stunning film montages, including "Hooray for Hollywood," with 119 (by our rough count) quick-cut, almost dizzying slivers of cinematic history set to Richard Whiting's famous tune from 1938's "Hollywood Hotel," and "Tribute to the Film Composer," arranged by Williams as a cleverly sequenced array of silver-screen gems accompanied by a few seconds of their main-title themes.

Even the concluding screened highlights from "Star Wars" offered a new twist -- a gallery of still photos capturing Williams and director George Lucas at work during scoring sessions for the six films.

It's almost a given, though still well-worth noting, that the Boston Pops was in resplendent, opulent form as the program's first half offered less-often performed early Williams, including his "Cowboys" Overture "repurposed" for concerts from the 1972 John Wayne epic, "The Cowboys," and a suite from one of his finest scores, 1969's "The Reivers," based on William Faulkner's final novel, starring Steve McQueen. The narration by the mellifluous-toned Freeman was gentle and heartfelt, doing great justice to the author's ruminative prose.

John Barry's characteristically swooping, swooning theme from "Dances With Wolves" and a brief taste of Alfred Newman's jaunty music for "How the West Was Won" were welcome additions to the segment.


Shaham, not only a master fiddler but also a vivacious, charismatic personality in the Yo-Yo Ma tradition, demonstrated his virtuoso chops in the tango from Thomas Newman's pungent score for "Scent of a Woman" (with visions of Al Pacino's blind Lt. Col. Frank Slade tearing up the floor with Gabrielle Anwar dancing in our heads). Shaham turned reverential, sentimental and giddy in highlights from "Schindler's List" (another example of Williams's uncanny ability to create a musical soundscape perfectly attuned to director Spielberg's vision) and a suite from "Fiddler on the Roof" (arranged by Williams from Jerry Bock's score).


The unscheduled pre-encore, a valentine for those of us whose adoration of most-elegant actress Audrey Hepburn knows no bounds, offered a new montage of scenes from several of her greatest films (notably "Roman Holiday" and "Breakfast at Tiffany's") set to the score for "Sabrina" (the 1995 remake with Harrison Ford, Greg Kinnear and Julia Ormond in the role created by Hepburn in the 1954 original).

We faux cynics still tear up as Hepburn's Holly Golightly, hair bedraggled in a downpour, searches the garbage cans of mid-Manhattan for the feline named "Cat" whom she had just abandoned. Ten seconds of that scene was all it took. (Yes, the tabby was rescued.)

Since he'll turn 80 in February, all we can shout is: "Long live John Williams!"


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