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Classical music reviews: movie themes and symphonies

In the February / March 2020 issue of Creative Feel, we reviewed Across the Stars and Weinberg Symphonies Nos. 2 & 21, two extraordinary albums sure to move your soul.

Across the Stars | Ann-Sophie Mutter | John Williams | Deutsche Grammophon | 4837456
Across the Stars Ann-Sophie Mutter John Williams Deutsche Grammophon

Legendary film composer John Williams conducts a brand-new album of many of his beloved movie themes in stunning new adaptations written especially for his superstar violinist friend and collaborator Anne-Sophie Mutter. Recorded in Hollywood, Across the Stars includes familiar themes from blockbuster films including Star Wars and Harry Potter, as never heard before.
     ‘There is only one John Williams,’ says Anne-Sophie Mutter. ‘What he writes is just extraordinary. Every time I go to one of his films and there is a violin or cello, I think, I would like to play that! And now I have his wonderful translations of all these iconic themes.’
     John Williams adds: ‘Working with Anne-Sophie on this recording has been a pure inspiration. She has brought vibrant life to these familiar themes in new and unexpected ways, which has been a great joy for me as a composer.’
     John Williams – who has won five Oscars, four Golden Globes, five Emmys and 24 Grammys – explains that for this project, he’s revisited themes from many of his existing scores and completely transformed them: ‘Presented on the violin, they become a different emotional experience.’ One example is his newly arranged version of ‘Hedwig’s Theme’ from the Harry Potter films, which he and Mutter describe as ‘Harry Potter meets Paganini’ and ‘a Carmen Fantasy for the 21st century’. 
     In addition to the haunting violin melodies from Williams’ Oscar-winning Schindler’s List score, the album features new versions of themes from Cinderella Liberty and Dracula (originally written in the 1970s and rarely performed since then) along with the Irish-flavoured ‘Donnybrook Fair’ from Far and Away and the romantic theme from Sabrina.
     Anne-Sophie Mutter and John Williams both consider Across the Stars to be a milestone recording. Mutter recalls growing up in Germany’s Black Forest and falling in love with the music of Star Wars as a teenager. ‘These are melodies which touch us so deeply, they just stay with you,’ says Mutter. ‘That’s the wonderful thing about John’s music – even without the film it has a life of its own.’

Weinberg Symphonies Nos. 2 & 21 | Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla | Gideon Kremer | City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra | Kremerata Baltica | Deutsche Grammophon | 4836566
Weinberg Symphonies Nos. 2 & 21

‘Conducting is about sharing music.’ For her debut album, Lithuanian conductor Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla brought together her Birmingham orchestra with Gidon Kremer and his Kremerata Baltica for music by the Polish composer Mieczysław Weinberg. For her, ‘the symbiosis was a very, very strong one.’ The Baltic orchestra plays Symphony No. 2, and the two ensembles combine for the ‘Kaddish’ Symphony, one of Weinberg’s most important works. It is dedicated to the memory of the victims of the Warsaw Ghetto. ‘It was actually as if one had discovered Mahler’s Eleventh Symphony. A musical monument that sets to music one of the greatest tragedies of the 20th century,’ says Gidon Kremer.

To keep up-to-date with the latest arts and culture news in South Africa, purchase the February / March 2020 issue of Creative Feel or subscribe to our bi-monthly magazine for only R225.00 per year! SUBSCRIBE HERE!

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