This past Sunday, John Williams received a Grammy Award for Best Arrangement, Instrumental or A Capella, for a track on his latest studio album. It’s his 24th Grammy and joins his five Oscars, four Golden Globes, three Emmys and numerous other awards. At 85, Williams has hardly slowed down. Of course, aside from his film composing work, he has also been an orchestra conductor for many years. Sony Classical is celebrating that aspect of Williams’ career with the 20-disc John Williams: Conductor box set due this Friday, February 2.
Williams himself needs little introduction. With a career stretching back to the late 1950s, he has become the most famous film composer in the world and has probably written more iconic film scores than anyone in cinema history with such classics as JAWS, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Superman: The Movie, E.T The Extra-Terrestrial, the Indiana Jones films, the first two Jurassic Park films, the first two Home Alone films, the first three Harry Potter films and of course, the Star Wars series. Of course, that list is only a small part of his total repertoire and there are probably few people on the planet who have not heard at least one of his compositions. Another aspect of his long career has been his work as a conductor. His longest association has been with The Boston Pops Orchestra. He succeeded Arthur Fiedler as their Principal Conductor in 1980 and served in that capacity until 1993. He has become the Laureate Conductor and continues to work with them several times a year.
The Boston Pops Orchestra has its own long legacy of recordings, dating back to its first release on the Victor Red Seal label in 1940 with Fiedler conducting. That began a nearly 40-year association with RCA where the group would release several albums a year. During this time, they would also release LPs for several other labels. When Williams became conductor in 1980, the Pops switched labels to Philips, where they would record nearly 20 albums over the next decade. In 1990, Williams and the Pops moved to Sony Classical with Music of the Night: Pops on Broadway, the first disc in the box set. Williams would continue to record with the group even after he was no longer their principal conductor, and would release a total of 11 albums with the Orchestra through 1999, all of which are in the box.
The set also contains albums on Sony Classical on which Williams would conduct other groups. These include the Skywalker Symphony (christening a recording studio at George Lucas’ Skywalker Sound complex with a recording of a Star Wars suite in 1990), the Pittsburgh Symphony, the London Symphony, the Los Angeles Recording Arts Orchestra, and the Utah Symphony. You will also find some special guests on the discs including Nancy Wilson of Heart, Itzhak Perlman, Judith Leclair, Joshua Bell and Yo-Yo Ma. The material is varied: Williams conducts his own work, including non-film pieces like The Five Sacred Trees. In addition, the repertoire includes famous film works from other composers, standards, Broadway, tributes to Gershwin and Sinatra, and Christmas music. The set also contains all of the audio content from last year’s John Williams and Steven Spielberg: The Ultimate Collection including the newly recorded Spielberg/Williams Collaboration Part III album which was exclusive to that box. Please note that this does not contain all of the work from John Williams which has appeared on Sony Classical. The label has released several of his film scores, including last year’s The Post. None of these soundtrack albums are included in the set.
John Williams has been nominated for an Academy Award for this score to Star Wars: The Last Jedi, which marks his 51st nomination. This makes him the second most-nominated individual after Walt Disney as well as the most nominated living person. And he has more coming up in the future: in addition to Spielberg’s upcoming projects (including a planned fifth Indiana Jones film), he’s returning back to that galaxy far, far away – not only with the score to the final film in the new Star Wars trilogy in 2019, but with an original theme written for this year’s spin-off Solo: A Star Wars Story, to be utilized in John Powell’s original score.
If you would like to take a look back at this portion of his remarkable career, we’ve got the album listing and pre-order links below
John Williams: Conductor (Sony Masterworks 88985 41779-2, 2018)
Disc 1: The Boston Pops Orchestra, Music Of The Night: Pops On Boradway 1990 (Sony Classical SK 45567, 1990)
Disc 2: The Skywalker Symphony Orchestra, John Williams Conducts The Star Wars Trilogy (Sony Classical SK 45947, 1990)
Disc 3: The Boston Pops Orchestra, The Spielberg-Williams Collaboration (Sony Classical SK 45997, 1991)
Disc 4: The Boston Pops Orchestra, I Love A Parade (Sony Classical SK 46747, 1991)
Disc 5: The Boston Pops Orchestra with Tanglewood Festival Chorus, The Green Album (Sony Classical SK 48224, 1992)
Disc 6: The Boston Pops Orchestra, Joy To The World (Sony Classical SK 48232, 1992)
Disc 7: The Boston Pops Orchestra, Night and Day: John Williams and The Boston Pops Orchestra Celebrate Sinatra (Sony Classical SK 47235, 1993)
Disc 8: The Boston Pops Orchestra, Unforgettable (Sony Classical SK 53380, 1993)
Disc 9: The Boston Pops Orchestra, Music For Stage and Screen (Sony Classical SK 64147, 1994)
Disc 10: The Boston Pops Orchestra with Nancy Wilson, It Don’t Mean A Thing If It Ain’t Got That Swing (Sony Classical SK 66294, 1994)
Disc 11: The Boston Pops Orchestra, Williams On Williams: The Classic Spielberg Scores (Sony Classical SK 68419, 1995)
Disc 12: The Boston Pops Orchestra, Summon The Heroes (Sony Classical SK 62592, 1996)
Disc 13: The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra with Itzhak Perlman, Cinema Serenade (Sony Classical SK 63005, 1997)
Disc 14: The London Symphony Orchestra with Judith Leclair, The Five Sacred Trees (Sony Classical SK 62729, 1997)
Disc 15: The London Symphony Orchestra with Grover Washington, Jr., The Hollywood Sound (Sony Classical SK 62788, 1997)
Disc 16: The London Symphony Orchestra with Joshua Bell, Gershwin Fantasy (Sony Classical SK 60659, 1998)
Disc 17: The Boston Pops Orchestra with Itzhak Perlman, Cinema Serenade 2: The Golden Age (Sony Classical SK 60773, 1999)
Disc 18: The Los Angeles Recording Arts Orchestra with Yo-Yo Ma, Yo-Yo Ma Plays The Music Of John Williams (Sony Classical SK 89670, 2002)
Disc 19: The Utah Symphony and The Los Angeles Recording Arts Orchestra, American Journey (Sony Classical SK 89364, 2002)
Disc 20: The Los Angeles Recording Arts Orchestra, The Spielberg/Williams Collaboration Part III (included in Sony Masterworks box set 88985 37458 2, 2017)