The Philly Pops are playing the music of movie composer John Williams this weekend. Credit: Mark Garvin
A ride in a Rebel Alliance starfighter just wouldn’t be the same without the music of John Williams crescendo-ing behind it.
The Philly Pops, with conductor Michael Krajewski at the helm, will present “The Magical Music of John Williams” this weekend at the Kimmel Center’s Verizon Hall.
While Williams’ music is a thrilling complement to the intergalactic battles of the "Star Wars" movies, he’s actually rooted in old Hollywood.
"He comes from the old school of the great composers of the ’30s and ’40s, those guys who wrote for symphony orchestras, and they wrote these big, lush, romantic orchestral scores," Krajewski says. "So he continues to write [that] music, which is becoming rare at the movies.
“Fortunately for those of us who love orchestral music, he’s written so much great music for the symphony.”
Williams, 82, started working in Hollywood as a piano player in the late 1950s. Early in his career, he composed scores for B-movies and TV shows like “Gilligan’s Island,” but his stock soared when he wrote the scores for “Jaws” in 1975, and then “Star Wars” in 1977.
Now, it’s rare when a blockbuster doesn’t have his music. The Philly Pops will play selections from “Star Wars,” “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” “Harry Potter,” “Jurassic Park” and “Schindler’s List.”
“Not to diminish his talent one bit, but a lot of his success has to do with being at the right place at right time,” Krajewski says. “Getting linked up as the composer for ‘Star Wars’ when ‘Star Wars’ was becoming such a huge hit, it seems like then, once you’ve done that as a film composer, all of a sudden you’re in demand. He’s been able to rise to the occasion.”
As will, we hope, the members of the Philly Pops. Williams’ music is not easy to play, Krajewski says.
“For the strings he writes a lot of fast and furious notes and a lot of continuous playing and a lot of technically difficult music,” Krajewski says. “He writes a lot for the brass, and they’re not accustomed to having to play for so long and so sustained. They come away with lips swollen and hanging out and the string players are kind of cross-eyed from looking at the pages full of notes.”
But it should be worth it for the audience at least, the conductor adds: “When you listen to the music for the music’s sake and hear it live, that’s where you gain a whole new appreciation for how effective and how moving the music is.”
"The Magical Music of John Williams" Philly Pops, conducted by Michael Krajewski April 4, 8 p.m.; April 5, 3 p.m.; April 6, 3 p.m. Kimmel Center 300 S. Broad St. $45-$113, 215-893-1999 www.phillypops.org