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John Williams Celebration, A

CAV // Unrated // June 30, 2015
List Price: $29.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Neil Lumbard | posted July 8, 2015 | E-mail the Author
A John Williams Celebration Concert Blu-ray

A John Williams Celebration was the opening night concert for the 2014/15 Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra. The orchestra was conducted by Gustavo Dudamel. The concert performance was held at the beautiful Walt Disney Concert Hall. The performance is of selections from famed film composer John Williams. The selected pieces come from the cinematic classics Williams composed for director Steven Spielberg and Star Wars to the Olympics and a special-piece written for the Walt Disney Concert Hall entitled Soundings.

The concert begins with a theme he composed for the Olympics. It's a bold, exciting, and adventurous theme with a triumphant and lively sound. The next piece is Soundings. This experimental piece was designed as an extended movement divided between five segments. Williams composed Soundings as a conversation between the concert hall and the orchestra at Walt Disney Concert Hall. The piece was written specifically for performance at the concert hall at which this performance was held.

Over the course of the concert audiences will get to experience a sampling of score music from the expansive list of films Williams has composed. The selections included for this particular concert are from Schindler's List, Fiddler on the Roof, Catch Me If You Can, Star Wars, and Amistad. Each piece is wonderfully performed by the orchestra. The flow of the pieces is so impressive  too.

On the downside, this concert may not have highlights from all of Williams greatest hits (and it definitely is missing some major highlights like E.T., A.I., Raiders of the Lost Ark, and Close Encounters of the Third Kind). Even so, film buffs and classical music fans who appreciate Williams breathtakingly beautiful compositions will be pleased by the selections included. Despite the cue selection being far from definitive the John Williams Celebration concert certainly still manages to impress.

The highlight is the inclusion of two of Williams more acclaimed works: Schindler's List and Star Wars. For the concert performance, the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra managed to bring in a special guest violinist: Itzhak Perlman, who worked with Williams on Schindler's List. Getting to hear his performance in the concert was especially extraordinary. This was a moving and emotional part of the concert.

Fans of the exciting, upbeat scores composed by Williams will be thrilled with the Star Wars pieces in the concert performance. The Star Wars music is grand fun and adventure and the orchestra seemed to have a wonderful time bringing the music to life. (Williams returns to scoring the Star Wars films with Star Wars: The Force Awakens arriving this Christmas.) Gustavo Dudamel and the orchestra seemed to have a blast honoring his Star Wars legacy.

The concert is highly enjoyable and should be experienced by any Williams fans. The start of the encore features a short and fun rendition of the Jaws theme. The encore even features Williams himself conducting the orchestra with a longer performances from The Empire Strikes Back. Without a doubt, that was one of the easiest highlights of the entire performance. Williams definitely brings it his all as both a composer and conductor.  He is a genius musician. It is amazing that he continues to be such a prolific and vital part of filmmaking. This concert is certainly a nice celebration of his vital importance to film scoring and musical composition.

The Blu-ray:


The John Williams Celebration concert is presented in 16:9 1.78:1 widescreen with a MPEG-4 AVC encoded image in 1080i High Definition. The image is generally quite crisp, clean, and impressive. Though the image is interlaced and not progressive, this wasn't much of an issue. The results impress with good color reproduction, detail, and clarity.

While it might not be a perfect transfer (for example, there is an occasional and minor issue with slight digital noise), viewers should consider this to be a solid presentation. The photography accomplished does an excellent job of bringing viewers at home a great presentation of the concert with great footage of the orchestra musicians performing and of conductor Gustavo Dudamel. Fans of John Williams and of concert performances will be quite pleased with the presentation quality.


The audio on this release is even better than the video presentation. The release includes both a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround sound presentation and a 2.0 uncompressed PCM sound mix. Either option should leave fans feeling satisfied with lossless audio presenting excellent clarity and fidelity. The concert is a beautiful listening experience on this Blu-ray release.


The release includes a booklet featuring a short essay on the work of John Williams, a slip-box housing the Blu-ray packaging, and on-disc interviews between John Williams and conductor Gustavo Dudamel. There is also an interview with violinist Itzhak Perlman. These interviews collectively run 18 minutes long (with most of that being devoted to John Williams) so while there isn't a lot of supplemental material here these are still fun interviews which fans of the concert will appreciate getting to check out.

Final Thoughts:

Ever wanted to see a concert of John Williams music? While some lucky fans have gotten to see Williams himself conduct one of his occasional concerts with selections from across his career, many others have not been so lucky. This concert is sadly not conducted by Williams (but he steps in to conduct for the encore), but fans will be pleased with this high-quality concert. It includes some beautiful selections that blend together well for a seamless concert experience. The music is exceptional. This musical journey is one that fans of Williams will want to take.

Highly Recommended.

Neil Lumbard is a lifelong fan of cinema. He aspires to make movies and has written two screenplays on spec. He loves writing, and currently does in Texas.

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Highly Recommended

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