on 13 November 2003
For almost 30 years, since 1974's The Sugarland Express, John Williams' music has been associated with director Steven Spielberg's films. With the notable exception of The Color Purple (scored by Quincy Jones), Williams has composed the scores to all of Spielberg's films, including 2002's Minority Report and Catch Me If You Can.
The Spielberg/Williams Collaboration, predates the bulk of Spielberg's post-1980s works. It covers 15 years (1974-89), or half of their collaborative years. Although some of the films represented in this 13-track compilation were not successful (1941, Always), Williams' music has proved to be well-received, both by concert audiences and music-store customers alike.
The album starts off with the rousing "Raiders March" from 1981's Raiders of the Lost Ark. This unforgettable signature theme came about when Williams presented Spielberg with two musical motifs for adventurer/archaeologist Indiana Jones. The director listened to them, and instead of choosing one, asked Williams, "Can't you use both?" The first idea became the main theme, while the second became the "bridge." Glorious and brassy, yet with a wink and a nod to the music from the 1930s and '40s serials that inspired the Indiana Jones trilogy, the Raiders March is one of the best-known movie themes ever. Later in the album, two other selections (Parade of the Slave Children from Temple of Doom and Scherzo for Motorcycle and Orchestra from The Last Crusade) round out the trilogy.
Adventures on Earth, from 1982's E.T., begins with music that mimics the fast-and-furious pedaling of bicycles, then segues into several different musical themes, including "Over the Moon" (which is reprised independently on track 9), "The Flying Theme," and the incidental music covering E.T.'s farewell to his young protectors, including Elliott. It ends triumphantly with a rendition of "The Flying Theme" and a triumphant fanfare heralding the aliens' spaceship return to the stars.
The Theme from Sugarland Express, Spielberg's first feature film, takes listeners to the wide-open expanses of Texas and features the talented Toots Thielemans on harmonica. It's very much in the vein of a Western, though the movie (which starred Goldie Hawn) took place in the late 1960s and was based on a true story.
Jaws, which put both Spielberg and Williams into blockbuster territory for the first time, is represented by three compositions: the famous "Theme," "Out to Sea," and the suspenseful "Shark Cage Fugue." They capture the primordial relentlessness of the great white shark, the optimism and excitement of the Orca's setting out on the hunt, and the frantic activity to get the shark cage put together as Chief Brody, Matt Hooper, and Quint confront the shark.
Exsultate Justi and Cadillac of the Skies from 1987's underappreciated Empire of the Sun highlight not only orchestral music but choral music performed by the American Boychoir and the Tanglewood Festival Chorus. Exsultate Justi is a joyous prayer of deliverance heard over the liberation of British and American civilians held in Japanese internment camps near Shanghai, while Cadillac of the Skies is a concert arrangement featuring incidental music, including the cue heard when Jamie, the film's protagonist, sees his first P-51 Mustang.
The Spielberg/Williams Collaboration ends with musical excerpts from 1977's Close Encounters of the Third Kind, starting with the eerie and atonal music of the title and evolving into the more melodic music heard during the awe-inspiring encounter between humanity and aliens. Featuring beautiful soaring thematic material, brief quotations from "When You Wish Upon a Star," and ending with the classic five-note Close Encounters motif, Williams' medley from Spielberg's UFO film shows the versatility of both director and composer, whose teamwork may not have always resulted in successful movies, but provided listeners with a treasure trove of wonderful film music that will endure for many years to come.