The Music of John Williams: the Sydney Symphony Orchestra at the Sydney Opera House

Wow! That might have been the best concert I have ever attended. Both the Sydney Symphony Orchestra and John Williams celebrate their 75th birthdays this year and to mark the occasion the SSO performed a selection of Williams' orchestral hits in a concert at the Sydney Opera House under the baton of Arnie Roth.

The music was mostly loud and exciting, yet Roth ensured that nothing was lost by any part of the orchestra with even the most subtle underscoring well defined. Only in the theme to the Lost World did the sound get a little muddy. A couple of pieces were just a little too fast, but really, that's all I can complain about.

I was concerned about what the Duel of the Fates and Battle of the Heroes would sound like without a choir, but the former may well have been the standout piece. Schindler's List almost brought a tear to my eyes with its delicate performance while the Imperial March is still stirring no matter how many times I have heard it. I was back in 1980 all over again!

I do wish that the orchestras would play the Main Title and Finale from one of the other Star Wars movies other than Episode 4 as I have heard them quite a few times. I suggest the finale from The Empire Strikes Back due to the other themes enclosed in that piece. However, the performance of both was grand and I especially enjoyed the Force Theme passage in the Throne Room sequence.

The concert began with the 1984 Olympics Fanfare and ended with an encore of music from Harry Potter. Also included in the program was the main theme from Superman, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, ET's Adventures on Earth, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Flag Parade (Star Wars: The Phantom Menace), Across the Stars (Star Wars: Attack of the Clones), Princess Leia's Theme and fun rendition of the Cantina Band from Star Wars

Mention must be made of the compere Guy Noble. He was fantastically smooth and funny, continually cracking jokes and double entendres. At one point he came out dressed in Superman boxers and cape, another as Darth Vader followed by a retinue of Stormtroopers (with an Imperial Guard for good measure). It was a strangely disquieting feeling to see the white armoured stormtroopers runs their eyes over the capacity crowd. Prior to beginning the Main Title from Star Wars, just after the interval, the lights were switched on. A red lightsaber then appeared in the hand of Arnie Roth and he began conducting with it!

Also after the interval R2D2's beeps soundly sounded through the PA and Noble, speaking as Yoda, requested that "Mobile Phones turned off must be…"

It was an exciting and fun performance and I hope we can look forward to more like it in future.

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2 responses to “The Music of John Williams: the Sydney Symphony Orchestra at the Sydney Opera House”

  1. Toby Avatar

    Loved the concert, me and 3 friends were 3 rows back from the front (a little too close to see the brass, but the sound was fantastic with a great view of the strings at the front). We were at the 2pm sat performance and I thought on a whole it was great. I did however have one major dissapointment- the lack of a choir. I have heard the music of John Williams live once before with the Eminence orchestra for the “World of John Williams” concert at Town Hall Sydney, This was a great performance and the stand out piece was the encore with Duel of the Fates with the choir.
    They should have had a choir or they shouldn’t have performed Duel of the Fates at all without the choir, there are plenty of pieces that could have replaced it.

  2. allrite Avatar

    Hi Toby,


    Sounds like you were a few rows ahead of me. I actually disagree with you and both my wife (who is not a JW fan) and myself really enjoyed Duel of the Fates sans choir. I decided to treat it as listening to another version of his music. I found the choir at the Eminence performance a little under par which detracted from the experience – the sound was definitely not as well balanced as with the SSO (though I applaud Eminence thoroughly – reviewed elsewhere on the site). Still, each to their own!