Review: Carnegie Hall Brings Audience to Its Feet with AN EVENING WITH JOHN WILLIAMS AND YO-YO MA

Famed composer brought back film memories on February 22nd.

By: Feb. 24, 2024
Review: Carnegie Hall Brings Audience to Its Feet with AN EVENING WITH JOHN WILLIAMS AND YO-YO MA
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 What a night it was as Carnegie Hall celebrated the music of John Williams at AN EVENING WITH John Williams AND YO-YO MA at Carnegie Hall on February 22, 2024 accompanied by The Philadelphia Orchestra and conductor, Stephane Deneve. The electricity crackled in the air for the special show that awaited all. Several theatergoers even came dressed to impress in evening gowns and tuxedos as the audience at the historic musical venue was filled to capacity.   

The performance began with Stephane Deneve conducting the orchestra for Williams’ rousing song “Just Down West Street – on the left”, which he created for the 75th anniversary of the Tanglewood Music Center.  With the appearance of famed cellist Yo-Yo Ma on stage, the audience went crazy.  Ma performed the brilliant “Cello Concerto”, which was written for him by John Williams in 1994.  From its “Theme and Cadenza”, through “Blues”, “Scherzo” and finally “Song”, Ma gave a powerful and intense rendition of the concerto that made each nuanced note come alive for this reviewer.  Right before leaving the stage, Ma played the theme from the film Schindler’s List as a tribute to his old friend, John Williams who had composed the music as well.  The foreboding and melancholy tune, usually played by a violin rather than a cello, served as a call to introduce the next part of the show.

The maestro himself, John Williams, then came onstage to  join the orchestra.  Now the fun really began.  It was Williams who in the late 1970’s brought back symphonic music to film scores as it had been during the “Golden” years of cinema. He chose to work with then-unknown but soon to become household name directors Steven Spielberg and George Lucas on their Indiana Jones and Star Wars franchises.  Now, John Williams was bringing these famed tunes that he wrote many years ago to the ears of those lucky enough to be in the audience at Carnegie Hall.  Intertwined with the music, Williams imparted to the patrons unknown “behind the scenes” anecdotes about the movies and their stars.   

Going back in history to World War II, Williams started with excerpts from The Book Thief. The haunting yet hopeful composition served in the film to tell the story of a young girl who lived in the midst of Nazi Germany and read “stolen” books with the young man who was hidden in their basement.  But it was the music of Steven Spielberg’s Indiana Jones series that drove the crowd wild, starting with the bright, quick and energetic “Scherzo for Motorcycle and Orchestra from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.”  Closing your eyes you could just see Harrison Ford and the late, great Sean Connery in the motorcycle and sidecar bantering with each other in the film as they escaped the Nazis and went looking for the missing grail diary.  The soft and light, “Marion’s Theme” from Raiders of the Lost Ark was then followed by the iconic “The Raider’s March” from the movie.  The daring and fearless explorer and archaeologist, Indiana Jones, will be forever associated with this classic tune.  Williams even quipped that actor Harrison Ford told him it is played for him everywhere he goes.

Moving into his spacecraft, John Williams then traveled to a galaxy far, far away. The Star Wars series, by director George Lucas, brought John Williams to the world’s attention back in 1977.  Beginning with the astral and slightly ethereal “Princess Leia’s Theme” from Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope, he also ventured into the alien world with the well-known “Adventures on Earth” theme from E.T., the Extra-Terrestrial.”  

When we thought the night was done, John Williams and The Philadelphia Orchestra gave us not 1 but 3 encore performances. First there was “Phoebe’s Theme” from the latest Indiana Jones film in the franchise, Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, which was most aptly described by the composer himself as an ode to a “Warner Brothers style femme fatale” but in the 1960’s. Next was the classic theme of the original Star Wars followed by the “Imperial March” from the same film, which both sent the audience into a frenzy of applause.  

This reviewer was overwhelmed by the memories from and enjoyment of these renowned works of the genius that is John Williams.  Yes, this one man has brought so many people so much joy through his music composition- what a national treasure!   When at last John Williams left the stage at Carnegie Hall, theatergoers were still  giving him a standing ovation with what seemed to be never-ending applause.

John Williams, thank you so much for writing the music of our lives.  AN EVENING WITH John Williams AND YO-YO MA at Carnegie Hall featured the illustrious John Williams, the esteemed Yo-Yo Ma, conductor Stephane Deneve, and The Philadelphia Orchestra.

Find great shows to see on the Carnegie Hall website HERE