Music Reviews, News

Music, Film or Both?

This Stereo & 5 Channel Surround Sound DSD EP has been sourced from the DXD original edit master and is available only at NativeDSD!

Check out the full album that was put out by Pentatone, which also contains Berntein’s Serenade:

I don’t know anyone who doesn’t know John Williams’s music for Steven Spielberg’s 1993 film ‘Schindler’s List’ and notably its ‘Theme for Violin and Orchestra’. Still, I wonder how many are familiar with his two Violin Concerti, the first of which is recorded here with one of the better and second oldest American Orchestras and one of the best Canadian violinists, both conducted by Stéphane Denève, risen to stardom in only a few years. I, for one, didn’t know the concerto, which, I think – and with hindsight – is a big shame. I was perhaps too focused on the idea that film music composers are ‘different’ from sheet music composers. With Korngold as an example, I should have known better! 

It poses the question of to what extent music and film are different. Many composers have said that they ‘saw things’ when composing, and some even went as far as to say – and insist – that music must have a Programme. If the ‘programme’ is a ‘film’, Williams must be a perfect composer because able to look both ways. 

In this release, however, there is no film reference. Or is there? I think there is. In my view, this violin Concerto is as much about music as it is about film. Not literally, but all the more so in spiritual expression.  Listening to the recording with an open mind and not having heard it before, it dawned on me that there was something intangible, a sense of emotion connecting me to filmed episodes. 

The funny thing though, is that Williams doesn’t seem to agree. At least not if we accept what he says in his programme notes to his Second Violin Concerto (2022 DGG Blu-Ray Pure Audio release): ”And while music has many purposes and functions, I’ve always believed that, in the end, it (what the music is about) ought to be interpreted through the prism of every listener’s own personal history .. ”.  Modesty? I believe so. Williams conceded in the end: “ I took my inspiration and energy directly from this great artist (Anne-Sophie Mutter, for whom he composed the concerto) herself.” Ergo: Music doesn’t come out of nothing.

It is real and it is beautiful

In the Hi-Res EP download release, there is no booklet, but in the RBCD release (26/04/2024, coupled with Bernstein’s ‘Serenade after Plato’s Symposium’) there is. It says: “ .. hints of his work as a film composer; the slow movement brings to mind a scene of emotional gravity.” Of course! Williams’s music is not abstract. It is real and it is beautiful. And the performers do all they can to honour the composer.

In the good old Super Audio days, Leonard Slatkin and the St Louis Symphony graced the young Hi-Res community with some excellent releases, and it is great to have the orchestra back in the picture and blossoming like Spring. And with Ehnes holding the fiddle and Denève the baton, the stage is set for a stellar performance. 

I‘m sure that many discerning classical music lovers will value a concerto that may not be at the cutting edge of experimental composition but is instead at the zenith of emotional creation based on the same traditional values that have marked all truly sensitive and inspirational composers over the ages.  

This short release brings the best of two worlds, real and imaginative, making it, despite the missing Bernstein Serenade, worth all your while.

Blangy-le-Château, Normandy, France

Copyright © 2024 Adrian Quanjer and

Written by

Adrian Quanjer

Adrian Quanjer is a site reviewer at HRAudio, with many years of experience in classical music. He writes from his country retreat at Blangy-le-Château, France. As a regular concertgoer, he prefers listening to music in the highest possible resolution to recreate similar involvement at home. He is eager to share his thoughts with like-minded melomaniacs at NativeDSD.


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