As John Williams celebrates his 90th birthday this year, the music he wrote away from Hollywood is also being honored. This first recording of his new Violin Concerto No. 2 is the most significant of this line.
It marks the culmination of a long relationship between the composer of star wars and violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter. A shorter job Markingswas written for her in 2017 and they later collaborated on a gloriously lyrical album of arrangements drawn from her film scores.
For Mutter, who has championed works by composers as diverse as Lutoslawski, Penderecki, Dutilleux and Previn, many of whom she commissioned, this is another step down the path of exploration. The violin part Williams gave her is technically as difficult as any.
The concerto emerges from a cosmic whisper leading to an improvised violin solo and fades, 35 minutes later, into a haunting violin melody that suggests healing and renewal. What happens in between is more inspiring, with the soloist’s energetic passages particularly tending to generate more heat than light. The Prologue doesn’t hold water while “Rounds”, the second movement, is spellbinding from start to finish.
As fillers, Mutter and the Boston Symphony Orchestra, conducted by the composer, perform newly arranged film themes from star wars, Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark and – best of all – The long goodbye. A lot of passion, that could make it a beautiful concerto movement on its own.
‘John Williams: Violin Concerto No. 2‘ is published by the DG