John Williams & Steven Spielberg: The Ultimate Collection Album Review

Arguably the greatest pairing of composer and director in cinema history, John Williams’ scores from Steven Spielberg’s films are the focus of The Ultimate Collection, a 3-CD / 1-DVD set that gathers the previously released The Spielberg/Williams Collaboration (1991) and Williams on Williams: The Classic Spielberg Scores (1995) along with the new The Spielberg/Williams Collaboration Part III, whose name will surely send a few erroneously in search of Part II.

Williams and Spielberg first worked together 43 years ago on The Sugarland Express, the theme of which is included, and have worked together on all Spielberg’s films except for The Color Purple and Bridge of Spies. The collaboration earned Williams three of his five Oscars (Jaws, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Schindler’s List) as well as 14 additional nominations.

The music from their first 20 years together appears on the first two discs performed by the Boston Pops. Iconic pieces from the award winners mentioned above as well as “Raiders March” and the theme from Jurassic Park. Also appearing are selections from lesser-known works like 1941 and Empire of the Sun. Williams must really be fond of the Hook score because five of the 15 tracks on Williams on Williams are from it, but after hearing them, it seems more than is warranted as the pieces don’t quite live up to the billing of “classic…scores.”

The third disc covers the remainder of their partnership, running from Amistad (1999) to The BFG (2016), and even Spielberg’s documentary short that commemorates the new Millennium, “The Unfinished Journey”. There is also a reworked new version of “Marion’s Theme” from Raiders of the Lost Ark. The music here is performed by the Recording Arts Orchestra of Los Angeles with vocal work by the California State University, Fullerton, University Singers appearing on “Hymn to the Fallen” from Saving Private Ryan and “Dry Your Tears, Afrika” from Amistad with the Los Angeles Children’s Chorus.

Williams has great command of the instruments in the orchestra, creating music that highlights different instruments such as the tuba in “The Dialogue” from Close Encounters of the Third Kind, the violin in “Rembrances” from Schindler’s List, and two versions of “With Malice Toward None”, one featuring a trumpet solo by Thomas Hooten and an alternate version with a cello solo by Stephen Erdody. Williams also branches out of the classical genre with three jazz-tinged Movements from Catch Me If You Can.

The DVD presents “The Adventure Continues” (24 min), a documentary by Laurent Bouzerea that captures the recording sessions for The Spielberg/Williams Collaboration Part III and is supplemented with interviews of the two men, separate and together.

John Williams & Steven Spielberg: The Ultimate Collection offers essential movie music that no fan should be without plus some material that is worth being rediscovered.

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Gordon S. Miller

Publisher/Editor-in-Chief of this site.

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