Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

July 9, 2019

REVIEW: Tanglewood, John Williams’ “Across the Stars”

Tanglewood, Lenox, MA
July 7, 2019
by Karoun Charkoudian

The audience received a rare treat on this special afternoon at Tanglewood. Not only did they hear a full concert of John Williams’ most iconic pieces, but Williams himself conducted the second half of the program.

Annie-Sophie Mutter was the other key ingredient, a world renown, and veteran violin soloist. John Williams re-arranged many of his scores especially for her. They, in fact, recorded together in the last year at Sony Records to create her recently released album “Across the Stars.” This concert was full of selections from that album.

Photo by Stu Rosner
In true Boston Pops fashion, every note was played in perfect intonation and perfect unison. The afternoon opened with Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge, a tension filled, high-energy piece where the Pops’ strong brass section shined brightly. Theme from Jurassic Park followed, opening with lyrical solos of French horn, flute, and harp, leading into the beefy section – rich and thick, as if portraying earth coming to life.

And then she arrived on stage. A vision in green, Annie-Sophie Mutter popped against the backdrop of white-clad musicians. She lifted her violin and played -- with affection, with sweetness, with soul – she was the heart of the orchestra.

In one of her opening pieces, Across the Stars, Mutter played a duet with the pianist that made the audience melt. An excerpt from “Far and Away” followed, where Mutter played her violin in Irish-Fiddle-style, and with fervor! The first half closed with The Devil’s Dance from “The Witches of Eastwick” where her playing was on fire – intense, rhythmic, and dramatic. With Williams, she performed six more selections, among them “The Adventures of Tintin,” fast and stormy, and the “Memoirs of a Geisha” selection ended with a sensual violin and cello duet.

The concert ended with an uproarious standing ovation, followed by three encore pieces each preceded by additional standing ovations. The crème de la crème of the afternoon was to watch how Williams and Mutter looked at each other – with deep mutual respect, admiration, and affection. Neither one was willing to step out in front of the other -- into the limelight of the audience’s adoration. Instead, they stood together and gazed at each other with acknowledgement and warmth while the audience’s cheers thundered in appreciation around them!