Over the 90-year history of sound film, there have been a handful of instances where a director and a composer have formed a longtime partnership that resulted in a series of classical scores, creating music that stands the test of time. None, however, have been as long or as fruitful as the 43-year collaboration of Steven Spielberg and John Williams. None have encompassed such a wide range of subject matter or, more significantly, have had such an enormous impact on worldwide popular culture. From the ominous shark signature of Jaws to the five-note alien greeting of Close Encounters of the Third Kind; from the heroic march of Raiders of the Lost Ark to the moving themes for Schindler’s List – the music Williams has written for more than two dozen Spielberg projects has not only served them brilliantly but entered the wider public consciousness.
Music both old and new, but all of it inspired by the timeless modal harmony of medieval and Mediterranean cultures: this is the subject of John Williams's brilliant guitar disc for Sony, which also features his debut as a composer. The main work is his own "Aeolian Suite" for guitar and chamber orchestra, based on both original and 14th-century tunes (one of which, the "Saltarello," appeared on early-music pioneer David Munrow's disc called Instruments of the Middle Ages). The suite is a lovely piece of writing, deftly composed, and neither tacky nor pretentious. It's paired with an inspired assortment of spiritually related but diverse arrangements and original pieces by Satie, Theodorakis, Domeniconi, and an emotionally intense four-movement work called "Stélé," by Australian composer Phillip Houghton. Naturally, Williams performs each piece expertly, but most important, he makes his instrument sing, and that's just what the music demands. Simply super.