3 May, 2019
The most popular film composer of the modern era, John Williams created music for some of the most successful motion pictures in Hollywood history. In a career that spans five decades, John Williams has become one of America’s most accomplished and successful composers for film and for the concert stage.
Born in New York City on February 8, 1932, John Williams was the son of a musician and was exposed to music at a young age. He began studying piano as a child, and began writing and orchestrating music in his teens. In 1948 Wlliams moved to Los Angeles with his family, where he studied composition privately and also attended the University of California. In 1951, he was drafted into the U.S. Air Force, and during his service, he arranged band music and began conducting. Upon his return, Williams studied piano at the Julliard School of Music and also worked as a jazz pianist and studio musician before starting to compose music for television and film. His career took off in the 1970’s, since then, he has scored more than 100 films, including Jaws (1975), the Start Wars films, ET (1982), Schilndler’s List (1993) and Harry Potter (2004). John Williams’ compositions have continued to earn him many honours and awards, including more than 45 Academy Award nominations for his work.
Hector Berlioz was a French Romantic composer, best known for his compositions Symphonie fantastiue and Grande messe des morts (Requiem). Berlioz made significant contributions to the modern orchestra with his Treatise on Orchestration. He specified huge orchestral forces for some of his works, and conducted several concerts with more than 1,000 musicians. He also composed around 50 songs. His influence was critical for the further development of Romanticism, especially in composers like Richard Wagner, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, Fanz Liszt, Richard Strauss, Gustav Mahler and many others. In 1827 the composer Hector Berlioz went to see production of Shakespeare’s Hamlet in Paris. It was a life-changing experience and he was bowled over by the Bard’s drama and became completely besotted with the Irish actress playing Ophelia, Harriet Smithson. Berlioz went on to write various works inspired by Shakespeare, Roméo et Juliette and Béatrice et Bénédict, and his infatuation with Smithson inspired his greatest work, Symphonie fantastique.
Antonín Leopold Dvořák born 8 september 1841, and was widely regarded as the most distinguished of Czech composers of Romantic music and one of the first to achieve worldwide recognition. Following the Romantic-era nationalist example of his predecessor Bedřich Smetana, Dvořák frequently employed rhythms and other aspects of the folk music of Moravia and his native Bohemia.
Dvorak’s love of iconic Czech poetry, led him, in his later career, to write a musical setting to Karel Jaromir Erben’s poem Polednice, from the Kytice collection. The Noon Witch Op. 108, was written in 1896, and is the second of his four symphonic poems.