Superman March and other sonic splendours from Reference

GRAHAM WILLIAMS WRITES:

JOHN WILLIAMS AT THE MOVIES, Dallas Winds, Jerry Junkin REFERENCE RR-142 SACD  Each new release from the Reference Recordings label is anticipated with a tingle of excitement promising not just an aural treat for audiophiles but also high musical values, and this latest sonic spectacular featuring the film music of John Williams is no exception. For decades Keith O Johnson, the doyen of recording engineers, and his team have been working their magic in recording studios and concert halls across Europe and the USA with consistently breathtaking results as can be experienced on this 5.1 multi-channel SACD recorded at the Meyerson Symphony Centre, Dallas, July15-17, 2016.

For listeners of all ages the music of John Williams needs no introduction. His prolific output includes over 100 film scores no doubt making the task of selecting the titles for this album an especially challenging one. But while some may regret the absence of say ‘Jaws, ‘Schindler’s List’ and ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ to name just three of his most memorable scores, the generous (75.43) selections here have been chosen with imagination to provide a well contrasted programme that reflects the many aspects of this composer’s output for the film genre.

The performers are the Dallas Winds conducted by their long-time Artistic Director Jerry Junkin who are no strangers to Reference Recordings as this represents their 18th album for the label. The compliment of musicians is considerable – a total of 65 instrumentalists that in addition to the wind and brass include harps, string basses, piano and an organ – providing the panoply of colour and timbre that this music requires. There is little doubt that John Williams’s stirring and richly melodic scores are well suited to these arrangements for wind band and these marvellous players relish each and every opportunity the composer gives them. The stirring marches and brass fanfares of the ‘Star Wars’ excerpts have the visceral impact you might expect, but equally impressive are the performances of the more reflective music such as the noble Coplandesque ‘Theme from J.F.K.’ and ‘With Malice Toward None from Lincoln’ in which the haunting trumpet solo is is eloquently delivered by Christopher Martin, the Principal Trumpet of the New York Philharmonic.

The final track on the disc is not taken from a movie score but is a setting of ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ that John Williams made in 2004 Here the seven strong percussion section of the Dallas Winds have a field day with an ending that will provide a thrilling work-out for any hi-fi system. Make sure the neighbours are out when you play it!

As always with Reference Recordings presentation is of a high standard. The 20 page accompanying booklet includes informative background notes on the featured films by Gigi Sherrell Norwood as well as performer biographies, a complete listing of the Dallas Winds personnel etc.

It is worth pointing out that this album is available as a 2-channel download in various resolutions (44.1kHz /16bit up to 176.4kHz /24 bit FLAC) but the only way to experience to the full ‘Prof’. Johnson’s nonpareil surround sound mix is to buy the physical media.

A future award winner? Without doubt.