Concert Review – John Williams, Hartford CT

Perhaps the most surprising aspect of the concert given by John Williams last Thursday was that it was five minutes down the road from where I have been staying and I had no idea about it till the night before! Needless to say, I was very happy to get the news from a friend after a chance encounter.

The concert hall in Hartford was quite large, at my best guestimation (with several years of ushering experience under my belt) it was around 950-1000 seats and the Connecticut Classical Guitar Society did a good job of filling up about two thirds of those seats. When I purchased my ticket, I watched the finger of the seller glide allllllll the way to the very back of the seating chart, so, trying to be optimistic, I thought at the very least I could check out the famous lattice braced projection of his Smallman. When I squinted down to the setup on stage I was very glad to see an amplification system set up. Regardless of what you think of amplified performances and their effect on tone, you will be very happy to see it when you are up in the nose bleed section like I was.  Throughout the performance, I thought the sound was excellent. A very full, bass rich sound that carried to the back of the auditorium and although I prefer the intimacy of a 300 seat hall, the Bushnell did give a sense of grandeur to the occasion.

I have been fortunate to see John Williams perform five times before, and each time the performance came across differently because I was at a different stage of development with my own playing. On this occasion, I could appreciate the complete command that Williams has on the instrument and how he managed to keep me totally engaged throughout a program that was largely comprised of evergreens. I found the rhythmic drive, particularly in moto perpetuo style sections like La Catedral, very compelling. It made me think that perhaps his enviable rhythmic stability has developed from the huge amount of collaborations he has undertaken with other musicians.

Williams performed a selection of his own works in the program ‘From a Bird’ and ‘Hello Francis’. It was the first time I had heard these pieces, and what I really enjoyed, was seeing a completely different side of Williams. It is something very special to see a composer perform their own works, it is very exposing in a way. Following his own pieces with a selection of Barrios, Williams made a nice connection between himself and Barrios in his programming. (Barrios was another composer that frequently performed his own compositions)

After the concert Williams met some fans and friends and was kind enough to pass on advice to some aspiring young musicians.

All in all it was a wonderful concert, a great artist who delivered a great performance.

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