From the first resounding notes, it was obvious that this concert was something special. What better way to experience the famed music from the Star Wars than in the form in which it was created? The RSNO left no note untouched in their astounding performance of these rich suites. I could almost see the opening scene scrolling in front of my eyes as the main theme kicked us off before moving into the hopeful melody of Luke Skywaylker’s theme. The orchestra were impeccably timed; their bows pulsing in perfect rhythm to announce the arrival of the Imperial Star Destroyer. The conductor for this special evening, Richard Kaufman, lead us triumphantly through several of the best-known suites including Yoda’s Theme, March of the Resistance and Anakin’s Theme.
John Williams has a hefty fifty-one Oscar nominations to his name so it was no surprise that we were treated to the sounds of Superman and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. The range of the orchestra was superbly demonstrated here; from the melodic, trilling notes of the Love Song in Superman, to the discordant cry of the strings, jumbled and unsettling against the long, low and somewhat unearthly bass note of the tuba in Close Encounters. The instruments appeared to be battling it out in order to establish the iconic five-note motif, which slowly synchronised into a crescendo of soaring sound.
Hearing the music of Star Wars performed live affords a connection with the music that would otherwise be impossible – helped along on the night by the personal insight offered by the conductor. Kaufman played in John Williams’ orchestras (violin) before going on to working with him as a conductor, and he affectionately shared their conversation about the upcoming concert with the RSNO, telling the audience of how Williams wanted the orchestra to showcase two suites of music previously unavailable to any other orchestra. He told us also, of the night that George Lucas first showcased his plans for Star Wars to his comrades in Hollywood, with all but Steven Spielberg saying the movies would flop if he made them. Kaufman’s warm mention of the late Carrie Fisher, served as a poignant reminder that real people are behind the much-loved characters and sounds of Star wars; and the gentle melody that lifted from the flute for Hans Solo and the Princess, had a resulting beautiful sadness. The strings really came into their own for this suite, with the cellos and violas bringing a heart-tugging depth to the melody.
The final suite, the Imperial March was welcomed by rapturous applause – and it was due.
The RSNO performs the music of John Williams every year at the Usher Hall in Edinburgh and The Glasgow Royal Concert Hall.