Home Film Scores Concert Pieces About JW



Sony Classical SK 62622 The Boston Pops Orchestra
Format: CD Conducted by John Williams
Total Playing Time: 62:28 Produced by Shawn Murphy
Date of Purchase: Aug 15, 2000
Cat. No. CO13-73 Recorded at Symphony Hall, Boston in 1996

T H E  B O S T O N  P O P S   O R C H E S T R A

Track Listing

1. JOHN WILLIAMS (b. 1932): Summon the Heroes - Short Version (for Tim Morrison) (3:39)
    (Written for the Centennial Celebration of the Modern Olympic Games, Atlanta, Georgia, July 19, 1996)


2. CARL ORFF (1895-1982): O Fortuna* from "Carmina Burana" (2:39)

3. LEO ARNAUD (1904-1991) and John Williams: Bugler's Dream/Olympic Fanfare and Theme (4:31)
    (“Bugler's Dream” introduced during the 1968 Olympic Games, Grenoble)
    (“Olympic Fanfare and Theme” written for the 1984 Olympic Games, Los Angeles)

4. MIKIS THEODORAKIS (b. 1925): Ode to Zeus* from "Canto Olympico" (3:42)
    (Commissioned By The International Olympic Committee For The 1992 Olympic Games, Barcelona)

5. MICHAEL TORKE (b. 1961): Javelin (8:53)
    (Commissioned by the Atlanta Committee for the 1996 Olympic Games Cultural Olympiad

    in celebration of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra's 50th Anniversary)

6. LEONARD BERNSTEIN (1918-1990): Olympic Hymn* (5:22)
    (Written for the 1981 International Olympic Congress, Baden-Baden)
    Text: Günter Kunert

7. JOHN WILLIAMS: The Olympic Spirit (4:06)
    (Written especially for the NBC Sports Division in celebration of the 1988 Olympics, Seoul)


8. VANGELIS (b. 1943): Conquest of Paradise (Theme)* (3:38)

9. DMITRI SHOSTAKOVICH (1906-1975): Festive Overture, Op. 96 (6:19)
    (Theme of the 1980 Olympic Games, Moscow)

10. JOSEF SUK (1874-1935): Toward a New Life (5:54)
     (Silver medal-winning composition at the 1932 Olympic Games, Los Angeles)

11. MIKLÓS RÓZSA (1907-1995): Parade of Charioteers from "Ben Hur" (3:49)

12. VANGELIS: Chariots of Fire (Theme) (3:38)
     Randy Kerber, Synthesizer
     (Featured in the 1981 Academy Award-winning film

      and performed at the 1984 Olympic Games, Sarajevo)

13. JOHN WILLIAMS (b. 1932): Summon the Heroes - Full Version (for Tim Morrison) (6:17)

* Tanglewood Festival Chorus
  John Oliver, Director

Liner Notes



John Williams (1996)

There is a moment toward the end of Homer's Iliad (Book XXIII) when the Achaeans, after defeating Hector and the Trojans, attend to the burial of their own hero, Patroclus. It is a solemn affair, with much weeping and heartache. But after they have burned Patroclus on his funeral pyre, gathered his bones in a golden jar “with a double fold of fat,” and entombed him in a grave mound, a curious thing happens: as the Achaeans prepare to leave, Achilles, their leader, calls upon his warriors to join in a series of games — chariot races, boxing, wrestling, foot races, dueling, shot-putting, archery and spear-throwing. Achilles, as patron of the games, will donate all the prizes — among them, cauldrons and tripods, “a woman faultless in the work of her hands,” a six-year-old unbroken mare carrying a mule foal, and gold. But the quality of the prize is of little importance to the participants in these games: the real purpose of victory is glory, to be remembered in tales like the Iliad as the rider, boxer, or wrestler who won the games commemorating Patroclus, the fallen hero of the Achaeans.

When, at the end of the nineteenth century, Baron Pierre de Coubertin conceived of instituting the modern Olympic Games, he was undoubtedly inspired by Homer's tale and similar ancient epics that described in wondrous detail the mythic entanglements of mortals and divines. The baron was not alone in his fascination with ancient culture. After conquering the planet with science and industry, Victorians as a whole had become intrigued with matters spiritual, mythical, and supernatural — Sir James Frazer's Golden Bough (“a study of magic and religion,” the subtitle tells us) was extraordinarily popular in its day, though it was of encyclopedic proportions and global in its coverage.

Indeed, there was a movement afoot — among certain classes of anthropologist and folklorist, at least — to find the common root of all peoples. The Grimm brothers, Jakob And Wilhelm, had started it all back in the early nineteenth century, not so much with their celebrated collection of wonder tales as with their histories of grammar and language and their efforts to discover the source of the Indo-European language family; others had gone so far as to compile massive catalogues of myths, tales, and narratives that were subsequently broken down and analyzed to reveal the essential oneness of our storytelling traditions.

Some of it was folly — wild speculation, in many cases — but some of the ideas that came out of these Victorian pipe dreams proved to be unusually good, particularly regarding the civilization of ancient Greece, which was the culture these armchair anthropologists knew best. The Classicists paid particular attention to the interconnectedness between expression and endeavor in the Hellenic world and the peculiar relation of these human occupations to the world of the gods. Just as the arts in the Hellenic world had largely been acts of religious devotion — or so our Victorian ancestors thought — their literature suggested that games, such as those held by the Achaeans at the funeral of Patroclus in Homer's Iliad, were also acts of tribute, be it to a fallen hero or a powerful deity.

In founding the modern Olympic Games the Baron de Coubertin sought a renewal of the idea that both the Artist and the Athlete were intermediaries between the heavens and earth, as well as a rediscovery of the dedication and devotion that made such mediation possible. In that sense, like Homer's Iliad, the Baron's vision of the Olympic Games and his short-lived effort to incorporate arts competitions as part of the games were at once metaphorical gesture and emblematic act. The metaphorical gesture linked athletic and artistic performance with the human spirit — that part in all of us that eschews personal gain in favor of a greater good. And there, in the metaphor, we also find the emblem: the athlete straining to achieve what has never been achieved before, nevertheless just as human as the rest of us.

In the century since the renewal of the Olympic Games, much has changed in the games themselves — the inclusion of team sports, for example, and even the injection of patriotic chauvinism. Yet the baron's vision still holds true: the Olympic Games, in their presentation of the individual's struggle with the limitations of one's very humanity, provide us all with models for the conduct of our daily lives.

Shawn Murphy, Tim Morrison (Solo Trumpet), John Williams

“I remember seeing a photograph of a female athlete suspended above the ground, every fiber of her being stretching for a ball just beyond her reach ... captured in a shot, freezing time and denying gravity. There is unquestionably a spiritual, non-corporeal aspect to an athletic quest such as this that brings us close to what art is all about.”

Baron Pierre de Coubertin, founder of the modern Olympic Games one hundred years ago, would have approved of John Williams' words, above, which echo his own: “Sport must be seen as producing beauty and as an opportunity for beauty. It provides beauty because it creates the athlete, who is a living sculpture. It is an opportunity for beauty through the architecture, the spectacles, and the celebrations which it brings about.”

This recording, featuring works by Williams, Leo Arnaud, Carl Orff, Leonard Bernstein, Dmitri Shostakovich, and others, certainly counts among the Baron's “opportunities for beauty.” Some of the works come from the Games themselves—Josef Suk's “Toward a New Life,” indeed, won a silver medal in the 1932 Olympics for musical composition—others from what might loosely be called the “spectacle” inspired by the Games. Many fit nicely into the fanfare style that characterizes the opening ceremonies; others capture the solemnity of the occasion, culminating in the Olympic Oath. Taken together, they provide a splendid soundtrack not only for the centennial of the modern Olympics, but for the entire drama of the Olympic phenomenon.

Time and again Williams, in a recent interview with William Guegold (author of 100 Years of Olympic Music), speaks of the “mythological” inspiration the Olympics have brought him—a notion not lost on those who have followed his scores for the Indiana Jones films (and all the mythos they contain), his theme for Superman, or his music for Close Encounters of the Third Kind. For Williams, this mythological measurement evokes a certain sense of scale. “You don't write the same kind of piece that you;re going to play for an audience of 1,000 as you're going to play out on the Esplanade for an audience of 250,000. You can still have a lot of notes; it [the large-scale work] doesn't have to be simple, but it seems to me that the line has to be like a big arc.”

This “big arc” might refer as much to the works by other composers featured here as his own, but among present-day composers, few have taken such possession of the “big arc” as Williams. From the spectacular antiphonal brass choirs that open and recur in Summon the Heroes, the Official Theme of the 1996 Centennial Olympic Games, to the polyrhythms that describe the theme's close, Williams' piece provides a wonderful example for the collection as a whole.

As the Baron noted, it is the struggle, not the triumph, that matters most in the Olympic Games. Williams and his fellow composers have succeeded in capturing the idea that the very existence of these Olympics is so enobling that, for a brief time at least, we care not who wins and who loses. Every player who marches out onto the field during the opening ceremonies, regardless of his or her event or country of origin, is taking up the challenge of humanity, and the stuggle to face the limitations and frailties of humankind. And in each player resonates the music that transcends all barriers of differentiation.

Jackson Braider

© MH