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Music And Dance Reviews : Williams' Tuba Concerto At Bowl

September 09, 1985|MARC SHULGOLD

Audiences at weekend concerts at Hollywood Bowl might be forgiven if they experienced a sense of deja vu. There on the podium stood John Williams, leading a program of light fare, with generous samples of his own music. It seems like only a month or so ago he did just that with his Boston Pops. In fact, it was only a month or so ago.

So, what was different? Two things. First, the symphony-orchestra-turned-pops-machine this time was the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Second, there was a legitimate program novelty: Nestled among his hits from the silver screen was the West Coast premiere of Williams' Tuba Concerto.

The unbroken three-movement work was written for the Boston Pops' tuba player. The protagonist at the Bowl was the Philharmonic's respected principal, Roger Bobo.

Williams is, more than anything, a craftsman--and it showed in the score's clever orchestration and virtuosic solo writing (the latter handled on Saturday with nonchalant brilliance by Bobo). Still, there was little of substance here. The instrument is simply not a grateful concerto voice, and the composer could not dispel that conception in this aimless, tuneless offering--despite his urgent podium proddings.

Surrounding the concerto was a collection of fluff from several Williams sound tracks: "1941," "Close Encounters of the Third Kind," "Raiders of the Lost Ark," etc. All tasty, and quickly forgettable--the aural equivalent of Chinese food. The biggest response was reserved for last summer's "Olympic Fanfare."

Non-Williams offerings included a lively and well-played tribute to Duke Ellington, a not-so-lively salute to Oscar-winning songs and, as a program closer, everyone's favorite show-stopper from "Gypsy," following which, three fellows dressed as Darth Vader, Chewbacca and Luke Skywalker walked onstage to congratulate Williams.

Maybe they thought he had just played "Everything's Coming Up 'Star Wars'."

Attendance: 13,524 (Friday); 17,577 (Saturday).

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