The popular mystique of composer-conductor John Williams is a bit elusive to some of us, but mystique there is. The good folk at Hollywood Bowl on Friday called Williams back for three encores, even after the baton flew out of his hand during the last scheduled piece. The interesting thing is that while Williams left the podium to retrieve his stick, the Los Angeles Philharmonic continued to play without missing a beat.
Which is not to say that Williams doesn't impose a conductorial profile. He does: he makes everything sound the same bland way. When it comes to the dishwater he composes--such egregious stuff as "The Devil's Dance" from "The Witches of Eastwick"--it doesn't matter much. But it was no fun hearing real music such as William Walton's Suite from the film "Henry V" or Jerome Kern's classic tunes spin so aimlessly down the drain.
Still, the crowds seemed to love it all, including an arrangement of a "West Side Story" song that might be titled "The 'Tonight' Rumba' "; or excerpts from "The Wizard of Oz," including the gum-drop "If I Only Had a Brain."
Adding to the discomfort was tubbiness in the mid-to-low range, thanks to the amplification system.
For the record, the encores were Kern's "Long Ago and Far Away," William's "Flying Theme" from the movie "E.T." and "St. Louis Blues."
Attendance on Friday, 16,011; on Saturday, 17,789.