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Music : John Williams at the Hollywood Bowl

September 03, 1990|RICHARD S. GINELL

Since 1981, John Williams has been the hardiest of perennials at Hollywood Bowl--and there he was again Friday night, leading the Los Angeles Philharmonic in another sometimes interesting melange of film and quasi-film music. Yet, this time, one could hear some sounds of lasting distinction.

Aaron Copland's suite from "The Red Pony" summarizes one of the finest film scores ever made in this country, a high-spirited, moving piece of work in Copland's best rural Americana idiom. It ought to be as well-known as "Rodeo" or "El Salon Mexico," but perhaps the stigma of being a product of Tinseltown has held it back.

Though Williams only played three of the suite's six sections, he brought out Copland's ebullient charm while hewing close to the composer's own tempos. Some rough handling of a few abrupt rhythmic changes aside, the Philharmonic audibly relished the challenge.

In Williams' own music, one could rediscover with pleasure the intelligent counterpoint of the "Shark Cage Fugue" from "Jaws," and the catchy march tune from "1941." Yet "Celebrate Discovery!," written for the 500th anniversary of Columbus' voyage, was a slice of tired Williams bombast, and the familiar "E.T." music has worn out its welcome.

After intermission, the orchestra seemed to lose interest in the whole affair, plowing diffusely through a Williams arrangement of "Hooray for Hollywood," Richard Rodgers' "Carousel Waltz," a routine Hoagy Carmichael medley and some ominous music from Williams' score for "Born on the Fourth of July." Then it was march time again, with "I Love a Parade" and "76 Trombones" medleys that snaked in and out of Sousa, the "Colonel Bogey March" and other items.

By now, the vociferous 12,845 customers seemed to think they were at a Boston Pops concert. So Williams returned for four encores--Stephen Sondheim's haunting "No One Is Alone," the "Raiders of the Lost Ark" theme, "New York, New York," and--redundantly, since snatches of it had been heard twice already--"The Stars and Stripes Forever." No one objected.

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