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A few weeks ago I caught a little of BBC Radio 2’s Friday Night is Music Night. The programme was a John Williams special. John Williams the composer, not John Williams the classical guitarist. The first time I knowingly came across his work was after seeing the Spielberg film Schindler’s List. Unwittingly I had already been a fan of his, given that I loved the music to Star Wars and Jaws. But it had never occurred to me look up who had composed these iconic tunes.

The music for Schindler’s list, however is a masterpiece in pathos. The haunting sound of the violin of the main theme is one of the most beautifully melancholic tunes composed for the movies, and fits perfectly with the film. I read that Williams asked the Jewish violinist Izak Perlman to play the lead, which I guess adds poignancy, given that Perlman’s parents were exiled from Poland in the 1930’s, and he was born only a few months after the end of the Second Wold War. Below is a piano arrangement.

Back to John Williams: I had not realized, until I heard this programme, how many film scores he had worked on. I tend to think of him only in connection with Spielberg, and it has to be said that the two have been very good for each other. But he has produced the scores for numerous other directors in his 81 years. He has also apparently written many concertos, orchestral and chamber pieces too.

Another favourite score that he wrote was for the 1981 Indiana Jones debut film The Raiders of the Lost Ark. I have written a few times about Great Piano Solos (The Black Book), which includes a selection of film scores transcribed for piano. Included in it is a great version of The Raiders March.

Raiders March

Raiders March

It makes for a great tune on the piano. It requires very little (if any) sustain peddle and really calls for you to belt it out. There are some interesting bars in it with reasonably tricky (for me) timing on page two. However because the tune is so well-known, (it has been used in all the subsequent films of the franchise), it is relatively easy to picture in your mind how it should sound.

If I had been more organized I would have written this post when the programme was still available to listen to on the BBC iplayer, but unfortunately have been very busy recently. I also haven’t had much time recently to perfect this piece so am not yet ready to post up a video of me playing it. I promise to do so when I get chance to practice it.

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