Spielberg/Williams Partnership Explored in New Box Set

“It’s like turning a horse out to pasture and letting him just run headlong,” says visionary director Steven Spielberg on what it is like working with acclaimed composer John Williams.

Over the 90-year history of sound film, there has rarely been such a symbiotic relationship between director and composer. Their 43-year partnership, one of the most fertile in all of cinema, has yielded a crop of scores so memorable that one can’t picture the movie existing without the music.

E.T. and Elliott soaring past the full moon, Indiana Jones racing away from an advancing boulder, a shark moving in murky waters towards the legs of an unsuspecting swimmer, the slow reveal of an island full of dinosaurs or the sorrowful walk of the little girl in the red dress, try to picture them without the underlying melodies. 

Williams has become one of the most prolific composers in all of Hollywood. His scores have received five Oscars and 50 nominations, 14 of them from the works he wrote for Spielberg’s films. The director rarely completes a project without a Williams score attached to it.

25-years ago, fans were treated to a sort of Greatest Hits release from Sony Classical but a lot has happened since then. It was Williams who suggested the collected oeuvre was in need of an update.

"I was very happy with the fact that when I was music director of Boston Pops, we were able to record a lot of the music that I'd written for Steven's films," Williams says in a press release for the set.

"I said to him, 'Steven, wouldn't it be great if we could complete the Sony collection and put in all the things that we didn't have when the last disc was recorded this time with our great orchestra here in Los Angeles?'"

The director was quick to reply: "This is a great idea. Let's do it!"

The new multi-disc John Williams & Steven Spielberg: The Ultimate Collection now features a more complete career spanning retrospective of work from the more memorable themes in Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Jurassic Park to lesser known compositions from Amistad, The Adventures of Tintin and Catch Me If You Can.

Collectors will find the set's third disc most enticing for the newly arranged and recorded material of the more recent works. Williams personally oversaw the updated compositions last year conducting the Recording Arts Orchestra of Los Angeles.

On the collection’s fourth disc, a DVD documentary by Laurent Bouzereau‏ featuring both director and composer discussing their relationship and collaborative works, Williams gets a respectful laugh out of Spielberg when referencing the freedom he had with these new renditions:

"I could say, even as I sit with one of the greatest filmmakers in the world, I love playing these pieces without the distraction of the film. We can play all of it and we don't have to make pianissimo for measure 57 because somebody says something."

Themes from War Horse, Minority Report and The BFG may not be as popular as most of the other works on the set but do well to showcase the maestro’s scope be it writing for action, drama and the occasional comedy not to mention the director's ability to work within various cinematic genres. 

It’s the reworking of the tender “Marion’s Theme” from Raiders of the Lost Ark, however,  that might just be the gem most worthy of even the great fedora wearing, whip carrying archeologists collection.