As a huge John Williams fan (ok, more than a fan, I practically worship the composer!), I was eager to see a new Boston Pops recording of his works. I was also pleased to see Keith Lockhart on the podium and officially still listed as their conductor (I was not aware he still retained that title). But I was most excited to discover this is not the usual John Williams fare. Mr. Lockhart was extremely adventurous and went to great lengths in choosing unfamiliar selections, many of which had not been recorded outside the original soundtrack. According to the booklet, some of this music had to be obtained, still in manuscript, from Mr. Williams's personal library for this recording. I find this level of effort and achievement on the part of Keith Lockhart to be extraordinary. And all of it is fabulous music.
Of note here are the rare Overtures from Heidi, a 1968 TV movie, and from Goodbye, Mr. Chips, music which Mr. Williams adapted from Leslie Bricusse songs. More familiar, but still rarely performed, are the main titles/themes from The Towering Inferno, The Patriot and Sabrina. Also heard are less familiar orchestral excerpts from Midway, Dracula, Sleepers and E.T.
For good measure, we get the "Viktor's Tale" from Terminal (scored in large part for clarinet and accordion - great fun!), the "Devil's Dance" from The Witches of Eastwick and a substantial suite of 5 selections from the latest Star Wars score - The Force Awakens. This brings the total playing time to an impressive and much appreciated 76:36.
All of the material here is well-played by the Boston Pops, as expected. And Keith Lockhart's refinement is everywhere in evidence, which ultimately lacks the last ounce of sheer verve heard in the original soundtracks (or what we've become accustomed to hearing from John Williams's own recordings with this group). But the sound is certainly excellent (there are some impressive bass drum wallops here and there; and check out the spectacularly potent and extraordinarily deep organ pedals in the final minutes of "Men of the Yorktown March" from Midway - wow! If you want to know if your speakers are capable of producing a true 32 hz - the low C organ pedal - this will confirm it, or disappoint you, depending on your woofers and amplifier power.)
This is all more refined (and better played) than those otherwise treasured City of Prague Philharmonic recordings for Silva Screen, where many of these rarer selections can be heard.
So, if on the face of it, one is tempted to think of this as yet another collection of John Williams stuff by the Boston Pops (ho-hum), think again. This is rarely heard music, some of which may be a surprise learning they were written by Williams! It's all classic, indispensable John Williams, replete with great playing and sound. One can't go wrong; and admirers of this composer absolutely must acquire it.