What we have here are 3 CDs, 2 of which are exact reissues of previous SONY releases, and a 20-minute, documentary feature on DVD. Disc 1 is the 1991 Boston Pops collection entitled The Spielberg/Williams Collaboration. Disc 2 is the 1995 Boston Pops collection: Williams on Williams.
Disc 3 is a new recording (2017) of music Williams had not previously recorded, other than on the original soundtracks. Some of it is newly arranged. He uses an L.A. studio orchestra, but they are recorded in UCLA's Royce Hall. The booklet states John Williams finds the acoustics of this hall some of the finest in the world. Based upon this present recording, I agree. The SONY recording is simply gorgeous - airy, spacious and dramatic within a most naturally portrayed big, reverberant hall. The bass drum strokes are quite stunning as well - naturally shuttering throughout the enormous acoustic, but never overdone. This is, quite simply, one of the best orchestral recordings on CD I've heard in a long while. Indeed it is nearly as good as the very best SACDs.
Highlights of this new disc, for me at least, are the selections from BFG, Lincoln, War Horse and The Unfinished Journey (which I had not heard before). It is good to have the John Williams signature stamp on these, freed from their original soundtracks, especially as this studio orchestra plays brilliantly. "Dartmoor" (from War Horse), in particular, as played by this magnificent orchestra, is surely one of the most heart-felt, moving, rapturously gorgeous musical utterances in all of John Williams's recorded output.
There is one clunker in the group, however. Dry Your Tears Afrika (from Amistad) sounds so much like a group of angelic choirboys, later joined by the local (adult) church choir, that I laughed out loud at how un-idiomatic it sounds here. Just pull out the original soundtrack to hear what it should sound like. But, not to be too hard on the Fullerton University Singers, they are gorgeous in their ooh-ing and aw-ing, when required in subsequent tracks, namely Hymn to the Fallen (from Saving Private Ryan), which is overwhelmingly moving.
The DVD is not what I was expecting. Rather than it being a true documentary film (as it is described on the back cover, suggesting it chronicles the 43-year relationship between Williams and Spielberg), it is actually a "making-of" featurette of the recording sessions for the new CD. It lasts just 22 minutes. It consists of numerous clips of the actual orchestral sessions, with interviews of Mr. Williams and Mr. Spielberg cutting in every few minutes. I personally found seeing and hearing the orchestra in action extremely fascinating, along with watching Mr. Williams conducting with such passion. The video is of very high quality, as is the sound. And I wish there was much more of it. While the interviews are entertaining, they amount to little more than the two men expressing mutual admiration.
In sum, it is regrettable that SONY chose to include the two reissued/duplicated CDs for this 4-disc box, rather than offering the new CD and the DVD as a two-fer. All John Williams lovers who will be attracted to this set will certainly already own the first 2 discs contained here. But, be that as it may, this set is absolutely worth the price of admission for the new CD recording. John Williams may be 85 (when he conducted this collection), but he still draws enormous amounts of heartfelt passion, endlessly singing lines and dramatic power from this orchestra. Not for one instant does this sound like an old man on the podium. And taken as a whole, these 3 audio discs make an absolutely splendid collection - the perfect gift for someone who doesn't typically buy all of John Williams's CDs. And the DVD is icing on the cake.