Stéphane Denève and composer/conductor John Williams are joining together to conduct two very special concerts in Japan. The legendary 91-year-old Williams was invited by his old friend, the equally renowned conductor Seiji Ozawa, to perform at the latter’s Matsumoto Festival in Nagano. The sold-out 2 September concert marked the first time Williams has performed in Japan in 30 years.
Denève led the Saito Kinen Orchestra for the first half of the all-Williams concert, with and moving performances of the composer’s Sound the Bells!, Tributes (for Seiji), Suite from Far & Away and Symphonic Suite from E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.
Williams then took the podium to conduct various masterpieces he had composed including Superman March, three Selections from Harry Potter (“Hedwig’s Theme,” “Fawkes the Phoenix,” and “Harry’s Wondrous World”), Theme from Schindler’s List and three selections from Star Wars (“The Rebellion is Reborn,” “Princess Leia’s Theme,” and “Throne Room & Finale”).
John Williams said, “I’m so pleased to have been able to return to Japan after so many years. Performing my music with the brilliant Saito Kinen Orchestra and most importantly reuniting with my dear friend Seiji Ozawa has been, for me, the honour of a lifetime.”
Seiji Ozawa said, “Thank you John for coming to Matsumoto. My dream of you conducting and experiencing the SKO came true. I feel so fortunate and happy. It was wonderful. Thank you!”
The programme will again be performed on Tuesday, 5 September at Tokyo’s Suntory Hall for Deutsche Grammophon125th Anniversary Gala. The concert will be recorded and available to stream on 9 September. It will also be available as audio and video releases on DG.
Stéphane Denève’s friendship with John Williams dates back to when they met in Los Angeles in 2007. Denève was also honoured to conduct Williams’ 90th Birthday celebration at the Kennedy Center in 2022 with the Washington National Symphony. Denève celebrated his friend’s work in two other concerts at the Seiji Ozawa Matsumoto Festival (25 and 27 August), conducting Williams’ Concerto for Tuba and Orchestra alongside Bernstein’s West Side Story Suite, Poulenc’s Stabat Mater and Ravel’s Daphnis et Chloé Suite No. 2.