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David Helbock

Playing John Williams

  • Type CD
  • Label ACT music
  • UPC 0614427976420
  • Catalog number ACT 97642
  • Release date 30 August 2019

About the album

We all have the music in our lives from which there is no escape. It reaches deep inside, becomes planted ineradicably in the memory. Other, extra-musical occurrences can often get mixed in with the experience of listening, which has a way of imprinting the music on the mind even more firmly. This was what happened to David Helbock when he discovered cinema for himself and had his first encounters with the music of the American film composer John Williams: “He’s been with me just about all of my life. I can still remember clearly how as a child I saw “E.T.” countless times and was excited about the extra-terrestrial being and his human friends. I won’t forget how my feelings would flicker between fascination and fear when I first saw the shark in “Jaws”. These were all deeply emotional and formative experiences for me, and it was always the soundtrack to the films that was at the root of them.”
But why is John Williams’ music quite so effective, how is it that his music comes straight to mind when one thinks of any of the films in which he has been involved as composer? “Deep down, Williams is a great writer of melodies. They touch the heart profoundly, they release emotions. Take “Hedwig’s Theme” from “Harry Potter”, it’s a simple but incredibly deeply felt melody. Or the emotive theme from “Schindler’s List”. Rather than relying on sound effects or sonic ostentation, Williams puts his trust in the power of melody.”
“I’ve done all kinds of things with John Williams’ music. I’ve re-harmonised it, I’ve used different time signatures and much more, so that my own voice can flow naturally into it,” says Helbock. “But despite all the alterations, the melody always stays the same and remains recognisable. Much of the process of adaptation was done intuitively, driven by the emotions that the films sparked in me. So I wrote down the main melodies, I watched the films, before finally developing my improvised versions on the piano and slowly extending them.” And so this “storyteller at the piano” (3sat) gives us a very different John Williams from the one we know from the cinema, but the man in the picture remains unmistakably the doyen of film music himself.

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