I fell in love , as so many people did, with the music of John Williams as a child, without knowing anything about the man who gave us so much incredible memorable music. His main themes are amongst some of the most recognisable and hummable tunes in musical history. But it’s not just his main themes which are remarkable. He seems able to imbue every sequence of a film with music which transports, which deepens emotion, which accentuates the action. And what melodies! Even throwaway action sequences are sometimes given the most amazing melodies and harmonic sequences which are heard once, and never again. He is a master.
So I’m going to see if I can pick a piece of music from his huge body of work to highlight for every single year of my life. So I start with 1970. And discover that unfortunately there were no new John Williams albums released in the year of my birth. However, Jane Eyre was a TV movie released in December 1970, even though the soundtrack was not released until the following year.
The film featured Susannah York and George C. Scott in the main roles. Williams composed a beautiful fluid main theme, a lilting melody filled with yearning leaps and tinged with melancholy, played first by the piano. After a secondary theme, it repeats with a more full-throated version of soaring strings. the secondary theme comes in again, before briefly reiterating the main theme, before a wonderful cadenza of the piano brings it to a close.
I heard this album for the first time in the early 90s, and the main theme captivated me. But it is by no means the only theme of note on the album. there is a beautiful tender theme for flute and harp, called reunion. Then there is a sombre and chilling piece called “Lowood” – representing Jane’s arrival as an orphan at the dreaded institution. Oh and a gorgeous Vaughan-Williamsesque piece for St John Rivers.
If you have never heard this soundtrack, then head over to Youtube, or see if you can nab yourself a copy. It really is stunning. And like so many of Williams’ soundtracks, it really doesn’t sound 50 years old – it hasn’t aged, but still sounds fresh.