Home Classical Gustavo Dudamel Spotlights John Williams By Conducting the Music of Harry Potter

Gustavo Dudamel Spotlights John Williams By Conducting the Music of Harry Potter

Harry Potter
As part of the John Williams Spotlight, the LA Phil perform the music of Harry Potter.

At the Walt Disney Concert Hall, Gustavo Dudamel and the LA Phil paid tribute to John Williams with a family-friendly program of the music from the Harry Potter films.

By John Lavitt

Los Angeles, CA (The Hollywood Times) 05-22-2024

Legendary American composer John Williams has a long and wonderful history with the Los Angeles Philharmonic. From the Walt Disney Concert Hall to the Hollywood Bowl, the LA Phil has been instrumental in putting on countless programs celebrating the composer of many of the most popular and critically acclaimed film scores in cinema history. At the Walt Disney Concert Hall, with Gustavo Dudamel stepping in for the great composer and conductor, the talented orchestra did a rousing tribute to the magical world of Harry Potter.

During this slice of the ongoing John Williams Spotlight, actor Freddie Stroma came on stage to join the legendary orchestra. From the final three Harry Potter films to HBO’s Game of Thrones, the British actor is no stranger to fantasy. Stroma took on the role of Cormac McLaggen first in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, then continued as the character in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Parts 1 and 2. On stage, the actor provided narration in between excerpts from the Harry Potter scores by John Williams. With a charming smile, he grounded the show in the storytelling of J. K. Rowling.

Freddie Stroma
British Actor Freddie Stroma narrated the performance

Watching Dudamel and the LA Phil take on the music of Harry Potter, you realize the reasons behind the tremendous ongoing success of John Williams. Rather than focus on the individual instruments, John Williams composes for the whole orchestra, turning the four main sections of the brass, woodwinds, strings, and percussion into a singular force of expression. Indeed, there is a sense of sweeping power as the sounds take over the Walt Disney Concert Hall, transporting the audience to a world of magic and wonder.

At the same time, John Williams is a master of details. Such detail was evident when the orchestra performed excerpts from the early films in the series. During this period, Harry Potter is a young boy struggling to find his footing in the world of magic. John Williams captures this period of innocence by highlighting the recorder. It is a brilliant stroke of inspiration.

A woodwind instrument with a whistle mouthpiece, also known as a fipple flute, the recorder is not a typical orchestral instrument. Although I have seen the LA Phil perform dozens of times, I never saw a moment when even a single recorder was the instrument in focus. In this case, several musicians played an instrument that you tend to associate with middle school.

John Williams
Gustavo Dudamel and John Williams at the Walt Disney Concert Hall

Capable of a soft sound with a woody tone, the recorder is the first instrument given to kids in many schools. Why is this the case? It is because the recorder is easy to pick up. Being easy to play at first, however, and being easy to play at an orchestral level are two entirely different things.

At the Walt Disney Concert Hall, the recorder players were maestros of the instrument, creating a sense of traveling back to an innocent time of wonder and possibility. At the same time, there is a vulnerability to the instrument, given its role in childhood. Such a vulnerability makes the Harry Potter compositions of John Williams so unique. While being massive and magical, they are also very human and relatable. Indeed, the composer’s brilliance is the ability to combine such diverse elements, creating a holistic masterpiece of expression.

Photos Courtesy of the Los Angeles Philharmonic and Wikipedia