Disc Features Film and Concert Works, and the World Premiere Recording of Williams’s “Happy Birthday Variations”, Plus Performances by Yo-Yo Ma and Itzhak Perlman

A Tribute to John Williams: An 80th Birthday Celebration Available February 28, 2012

Awash in honors and still going strong after a nearly 60-year career, prolific composer John Williams is easily the best-known and most beloved composer working today. To mark his 80th birthday, Sony Masterworks is releasing a retrospective compilation album featuring some of the composer’s own favorite works, conducted by Williams himself, and available on February 28, 2012. From his music for Jaws to his latest score for the critically acclaimed War Horse, A Tribute to John Williams: An 80th Birthday Celebration is a collection of brilliant music from one of America’s most celebrated musical voices.

In addition to music for television, the concert stage, and festive occasion pieces, this recording also features selections from some of Williams’ iconic film scores, including E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, Schindler’s List, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and, of course, Star Wars. As George Lucas said of Williams, “Every fan of Star Wars and of great music is in his debt.” This album reminds us how true that is. It is sure to please movie-music buffs as well as lovers of great orchestral concert music. In Williams’s own words, “There could be no greater birthday gift than the collected performances of the soloists, orchestras and artists assembled on this CD. It has been the privilege of a lifetime to have worked with all of them.”

Starting with the effervescent splash of the concert piece “Sound the Bells!,” this new collection shines with Williams’s characteristic compositional brilliance and flair for narrative drama. The playful and friendly opening of “Out to Sea / The Shark Cage Fugue” from Jaws builds into taut tension, while the “March from 1941” shows off the composer in his most spirited martial mode. “Adventures on Earth” from E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial illustrates the many moods of wide-eyed cinematic wonder that made that film such a beloved classic.

Williams has enjoyed a rich, forty-year collaboration with Steven Spielberg, having scored all but one of the director’s films. This new collection celebrates the composer’s ongoing vitality with musical selections from Spielberg’s three most recent films: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, The Adventures of Tintin, and War Horse. The same creative energy is evident in the familiar, magical strains of “Harry’s Wondrous World” from the first Harry Potter movie.

The versatile imagination of this great American composer shines in fruitful collaborations with the renowned cellist, Yo-Yo Ma, both in the poignant and tender concert piece Elegy for Cello and Orchestra, and in the spirited and colorful “Going To School” from Memoirs of a Geisha. Legendary violinist Itzhak Perlman joins the composer both for the sweetly romantic Theme from Sabrina, and the beloved and heart-rending Theme from Schindler’s List. Williams’s iconic music for television also is represented in this collection with the familiar “Mission Theme” for NBC Nightly News. And of course, what John Williams collection would be complete without music from Star Wars – perhaps the best-known film score of the 20th century?

This birthday tribute to the man Spielberg calls “the greatest of all maestros” closes, fittingly, with the world premiere recording of Williams’s joyously inventive and virtuosic “Happy Birthday Variations”, a work composed in 1995 to celebrate the birthdays of four of Williams’s renowned musical friends: cellist Yo-Yo Ma, conductor Seiji Ozawa, violinist Itzhak Perlman and pianist Leon Fleisher.

“Maestro, friend, collaborator and storyteller,” George Lucas tells his friend, “you brought my stories to life beyond my wildest dreams.” Indeed, listeners will recognize the many familiar themes on this enchanting collection from their own movie-magical dreams.


John Williams studied composition with Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco and piano with Madame Rosina Lhevinne at Juilliard, served in the Air Force, and worked in New York as a jazz pianist before embarking on a career in Los Angeles writing music for more than 200 television films and more than 100 feature films. Also a prolific composer of music for the concert stage, Williams served as music director of the Boston Pops Orchestra for 14 highly successful seasons, and is Artist-in-Residence at Tanglewood.

In a career spanning almost six decades, John Williams has composed some of the most popular film scores in the history of motion pictures, including the Star Wars series, Jaws, the Indiana Jones films, E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, Schindler’s List, Superman, the first three Harry Potter films and many more. He has received numerous awards, including twenty-one Grammy® Awards, four Golden Globe awards, five Emmys, five Academy Awards®, the Kennedy Center Honor, the Olympic Order, and the National Medal of Arts. He has received 47 Oscar nominations, making him the Academy’s most-nominated living person, and the second-most-nominated person in Oscar history.


  • Sound the Bells! (American Journey)
  • Out to Sea/Shark Cage Fugue (Jaws)
  • Sabrina’s Theme (Sabrina) Featuring Itzhak Perlman, violin
  • March (1941)
  • Adventures on Earth (E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial)
  • Dartmoor, 1912 (War Horse)
  • The Adventures of Mutt (Indiana Jones & The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull)
  • Harry’s Wondrous World (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone)
  • Elegy for Cello & Orchestra, featuring Yo-Yo Ma, cello
  • Going to School (Memories of a Geisha) featuring Yo-Yo Ma – cello,

-John Williams – piano

  • The Mission Theme (NBC News)
  • Schindler’s List Theme (Schindler’s List) Featuring Itzhak Perlman, violin
  • The Adventure Continues from The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn
  • Throne Room & Finale (Star Wars)
  • Happy Birthday Variations – **previously unreleased**


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