L.A. Phil Gala Salutes John Williams’ 90th Birthday With Concerto Premiere and Rousing Performance of His Film Hits

The annual L.A. Phil Gala saluted composer John Williams on his 90th birthday Tuesday with the maestro conducting the orchestra on his “Violin Concerto No. 5.” Anne-Sophie Mutter made the violin sing as she performed on the premiere of his new piece.

In his opening remarks on stage for the event, which marks the fall season opening for Walt Disney Concert Hall, L.A. Phil conductor Gustavo Dudamel said, “We have the chance tonight to celebrate one of the greatest composers of all time. His name is John Williams. He is a very special part of the Los Angeles Philharmonic family. His music for films transcends, it is in the big symphonic world like Mahler [and others].”

In tribute to Williams, who watched later from the audience, the orchestra performed pieces from “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade,” “Star Wars: A New Hope” and “E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial.” For a rousing encore they played the theme song from “Star Wars,” and Mutter returned to perform one from “Schindler’s List.”

Grand Avenue was closed off again for the gala dinner at which Thomas Beckmen, board of directors chair, said the evening raised more than $3.95 million for the Phil’s programs including its Youth Orchestra Los Angeles, now with its own space in Inglewood.  

At the gala dinner that followed on Grand Avenue, which was converted into a beautiful space, CEO Chad Smith praised Williams who stepped in for “an ailing Arthur Fiedler” in 1978. “His Hollywood Bowl concerts are unlike any other,” he added. “We said everything with his unique and amazing music on stage. It’s true we play a lot of his music every year at the Hollywood Bowl. But today feels different. You hear John’s la-di-da-dah [scatting the ‘Star Wars’ theme song] and you can fly again. To play this music is not easy. You need good musicians, you need an orchestra like the L.A. Philharmonic.”

The celebrations continued at the after-party at the new Conrad Los Angeles across the street from the Walt Disney Concert Hall.

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