John Williams’s music is so seared in our collective consciousness that hearing just a few bars can immediately transport the listener to childhood—across generations. The beloved composer, known for his masterful writing of blockbuster scores and orchestral works, has a long history with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. Williams’s Trumpet Concerto is the latest DSO recording of Williams’s works, newly released on Naxos.
Nestled in the “white gloves only” archival box in the DSO music library, you will find two signed Williams scores, E.T. and Harry Potter, alongside antique scores from other compositional greats who graced Orchestra Hall’s stage in earlier eras.
In addition to an extensive list of film compositions, Williams has composed a wide variety of monumental works for orchestra, including many concertos. The DSO has recorded six of John Williams’s 19 concertos under Music Director Emeritus Leonard Slatkin including his Bassoon Concerto “5 Sacred Trees” featuring Robert Williams, his Cello Concerto featuring Robert DeMaine, his Violin Concerto featuring Emmanuelle Boisvert, his Tuba Concerto featuring DSO Principal Tuba Dennis Nulty, his Horn Concerto featuring DSO Principal Horn Karl Pituch, and most recently his Trumpet Concerto featuring DSO Principal Trumpet Hunter Eberly. You can listen to all of these recordings on our specially curated Spotify playlist.
Eberly’s recording is one of the few available of this enchanting work for solo trumpet and orchestra, and we had the opportunity to sit down with him to discuss aspects of the recording process including his favorite moments and the importance of recording music.
Why is it important to record as a musician?
HE: “As a member of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, I think it is extremely important to continue the legacy of recording and musical excellence that previous members of the DSO and its music directors have established. Making recordings allows us to show the world what the city of Detroit has to offer. It gives us the opportunity to contribute to the cultural impact of this city and to be cemented into the memory of it long after we are gone.
I have childhood memories of my grandmother playing records of the DSO and Paul Paray. Going through music school and listening to recordings of Neeme Järvi and the DSO had a huge impact on my development as a musician. I’m honored to be able to add to that legacy and hope we will continue to do even more projects like this in the future!”
Can you tell us about the instrument you used for the recording?
HE: “For this recording I was playing on a Yamaha C trumpet that was made for me by the head designer at Yamaha, Bob Malone. We worked extensively in Orchestra Hall, tweaking the horn to maximize its effectiveness in our amazing acoustics.”
Does it feel different to perform live when you know you're making a recording?
HE: “I would say there is an added level of pressure to try to aim for perfection, as well as more listening and preparation between performances. When we recorded this piece, I remember listening to playbacks immediately following the concerts, taking notes, and then making small adjustments going into the next performance. It was time-consuming, but I loved it!”
What are some key moments you love in the work you can elaborate on for the listener?
HE: “There are some very beautiful moments in the second movement that feature the English horn, trombone, and trumpet in a sort of back-and-forth dialogue. Performing this section with my colleagues Monica Fosnaugh (English Horn) and Ken Thompkins (Principal Trombone) was a lot of fun.
The last movement is full of very technical (and difficult!) passages that take us through the entire range of the instrument in a fiery ride to the end. This was a blast to play and is my favorite part of the piece.”
Can you share your thoughts on John Williams's music and why he’s a great composer for brass?
HE: “My whole family is a huge fan of John Williams music. It is a lot of fun to play, and almost better to just listen to! My kids regularly ask our Alexa to ‘play John Williams.’ I grew up listening to his film music as well as his fanfares. My mom is a huge fan of the Olympics, so his Olympic Fanfare and Theme is one of my favorites. John Williams writes for the brass in a way that highlights all the best aspects of the instruments. The shimmering trumpets, the triumphant horns, and the epic strength of the low brass make for extremely satisfying writing for all of us in the brass section.”
Williams has visited the DSO on several occasions to conduct programs of his own works, with his first visit occurring in October 1986 in Ford Auditorium—the previous home of the DSO for more than 33 years before Orchestra Hall came to be. Most recently, he returned to the DSO in June 2014 to conduct the annual Heroes Gala concert "The Movie Music of Steven Spielberg and John Williams." The program featured then-Concertmaster Yoonshin Song as the soloist on his famous Theme from Schindler’s List. This star-studded gala experience included a guest appearance by American film director, producer, and screenwriter Steven Spielberg in celebration of his longtime collaboration with Williams.
You can hear one of Eberly’s favorite John Williams pieces, Olympic Fanfare and Theme, performed by your Detroit Symphony Orchestra on this year’s free DTE Community Concerts September 22-24 throughout the Metro Detroit area. Reserve your tickets here.
Image credit: Joe Vaughn