The Music of John Williams was the final pop concert in the Sacramento Philharmonic & Opera’s revival season, which saw a sold-out crowd at the Sacramento Community Center on Saturday night. I went to one other this season—The Music of Queen—and left bummed about how it underutilized the orchestra. Last week’s showing was much better, but the Philharmonic still has some dust to shake off as it goes into next season.
Conductor Stuart Chafetz was a treat on the podium. He was energetic—he pantomimed flying like Superman during the “Superman March”—and unafraid to let moments stretch and play out fully, like he did with “Adventures on Earth” from E.T.
The first half of the program was mostly material I wasn’t that familiar with, but it was enjoyable nonetheless. The back half of the show was filled with big Williams guns: songs from Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Jurassic Park and Jaws.
It was during the second half, however, that I also found myself being a bit more critical. The orchestra sounded good, but there was something keeping everything from sounding great.
Some sections sounded almost dampened and flat—a little on the sparse side. Though the SP&O is excellent at playing quietly, it also seemed hesitant to take some sections to the louder side of the dynamic scale.
It also could be the convention center’s acoustics, or where I was sitting. It could be the size of the orchestra itself.
But I do think part of it was on the orchestra. Especially on pop tunes, which a general audience is going to know and expect to sound a certain way, there isn’t a whole lot of room for interpretation or error. And there were a few moments—some balance issues between sections, some intonation things here and there—that sounded distinctly off.
It was still, overall, a good evening of music, and one I enjoyed more than my last time out to the Philharmonic. There are still some growing pains present, but it’s progress.