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Star Wars Day 2020: John Williams conducts Vienna Philharmonic for 'Imperial March' in newly released video

The new video was released by Deutsche Grammophon, featuring Williams showcasing some of his best works, played by the Vienna Philharmonic in January
Composer John Williams performs (Getty Images)
Composer John Williams performs (Getty Images)

May the Fourth be with you! In order to celebrate the fan-favorite Star Wars Day, the Deutsche Grammophon label recently shared a new video that shows the 'Star Wars' composer John Williams conducting the Vienna Philharmonic orchestra in his European debut, as they performed a powerful rendition of his world-famous 'Imperial March' theme.

The 178-year-old Vienna Philharmonic is considered one of the best orchestras in the music industry, and the Hollywood legend teamed up with them earlier this year for two special concerts which showcased some of his finest cinematic contributions over the past few decades. Williams termed the whole experience “one of the great honors of my career.”

January marked the first time that Williams had ever served as a conductor in continental Europe. He took on the baton for two performances with the prestigious Vienna Philharmonic, joined by renowned violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter. Together, they performed iconic themes from Williams's celebrated career in the film industry, including music from films like 'Star Wars', 'ET', 'Raiders of the Lost Ark', 'Jurassic Park' and the 'Harry Potter' series. 


You can check out the entire setlist that they played on January 19, 2020 below: 

'The Flight to Neverland' from 'Hook'
Excerpts from 'Close Encounters of the Third Kind'
'Hedwig’s Theme' from 'Harry Potter'
Theme from 'Sabrina'
'Devil’s Dance' from 'The Witches of Eastwick'
'Donnybrook Fair' from 'Far and Away'
'Adventures on Earth' from 'ET the Extra-Terrestrial'

Theme from 'Jurassic Park'
'Dartmoor, 1912' from 'War Horse'
'Out to Sea' and the 'Shark Cage Fugue' from 'Jaws'
'Marion's Theme' from 'Raiders of the Lost Ark'
'The Rebellion Is Reborn' from 'Star Wars - The Last Jedi'
'Luke & Leia' from 'Star Wars'
Main Title from 'Star Wars'

“I couldn’t have been more happily surprised,” Williams later revealed when speaking about the concerts. “I have to compliment the orchestra on their great virtuosity and fantastic ability to perform all styles of music.” He also reserved special praise for the Vienna Philharmonic's take on his iconic 'Imperial March', saying “It was honestly one of the best presentations of that March I’ve ever heard,” and then added, “They played it as though they owned it.” 

Composer John Williams attends the 40 Years of Star Wars panel during the 2017 Star Wars Celebration at Orange County Convention Center on April 13, 2017, in Orlando, Florida. (Getty Images)

Williams also revealed that the decision to play the 'Imperial March' theme was down to the orchestra being such fans of his 'Star Wars' work. “We played two rehearsals with the orchestra, at the end of which the orchestra management said: ‘Can we play the ‘Imperial March’ from Star Wars?’ And I hadn’t programmed that. I thought I had already asked the brass to play quite enough big music,” the composer admitted. 

Thankfully, it all worked out in the end, said Williams.

“As I understand it, the brass players in the orchestra themselves requested that we play the Imperial March. So, at the end of the rehearsal we played it, they had the music, everyone seemed to know it. I felt very grateful to them for giving me a chance to play it at the end of the program. I loved it.”

The album 'John Williams in Vienna' featuring music from the concerts at Vienna’s Musikverein will be released in a variety of physical and digital formats on 14 August 2020, courtesy of Deutsche Grammophon.