He's got the world on his strings

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 29 October, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 29 October, 2009, 12:00am

In Woody Allen's Vicky Cristina Barcelona, art student Vicky finds herself stirred by the sensual sounds of the six-string Spanish guitar, also known as the classical guitar, which is plucked, rather than strummed with a pick, and produces sharp, distinct sounds.

Next week, Hongkongers will have the chance to experience what mesmerised Vicky when John Williams, one of the world's most accomplished Spanish guitarists, performs here to commemorate the Hong Kong Cultural Centre's 20th anniversary. His last solo concert here took place 20 years ago for the venue's grand opening.

Williams will be playing compositions by Vivaldi, Scarlatti and Granados, as well as his own songs, many of which he composed for Steven Spielberg movies such as Indiana Jones, Jaws, Schindler's List and Jurassic Park. He has won 20 Grammy Awards, five Oscars, four Golden Globes, and an Edison Lifetime Achievement Award.

Born in Melbourne, Australia, in 1932, Williams was recognised as a child prodigy by Andres Segovia, considered by many the father of Spanish guitar music. Segovia recommended him for studies at the prestigious Chigiana Music Academy in Spain. By the time Williams was 18, he had performed in London, Paris, Madrid and Tokyo.

At 45, he composed the score for Star Wars, which would go on to be named the greatest American movie score of all time by the American Film Institute.

But Williams' popularity reached dizzying heights in 1979, when he performed a guitar version of Stanley Myers' Cavatina (originally written for piano), which became the theme song for The Deer Hunter.

Williams has also collaborated with a wide range of contemporary musicians, including violinist Itzhak Perlman, classical composer Andre Previn and jazz singer Cleo Laine.

Despite his classical training, Williams has riled critics by maintaining a wide range of musical projects in other genres such as the Australian rock band Sky, contemporary music band Attaca and John Williams and Friends.

Perhaps Williams' career longevity and ongoing success come from his open-minded attitude towards the craft. 'A lot of music is done and played by people who don't understand it at all,' he once told Classical Guitar magazine.

'They may be quite good at playing it. They do it because it's some kind of duty. I'm rather old-fashioned in one way. I think that people should play music because they really love that music and want to play it.'

Encore Series: Guitar Recital by John Williams, Nov 3, 8pm, HK Cultural Centre Concert Hall, HK$120, HK$220, HK$320, HK$420 Urbtix. Inquiries: 2268 7321, www.urbtix.hk