Composer John Williams received two Grammy nominations, as announced yesterday, bringing his grand total to 71 nominations, with 24 wins to date.
Williams was nominated in the composing and arranging field. His “Galaxy’s Edge Symphonic Suite,” written for the new “Star Wars”-themed park at Disneyland, was nominated for best instrumental composition, while his arrangement of “Hedwig’s Theme,” the best-known piece from the “Harry Potter” films, for violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter’s all-Williams album, was cited for best instrumental arrangement.
According to official Grammy statistics, these are the legendary film composer’s 70th and 71st nominations.
Surprisingly, considering his 58-year history of Grammy attention (dating back to his 1961 nod for his TV score “Checkmate”), he is not the most-nominated film composer. He is now just one nomination behind his colleague Henry Mancini, who amassed 72 nominations (with 20 wins, including “Peter Gunn” and “The Pink Panther”) before his death in 1994.
Quincy Jones – who sometimes toiled alongside Williams during their Universal Television stints in the mid-1960s – is the all-time Grammy champ at 80 nominations (and 28 wins), although only 11 of his nods are actually for his movie work in the 1960s and ’70s (including “In the Heat of the Night” and “Roots”).
Williams’ new version of “Hedwig’s Theme,” a tour de force for violin and orchestra, was written specifically for Mutter, who first begged Williams to write a concert work for her (“Markings,” which is on the deluxe version of her Deutsche Grammophon album “Across the Stars,” released in late September), then convinced him to assemble an entire collection of his film themes.
The Williams-Mutter album was recorded in Los Angeles in April. “Hedwig’s Theme” was one of 16 Williams movie themes newly arranged for soloist and orchestra. They ranged from the obscure (“Dracula,” “Cinderella Liberty”) to the popular (five from “Star Wars” films, including themes for Yoda, Princess Leia and Rey, and two from “Schindler’s List”).
The collaboration, which fit into Williams’ busy schedule just before he began work on his final “Star Wars” film, “The Rise of Skywalker” (due in December), was unusual in that Mutter is considered one of the world’s great classical violinists and had not previously tackled film music.
As Williams said at the time: “I’ve taken things that I’ve known for years, set a certain way, and translated and transported them. Presented on the violin, they become a different emotional experience.” He called Mutter “the greatest violinist that Germany has produced in a hundred years.”
Williams’ “Galaxy’s Edge” music was released by Walt Disney Records in advance of the May 31 opening of the Black Spire Outpost on planet Batuu, which occupies 14 acres of Anaheim’s Disneyland resort. As a Disney executive said of the music at the time: “There’s an optimism, a sense of adventure; you go on a journey in this five-minute piece.”
It was recorded at Abbey Road by the London Symphony Orchestra in August 2018 by conductor William Ross, with Williams monitoring the proceedings remotely from Tanglewood, Mass., where he often conducts during the summer months.
Williams could extend his win streak with one or both of these nominations. More than half of his 24 Grammy wins have been for either instrumental composition or arrangement, including such notable themes as “Star Wars,” “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” “Superman,” the 1984 Olympic Fanfare, “Schindler’s List” and “Saving Private Ryan.”