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Sony Music commemorates Titanic and celebrates John Williams

by Mark Burger

This year, in case you hadn’t heard (and the hype has been inescapable), marks the 100 th anniversary of the launching — and the sinking — of the RMS Titanic. On April 10, 1912, the Titanic set sail from Southampton, UK en route to New York City. During the evening of April 14, the ship struck an iceberg in the North Atlantic and went down a few hours later. Of the more than 2,200 people on board, more than 1,500 were lost.

There have been other maritime disasters, some with more lives lost, but the fascination with Titanic has only increased during the last century. There have been countless books, articles, poems and accounts of the fateful journey, as well as numerous screen and television dramatizations — the most famous, of course, being James Cameron’s 1997 blockbuster, which tied an Academy record by winning 11 Oscars including Best Picture and Best Director.

Although I’m not a fan of the Cameron film and haven’t seen the re-release (I know how it ends, for one thing), I too have some interest in the story of Titanic. Quite simply, it’s a great story — full of drama, heroism and sacrifice.

Already in conjunction with the anniversary, we’ve had the release (or re-release) of the 1953 Titanic (with Barbara Stanwyck and Clifton Webb) on Blu-ray, the 1958 classic A Night to Remember (still the version to beat) on DVD and Blu-ray from the Criterion Collection, several documentaries (another of which is due for release in June), a recent TV miniseries written by Oscar winner Julian Fellowes (Gosford Park, “Downton Abbey”), exhibits, extensive TV coverage and on and on.

Without a doubt, the Titanic is probably the best-known ship in the world — and it didn’t even complete its maiden voyage! Among its illustrious passengers, not all of whom survived, were American mogul John Jacob Astor and his young wife Madeleine; industrialist Benjamin Guggenheim; Isidor Straus, the owner of Macy’s Department Store; and Denver socialite Molly Brown, who would survive and forever after be known as “the Unsinkable Molly Brown.”

Whether or not the boast “God Himself couldn’t sink the Titanic” is accurate or apocryphal hardly matters; the Titanic was truly one of the most magnificent examples of 20th century progress and industry, but at the end of the day that was not enough to save her — or the majority of her passengers.

The esteemed music label Sony Classical will also commemorate the anniversary of Titanic and the theatrical 3-D re-release of Cameron’s Titanic, with the release of two soundtracks: Titanic: Anniversary Edition and Titanic: Collector’s Anniversary Edition, both of which are now availanle.

Titanic: Anniversary Edition includes both composer/conductor James Horner’s Oscar-winning score for the film, now digitally remastered, as well as “I Salonisti: Gentlemen, It Has Been a Privilege Playing with You Tonight,” which is the actual playlist performed by the ship’s band (on deck) as the ship sank, including “Marguerite Waltz,” “Blue Danube,” “Barcarole” and, as has been depicted in several films about the disaster, “Nearer My God to Thee.”

Titanic: Collector’s Anniversary Edition includes the score and “I Salonisti,” as well as the digitally remastered Back to Titanic score and “Popular Music from the Titanic Era,” which includes such tunes as “It’s a Long Way to Tipperary,” “Let Me Call You Sweetheart,” “Shine On, Harvest Moon” and others.

A much sunnier celebration this year is that of acclaimed composer John Williams’ 80th birthday, and Sony Masterworks offers a melodic happy birthday with the release of A Tribute to John Williams: An 80th Birthday Celebration, which is also now available.

Over a career that spans 60 years, and still continues today, Williams has established himself as one of the true giants in motion-picture scores. He has won five Academy Awards (Fiddler on the Roof, Jaws, Star Wars, ET – The Extra-Terrestrial, Schindler’s List) and earned nearly 50 nominations overall — even his score for Home Alone earned a nomination!

Williams’ countless honors include more than 20 Grammy Awards and a Kennedy Center Honor in 2004. For 14 seasons he served as the music director for the Boston Pops Orchestra. Steven Spielberg has used Williams on almost every one of his films — an arrangement that has certainly worked out well for both of them.

The new CD features selections from some of Williams’ most memorable creations, including Star Wars, Jaws, 1941, Memoirs of a Geisha, The Adventures of Tintin, and even the theme from the “NBC Nightly News”!

For more information about these and other Sony Classical titles, the official website is: www.sonymusic.com.

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