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John Williams’ movie music magic gets the Dolby Atmos treatment it deserves

John Williams fans are about to be able to experience the famed composer’s music in a way that was previously impossible unless you went to the theaters or one of his live concerts.

John Williams Live in Vienna, a live concert performance of Williams’ most notable movie scores — from Star Wars to Jurassic Park —  is coming to Amazon Music HD and Blu-ray from Deutsche Grammophon on August 14. It’s hardly the first time the famous composer’s music has been performed live, but it is one of the few times it has been recorded and mixed in Dolby Atmos Music, the same immersive audio format used in theaters — and, increasingly, in people’s homes.

John Williams
Deutsche Grammophon

The concert, which was performed and recorded in January, was Williams’ European conducting debut. He led the Wiener Philharmoniker at the famous Musikverein concert hall in Vienna. Virtuoso violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter accompanied the orchestra, playing music that Williams had specially adapted for her.

When played on a home theater system equipped with Dolby Atmos, the album should help listeners get a better sense of what it would have been like to be sitting among the audience.

“There are so many wonderful details and spatial effects in classical music that are lost in the standard stereo mix,” Deutsche Grammophon President Clemens Trautmann said in a press release. He points out that these effects are made audible through Dolby Atmos, “adding another dimension to the listening experience.”

The tracks of John Williams Live in Vienna read like a list of Hollywood’s greatest hits, and run just over one hour and 15 minutes:

  • The Flight to Neverland from Hook
  • Excerpts from Close Encounters of the Third Kind
  • Hedwig’s Theme from Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone
  • Theme from Sabrina
  • Donnybrook Fair from Far and Away
  • Devil’s Dance from The Witches of Eastwick
  • Adventures on Earth from E.T. 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 Raiders of the Lost Ark from Raiders of the Lost Ark
  • Raiders March from Raiders of the Lost Ark
  • The Rebellion is Reborn from Star Wars: The Last Jedi
  • Luke & Leia from Star Wars: Return of the Jedi
  • Main Title from Star Wars: A New Hope
  • The Imperial March from Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back
  • Nice to be Around from Cinderella Liberty
  • The Duel from The Adventures of Tintin
  • The Secret of the Unicorn from The Adventures of Tintin
  • Remembrances from Schindler’s List

We can’t think of any music that is more deserving of the Dolby Atmos treatment than the works of John Williams. Unfortunately, unless you buy the Blu-ray, you may not get to experience the full impact of John Williams Live in Vienna. Although it’s available in Dolby Atmos via Amazon Music HD, Amazon’s Echo Studio is the only device that will let you hear the music in this format. The Echo Studio is a great smart speaker, but it can’t compare to a full 5.1.2 or better Dolby Atmos home theater.

Tidal also offers Dolby Atmos Music tracks via its HiFi service tier, and it works on home theaters via an Apple TV 4K, but for the moment, there are no plans to release John Williams Live in Vienna on Tidal.

The Blu-ray costs $36 and is available on Amazon.

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Simon Cohen
Contributing Editor, A/V
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