The Empire Strikes Back Symphonic Suite Gets First Repressing Since 1980

Star Wars fans have been waiting a long time to hear the music of the movie’s memorable theme, “The Imperial March,” executed in full symphonic glory. Last night, the wait ended. Under the direction of the L.A.-based Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra performed a “world premiere” of “The Imperial March,” a 27-minute overture to the film composed by John Williams, and conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas.

This is the first symphony that will be receiving this treatment since the 1980 copyright protection law was enacted.

The Empire Strikes Back (note the capitalization) is a score by John Williams, written and recorded for the movie Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back. The symphony was released in 1980, three years after the first film and eight years after the second film. The score was written over the course of 1978 to 1980, with the first recording session occurring on December 11, 1979. The score was composed during a time of major financial and political turmoil for Williams, who had been fired from Disney in 1979 over his decision to compose the score for Lucas’ film. The symphony has proved to be a commercial success, earning over $200 million in CD sales. It is also the most performed symphonic work worldwide,

Few film soundtracks are as famous as Star Wars: A New Hope, but some would argue that Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back is even better, thanks to the inclusion of engaging music like “The Imperial March.” The Empire Strikes Back’s Symphonic Suite has been out of print since 1980, with Varèse Sarabande Records reissuing it on vinyl for the first time in 40 years. John Williams created the suite for live performance, with the single LP showcasing the breadth and scope of the whole soundtrack’s achievements. Varèse Sarabande Records has a copy of the Symphonic Suite available now.

The album is described by Varèse Sarabande Records as follows: “This 1-LP release skillfully combines a ‘Symphonic Suite’ that John Williams created for concert performance with new arrangements of other cues from the film score. It was originally released to supplement – not compete with – the 2-LP Motion Picture Soundtrack of Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back. The original famous Star Wars paintings by William Stout, pictures of John Williams, and comments from author Ray Bradbury, composer and critic Christopher Palmer, and the maestro himself are included in this wonderful, long-out-of-print CD. Since the first printing in 1980, this album has been out of print. Black vinyl pressing, 180 gr.”

“Because I am a huge admirer of Charles Gerhardt’s recorded performances, I was ecstatic when he asked if he might record the suite from The Empire Strikes Back. Furthermore, I was so impressed with his recordings of the original Star Wars and Close Encounters [of the Third Kind] soundtracks, which he produced in collaboration with producer George Korngold, that I was particularly looking forward to this LP “Williams remembered something. “The Suite, which I had composed and modified specifically for concert performance […] had been expertly combined with other music from the film to create a cohesive whole. Gerhardt’s rich tone and dramatic phrasing combine to provide a superb contribution to a fast expanding list of outstanding film music recordings.”

(Varèse Sarabande Records photo)

The following is the track listing for the Symphonic Suite:

Side One

  1. Fox Fanfare from the Twentieth Century (0:21)
  2. The Imperial Probe/Main Title (5:25)
  3. Luke’s First Accident (2:29)
  4. The Princess And Han Solo (4:26)
  5. The Field of Asteroids (4:12)
  6. The Jedi Knight’s Education And “May The Force Be With You” (1:56)
  7. The Battle For Snow (3:06)

Side Two

  1. Imperial Marches (3:21)
  2. The Mysterious Tree (3:38)
  3. Theme of Yoda (3:34)
  4. The Rebels are on the run once again (3:01)
  5. The Duel (Through The Window) in Lando’s Palace (5:01)
  6. Lastly (4:39)

Varèse Sarabande Records has a copy of the Symphonic Suite available now.

Are you planning to add the album to your collection? Let us know in the comments section below, or reach out to Patrick Cavanaugh on Twitter to discuss all things horror and Star Wars!

A quick reminder: last week, we wrote about the historic absence of The Empire Strikes Back on the Billboard 200 – the last album to reach No. 1 without the help of a Hollywood soundtrack. The Empire Strikes Back is the third-most-played of all time, after The Beatles’ Abbey Road and Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon. So, obviously, no one could really be surprised that a vinyl pressing of the album would sell out within seconds of its 7-inch vinyl release.. Read more about hal leonard star wars and let us know what you think.

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