More than with most other artists, the greatest-hits format works well for Australian guitarist John Williams: an accumulation of his short pieces gives a feeling for the incredible control and care not only of his own playing, but of any recording project in which he was involved. The recordings on this anthology date from between 1974 and 2000, but the large majority are from the '90s. So it's not a survey of Williams' entire career, yet it does give you a feel for the artist. There's a loose division between the two parts of the program, with the film score excerpts and most of the famous Spanish guitar-and-orchestra pieces on part 1, while part 2 is more focused on small, intricate chamber pieces. Williams' attention to detail invariably extended to sound, and that posed a challenge for Sony's remastering engineers here. With just a few exceptions (the Vivaldi
concerto movement on CD 1 seems to come out of nowhere), the program holds together remarkably well sonically. The performances provide fresh reminders of Williams' abilities as an arranger beyond his nonpareil technical gifts. To be impressed on both counts, sample his version of "The Entertainer" (from the film The Sting
) on CD 1, which has the freshness and symmetry of a Renaissance dance. This is as good as any other place to start with arguably the greatest classical guitarist of his generation.