Casual fans will know John Williams from his most famous films...perhaps the Star Wars series, or the Indiana Jones series. Or maybe the iconic Jaws theme. There are so many films that are associated with his work, it's tough to limit it to just one, and therein lies the issue with this set. On the one hand, this is an amazing introduction to the work of Williams in a broader sense. In addition to the above, he also scored vastly different films, such as Schindler's List, JFK and 1941. The man has worked on such a vast variety of films, it's easy to overlook some great work, or not even realize a particular score was his. This is what makes this collection so great, it provides a sample of twenty-eight different film scores, turning it into something of a John Williams primer. One might look at the films I have mentioned, and completely forget just how iconic his Superman theme was, or that he won an Academy Award for E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial...one of the five that he has won. It's a bit humbling to note that he has been nominated forty-nine times; this collection only represents twenty-eight films. So this set hits some of the truly best of his work.
But this is also the biggest problem with the set. Williams' work is so much more than just a single song. This set will give you, perhaps, the lead song, or the most familiar of a film. But you will be missing the rest of the score. It's like having a film collection that only contains the opening credits or the first scene. To really appreciate the Star Wars score, you need more than just the opening theme. The main Superman theme may be the one you play most, may be far and away the best song, but the same can't be said for Empire of the Sun, or Rosewood.
It's tough to complain about this set, or anything containing John Williams' work. If you are looking to delve into it, this is a good place to start. It will lead you to a series of rabbit holes to travel down...so many great orchestral works to explore, this will give you a good start on many of them, and let you decide if you want to continue exploring the full work. Many of these just barely scratch the surface...it's impossible to get a full grasp of what he did for Close Encounters of the Third Kind with just a single song. Everyone will have their own preferences here, songs or films they like better than others, but there really is something for everyone here. The only complaint is that the kind of work he does can't be limited to a four-minute song, but the kind of collection this is doesn't lend itself to full movie scores. So this may play a bit unevenly...it's a little strange to hear the Imperial March and the Schnindler's List theme back-to-back...but ultimately, you are getting a sampler of some of the absolute best orchestral composing ever done for film, and it's a pretty special set than can say that.