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STAR WARS follow-up

20 July 2019

In March of 2017 when I wrote about the first few bars of John Williams’s STAR WARS main title, I knew that it would inevitably be my most-read postand it has certainly been that.  In a matter of days, it had prompted a thoughtful and probing response by blogger Brendan Finan.  I have been delighted to be part of that conversation, and that the conversation continues.  A few days ago, I was contacted with someone with answers to my lingering questions.  Although I am not at liberty to identify my correspondent, I am able to relate the information here:

I just came across your blog post about the variations in different takes of Star Wars main title. I’ve been interested in this too for a while, and was actually able to find answers to some of your questions:
Yes, all the differences in the different takes were accomplished from the podium. i.e. All the takes were made from the same set of parts. I’ve actually been able to see where ‘tacet’ was written in at the beginning of the violin part for take 20, and where the pickup into the first measure was crossed out. Surprisingly, no one seems to know where the full score for the original main title is, but all the original orchestra parts are accounted for. 
John Williams almost never does his own orchestrations, but his sketches tend to be extremely detailed. Conrad Pope, who has worked a lot with him as an orchestrator, has said it’s practically a copyist job.
Here’s the original instrumentation, which is considerably bigger than the published version:
3 Flutes  /  3 Oboes  /  3 Clarinets  /  3 Bassoons
6 Horns  /  4 Trumpets  /  4 Trombones  /  2 Tubas
3 Percussion parts (Timp was Perc 1)
2 Harps  /  2 Pianos
   /  [Strings] 
All the subsequent films used the published score, so they incorporate whatever changes were made for publication.
Some other changes really stood out to me between this and other versions:
The first few takes use suspended cymbal, rather than crash cymbals (piatti). The suspended cymbal was no longer necessary once the pickup bar with cymbal roll was eliminated.
Bar 51 has a prominent descending scalar passage in the timpani part, which never appeared in the published version or any subsequent recording.

Another surprise is that in the initial G-flat chord of the first three takes, the timpani is actually rolling a low F.   Now that I know that, it is clear enough to my ears; indeed the other bass instruments may well be on the F as well.

Many thanks to my name-withheld source for this enlightenment.