There may not have been any popcorn for sale but there was a palpable feeling of movie magic when megastar violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter made a welcome return to Sydney Symphony Orchestra for a night of music by John Williams, featuring a concerto written for the German virtuoso.

There were also some second features on offer with excerpts from Bernard Herrmann’s gripping soundtrack to Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo, Nino Rota’s lushly romantic suite from The Leopard and Australian composer Nigel Westlake’s delightful Flying Dream suite from the 2015 movie Paper Planes.

Anne-Sophie Mutter. Photo © Deutsche Grammophon

Williams started out on his first violin concerto more than 50 years ago, after his wife actress Barbara Ruick died in 1974. Now almost 50 years later his second concerto, premiered at the Tanglewood Festival in Massachusetts, is a musical tribute to another woman in his life.

“I can only think of this piece as being about Anne-Sophie Mutter, and the violin itself,” Williams says. “While writing, I recalled her flair for an infectious rhythmic swagger that is particularly her own.”

The 35-minute work may come as a surprise to people who only know Williams for his...