By Roald van der Laan
Listening to the score I began to realise how much I actually LOVE Hedwig’s Theme. For all those who think the score is drowned with it; fear not – Hedwig’s Theme is just there for a few moments… But that isn’t actually a good thing. I’ll get on to that later…
A few notes about the score:
Because I haven’t seen the film yet it’s very hard to determine which belongs to who and what. Remember The Patriot violin theme and everybody initially thought it was the Family Theme? It turned out to be the Love Theme from that film. So when I call something Harry Potter’s Theme it could actually be Hermoine’s Theme or something in the film…
I noticed the following themes:
The Prologue Theme: this is the celesta melody as heard in the opening track or at the start of “Hedwig’s Theme”. It’s definatly part of Hedwig’s Theme and linked to the most famous piece from the film.
Hedwig’s Theme A: the waltz we all know from the trailers. It’s the best theme from the film.
Hedwig’s Theme B: the more action-orientated part from the concert arrangement. It’s used several times throughout the score.
Harry Potter’s Theme A: this melody is heard at the beginning and end of “Harry’s Wondrous World”. A gentle, string based melody similar to “Anakin’s Theme” fromThe Phantom Menace. Not very catchy.
Harry Potter’s Theme B: Another moving theme, close to Harry’s A theme, but this melody is more developed and more powerful. It’s heard in “Harry’s Wondrous World” and best in “A Change Of Season”. It’s close to being gorgeous, but never fully realises it’s potential.
Hogwarth’s Theme: actually the most up-lifting, most Star Wars-like theme of all themes in the film. Heard first in “Harry’s Wondrous World”, but best in “The Quidditch Match”, the melody that follows the fanfare at the beginning.
There are some motives that appear ones or twice and could have more significance in the film.
The first 5 tracks represent the best of Harry Potter’s musical soundscape. Saddly; the soundtrack never picks up from here and instead becomes a somewhat boring experience (with the exception of a few tracks).
A perfect opening. Hedwig’s Theme not too developed. This is the best opening any soundtrack could wish for.
2. Harry’s Wondrous World
Three themes noticable. A good, but rather (too?) complex concert suite.
3. The Arrival of Baby Harry
The best track from the album. The ‘build-up choral effect’ is the best musical statement this album has to offer. It’s so perfect! Hedwig’s Theme is greatly used.
4. Visit to the Zoo and Letters from Hogwarts
Some great variations on Hedwig’s Theme.
5. Diagon Alley and The Gringotts Vault
The first track without Hedwig’s Theme. The choral effect at the end is very dark and creepy.
6. Platform Nine-and-Three-Quarters and The Journey to Hogwarts
A playful melody opens this track. Hedwig’s Theme is arranged fabulously with choir! The ending is, again, playful and light.
7. Entry into the Great Hall and The Banquet
Playful opening. Added choir (short). Hogwart’s Theme is heard. Ends with rather dark theme.
8. Mr. Longbottom Flies
Hedwig’s Theme B comes into play! And to great use! A slightly action piece, but not all the way.
9. Hogwarts Forever! and The Moving Stairs
A rather silly, “Reivers”-like rendition of Hogwarth’s Theme opens this track. A little unnoticable choir is added later before it turns into a sort of machine-like rhythm is introduced. Hedwig’s Theme appears.
10. The Norwegian Ridgeback and A Change of Season
Another playful opening. It turns dark and distant. Then a great version of Harry’s B Theme is heard. Fully developed and quite beautiful.
11. The Quidditch Match
THE only real action music. Hogwarth’s Theme as a fanfare leads us into one of Williams most exciting action-pieces, albeit it a bit melodically-hollow.
12. Christmas at Hogwarts
An irresistable opening! Actually a real song; ghost (or whatever) singing stuff like “Merry christmas, merry christmas”, etc.). Very, very weird, but I’m sure it will the fit the film very well. This track ends very mysteriously.
13. The Invisibility Cloak and The Library Scene
Very eerie and dark opening. Hedwig’s Theme is played mysterious too. We also hear Harry’s B Theme, before it turns into a rather energetic piece.
14. Fluffy’s Harp
One word: weird. I couldn’t really get into it.
15. In the Devil’s Snare and The Flying Keys
16. The Chess Game
Energetic piece. Great percussion effects!
17. The Face of Voldemort
This track shows how close Hedwig’s Theme is actually related to The Imperial March from The Empire Strikes Back. You’ll hear… Very funny!
18. Leaving Hogwarts
A nice ender. Features Hedwig’s and Harry’s Themes.
19. Hedwig’s Theme
The familiar concert arrangement.
The score is good. But aside from Hedwig’s Theme, it doesn’t have that immediate knock-out effect. Too many tracks are way too subdued or lacking in thematic material to be enjoyed on John Williams level from the past.
The latter tracks would have benefited immensly from Hedwig’s Theme appearing more. The first are so wonderful because of Hedwig’s Theme, especially accompanied by the choir. That effect is totally abscent after track 6, 7. I’m sure in the film, the score will work much better throughout the picture.
Oh, and any comparison with Hook doesn’t really hold. Hook had such amazing tracks like “Remembering Childhood”, “You Are The Pan” or “Farewell Neverland”. This just isn’t that kind of score, I guess. It never reaches THAT level.
But Harry Potter is work to be proud of nonetheless. Williams found the perfect theme for the film, but judging the score from the CD soundtrack, I think it’s safe to conclude that it doesn’t live up to the standards the theme had already set for us. Perhaps those standards were too high to begin with.
Harry Potter **** (out of *****)
By Chris ‘ChrusherComix’
Much hype and discussion has been made about Harry Potter & The Sorcerer’s Stone. Many people have read the book (and it’s companion novels) that the movie is based upon, and the vast majority of those loved them all.
When John Williams was announced as the composer, I was pleased. Mr. Williams hasn’t had a good opportunity to score a fantasy film since Hook, or Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, which I both loved. So… to me, a lifelong Williams fan in his twenties… his action-packed fantasy scores are among, his best, and led me to wait happily and yet patiently for the release.
First off… there is some dispute towards the fact that the main theme in this score, Hedwigs Theme, was used too much. Indeed… in the samples that were released before the album, one could say that it was a possibility. But upon listening to the entire soundtrack, these accusations, at least to me, have been proven false.
A theme must be heard often enough in the film to be recognized by even the most casual of movie goers that don’t listen to film scores, while not laid on so thick that it becomes tedious and bothersome. Perfect case scenario would be to be used extensively upon introduction, quoted when needed, getting more subtle, then mainly used as more of a ‘knockout punch’ or even a punch-line as the movie goes on (and any subsequent sequels).
One must remember, that we listen to the music on a CD so we fear one theme used too much. However, most people do not. A children’s movie should have a repetitive theme. I think that Williams has done an excellent job… dare I say ‘perfect’ in this scenario. I am hoping that many young kids go out and buy this CD and become future fans of instrumental film music, which is, like it or not, generally the most ignored of all music genres.
Time will tell if I like it better than A.I. or The Phantom Menace, but I know that I already like it better than The Patriot, Angela’s Ashes, Saving Private Ryan,Stepmom, Amistad, and other mid to late nineties works. This is the type of modern Williams score I love… one like The Phantom Menace, The Lost World, and A.I., one that seemingly cast from the molds from his late seventies & early eighties works… scores of magical themes and energetic action cues, while employing the beautiful, rich, and complex orchestration of his more mature nineties works.
The result? The perfect balance between old and new Williams, which is possibly better here than The Phantom Menace, which to me was the previous best example of this. As someone who craves the magical music of his golden era of the late seventies and early eighties… this, to me at least, is a triumph.
I love Harry’s Wonderful World, Diagon Alley, The Face Of Voldemort, and The Chess Game. This, after already liking The Quidditch Match, and absolutely loving the sweeping Hedwig’s Theme from the samples that we had been hearing online. Christmas At Hogwarts is very Elfman-like, and heck… I’ll admit… it spooked me upon first listen. But it’s definitely fun. These cues I thoroughly enjoyed upon my first few spins in the CD player. Of course, with more listens, another track or two will doubtlessly jump out at me, as most Williams scores do.
All the music sounds very good, interweaving several Williams-esqe themes with the lush underscore… making it interesting, and never once boring, which many scores (no matter the composer) can do.
At times, I imagine Mr. Williams, the grand wise bearded wizard mixing up a splendid concoction of magic for us all. A dash of Hook here. A sprinkle of The Witches Of Eastwick and a random Star Wars score there. Throw in some of The Fury, Home Alone,, and some classical pieces, including some Christmas songs… and BOOM! … the most fun I’ve had listening to a film score in years!
This isn’t a Williams score that goes lower than expectations. In fact it meets… if not exceeds mine.
But… I must admit. I’m not all pleased. After all, think of all the brilliant music that we are possibly missing with only seventy three minutes out of the one hundred and twenty that we have heard about?! A terrible problem. Oh well.. I guess we can’t have it all.
Well, at least… not yet.
— Christopher “ChrusherComix” Galletta
By Alex Mayer
‘Is It Magic Or Just Williams’ Creative Power?’
Many reviews have said that the score is a mix between Hook and Home Alone; in my opinion it’s not, and I’ll tell you why.
First of all, one needs to understand that John Williams, from when he became famous (Jaws, Star Wars) has evolved as a musician and composer, so he can’t compose as he did 20 years ago. Second, his recent work to some fans has been less magical than before, but consider that the maestro is taking more projects now than ever; between films and concert works the man is swamped and still finds a way to create some of the best music in film.
The score for Harry Potter is a mixed bag of themes and harmony, if you listen to the score closely. For example, track 2 has some small traces from the “Leaving Home” theme from Superman – The Movie, there is a small scherzo in track 5 that is very cleverly orchestrated that reminds us of the theme for a character in The Phantom Menace, and track 11 (“The Quidditch Match”) is a blend of Indiana Jones meets Peter Pan.
All in all I think Maestro Williams is also letting us know what the score for the second Star Wars film (Attack of the Clones) could be like. Listen to tracks 13 through 17 and you might see why I say this.
In conclusion, I must say that only John Williams magic could have come up with this score for Harry Potter, and that is a treat for everyone that enjoys good films and classical music.
— Alex Mayer
By Chris ‘Janrog’
John Williams’ latest score is a breath of relief for those who lament the use of subtlety in today’s film scores. Harry Potter provides a rich palette for Williams to take out all the stops and truly let his composing imagination soar beyond his latest fare of subtle efforts. AI is a superb work of musical sadness, but in terms of detail in orchestration, it lacks the dynamite punch that makes it a 5-star standalone listen.
Not only is Harry Potter as richly detailed as Hook or Phantom Menace, but it surpasses even those two modern Williams masterpieces in two ways: 1) It is better recorded by Simon Rhodes. The Atmosphere is terrific and grandiose, shedding the commercial balances heard in almost every score besides Saving Private Ryan sinceThe River. 2) More importantly, Williams dips into the same brain sector that composed Treesong and Variations on Happy Birthday, a real first for this longtime listener.
His concert mind is not left out of the equation merely for the sake of Williams’ longterm assertion that “In Film, you can’t compose as though the audience is going to be listening to whether this note is going to that, or the things you think of when you compose for the concert stage.”
This has been a long time coming, and we have heard hints of it here and there, but I do think that Harry Potter marks the first time we have heard something like “Diagon Alley” or “Hogwarts Forever” in his film music. The unconventional harmonies even permeate into the little christmasy moments, putting them far above and beyond the cheesecake christmas world of Home Alone.
Well, that said, I think anyone who complains about Hedwig’s theme being dominant could realize that Hedwig’s theme is not one tune but a medley of 3 or 4. So just because it is contained within Hedwig’s theme doesn’t mean it is one motif. It would be like if the end credits of The Empire Strikes Back were titled “ESB theme” and everyone complained that whenever they heard Yoda’s theme, Vader’s theme, or the Love theme, or the Main theme, “ESB theme was overly used.” Puffins!!! (my exclamation of disregard for such ideas)
Who ever said this was a one theme score is sorely mistaken. First off, I can’t even count how many themes I have heard so far and I’m on track 10, which starts with the baby Norwegian Ridgeback’s little theme to what I think is Harry’s theme for the change of seasons, and oh my God, how beautiful… There’s a Bad motif, first heard in track 5, which I think develops into a theme in the quidditch match unless that is even another theme.
Hogwarts has a theme which is in “Hogwarts Forever”, a brass quartet that is very advanced writing, and that theme is heard throughout as well. “Hogwarts Forever” is more classically written but it is more film like in the other tracks. The other really inventive thing is the use of the medieval to renaissance instruments in “Diagon Alley” yet writing it in 20th century style. Very clever. There are quite a few other themes so far but having only listen once halfway through the score, I can’t recall where they were. There’s too much to listen to. The brass fanfare in “The Quidditch Match” is even better on CD…
OK, “Christmas at Hogwarts”…. Very Ghoulish and funny.. From what I can take it’s the Ghosts singing, maybe the ghosts from the different houses… as in Nearly Headless Nick, The Grey Lady, etc etc… Before and after it is a very “Home Alone” Christmas feeling sort of music for a few bars. A lot of “white noise” for the invisibility cloak, so well done, with extremely low male voices underneath if i can recall. “Fluffy’s Harp” (Fluffy is the three headed dog) is a duet for harp and contra-bassoon duet, which has it’s own sound, voice, what-have you, and is another one of those Williams things he does, and yet another theme for a character.
I love both tracks 15 and 16… A lot of stuff going on in there…. Oh yes, track 17, “The Face of Voldemort”… that three note Motif… tonic, up a minor third and then down to the major 7th ie: C-Eb-B… Am I saying too much?
All my best, and in my book, Williams doing (at least for me) what he does best. And it’s about time. Is it like Hook, yes and no, I’ll let you be the judge of that. It has a lot of things going on, and I know it seemed like “Hedwigs Theme” is the score but it isn’t. It is there, a lot of it is there, but so were the themes in Hook. You heard them all over the place. But you also hear the other themes all the time too. And a lot of “Chase” music too, which I love. OK, bye for now.
By Peter Marks
As soon as my lectures were over today, I rushed out and bought the Harry Potter soundtrack – I believe its out here (UK) a day before you guys get it (well its about time we get something before you do!) Firstly, the performance of “Hedwig’s Theme” itself is worth the price of the CD! We’ve only heard crappy recordings of rare recordings or bits from the trailer before, but now we get treated to the whole glorious piece in full quality. It seriously makes every hair on your body stand up on end. I do not exaggerate.
As for the whole score, well it certainly has many more moments where hairs will stand up independently of room temperature. There are moments of darkness, of humour, of action, and of pure magic.
The track of tracks has to be “The Chess Game”, where Williams uses percussion in his most original way yet. Hear it to believe it. “The Face of Voldemort” represents the kind of climax to a film/score that we have not been treated to since the time of Raiders of the Lost Ark. The climax to this track leaves you breathless.
As for repetition of previous styles (an issue raised more than once by JW fans), well, almost every style of JW is revisited in this score. From the eerieness of the swamps of Dagobah, through the evil march of Nazi forces, through to the excitement of Far and Away and even instrumental delights of more recent films like The Phantom Menace and Angela’s Ashes, we see them all here on this album. This may be seen by some as repetition, but every composer has their style. My other favourite composer, Prokofiev, certainly had his, but his music was no less great. The influence of many such composers can be seen throughout this score.
Downsides? You’re right, there must be some. My particular pet hate is the use of brass figures heard most prominently in The Patriot. These are few and far between. However, they just irritate the hell out of me! I guess as a string player I would say that. Finally, the use of voices is to great effect. The magic we felt in the ‘Otoh Gunga’ music from Phantom Menace is utilised here in a few tracks. Reminiscent of Tchaikovsky, this sends chills right up my spine.
I fail to imagine how this score could disappoint JW fans and classical music followers in general. It truly is a magical CD that I will not be removing from my player for a very long time to come…
— Peter Marks
‘Harry Potter – Williams magic!‘
John Williams’ latest score for the much-anticipated Harry Potter movie has been subject to much discussion between fans – has Williams lost the magic touch? Not at all. I have now listened to this score 3-4 times and it is like many other Williams scores – it grows on you. When I first heard Hook I wasn’t that excited, however it is now probably my favourite Williams score. So what is Harry Potter like? The form of it is very much like Star Wars – it is like a fullblown, rich symphony for the silver screen. When Williams wrote some time ago that things were ‘really cooking right now’, I can really understand what he was talking about. The Harry Potter score must be one of his most complex ones. The orchestrations are extremely rich – some people complain that they are over-complicated – no way! This is what makes Williams, Williams. His orchestrations have always been extremely full and interesting – you can find stuff in there that you didn’t notice before, after many listens. Other ‘big’ Hollywood composers, and I won’t mention any names, have some good themes, yes, but their orchestrations are often so boring and straightforward that I can’t keep the interest for more than a few minutes – tops. Describing the score stylistically with reference to other Williams scores, I’d call it a combination of Hook, Home Alone and E.T.
The only two criticisms I have about this score are that 1) Some cues are very ‘flimsy’ – change style a lot of times over just a few minutes which makes the score not so full on loooooooong, romantic themes. Also some of the cues’ endings are a bit uninspiring and sudden. 2) There ARE resemblances to themes in other scores, especially Star Wars and Hook. one of the themes even begins with the same 7 notes as one of the main themes from Hook, only the rhythm is changed. I doubt that Williams has done this on purpose though. Also track #6 resembles something we know from Star Wars a lot….
However, all in all this is a magical journey through some of Williams’ most interesting compositions and orchestrations – and I am sure the score works wonders in the movie – I can’t wait to see how it plays! This is Williams at his best, and proves that he is still the king of adventurous music.
Special mention should also go to the performance and most of all the RECORDING. I really hope Williams takes notice – this is how it should be done. Get rid of hyped Shawn Murphy – this recording by Simon Rhodes has so much better resolution, clarity and fullness than any recent Williams recording
Ok, I picked up the Harry Potter CD on my to work this morning (I’m in the UK) and having listened to it a number of times now I thought I’d chirp in with a mini review…
To sum the soundtrack up, I’d say that it’s basically a lifeless Hook, with only a fraction of the themes.
Hedwig’s theme is great, but it’s overused. A few of the other tracks are ok too, but they definitely sound like Williams-on-auto.
The one thing I’ve always liked about John Williams is that (at least as far as his classic soundtracks are concerned) none of his music sounds like generic background filler – it’s always a great listening experience in its own right. I’m afraid that this is not the case with Harry Potter. I’d almost go so far as to say that it is quite tedious (again, Hedwig’s theme is an exception).
Still, even bad Williams is generally a cut above the work of many other composers (cough, cough… James Horner, Jerry Goldsmith… Cough) so perhaps it isn’t all bad. ;)
In many ways, the soundtrack is a victim of its own hype. Perhaps I’ll appreciate it more when my initial disapointment has gone.