CD: Complete Harry Potter Film Music Collection, The (2012) – 2 CDs

June 7, 2012 | By

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Rating: Excellent

Label: Silva Screen / Released: March 26, 2012

Tracks & Album Length: CD1: 17 tracks / (63:56) + CD2: 17 tracks / (56:10)


Special Notes: 8-page colour booklet with liner notes by David Wishart.


Composer: John Williams, Patrick Doyle, Nicholas Hooper, Alexandre Desplat




Silva Screen’s 2-disc compilation wisely separates John Williams’ scores for the first 3 films from the remaining five to create two distinct programs featuring themes culled from the monster franchise.

With more than 8 hours of music to distill into a 2-hour minute retrospective, CD1 focuses on the core themes in their purest form, starting with “Hedwig” and its canted melody, and “Harry’s Wondrous World,” itself an amalgam of fanciful heroic sections which Williams easily reconfigures into romantic variations.

The Potter scores do address moments of fantasy, terror, wonderment, and youthful camaraderie, but Williams’ instrumentation also take all the subtext of friendship and individual & group experiences and places them front & center, ensuring audiences are directly involved with the complex mythology designed by author J.K. Rowling.

Williams’ Potter scores maintain continuity by sticking to the huge orchestral palette, giving the characters’ odyssey a similarly epic sound, with moments of extraordinary grandeur and bouts of intimacy. Not unlike his1978 Superman score (which set the gold standard for that franchise, but wasn’t wholly carried forward by other composers in the sequels), melody is king, and most of the cues are designed to propel screen action using swirling, eddying, spiraling motifs, with waves of low tones and little gestures to accent specific moods (such as the furtive nature of “The Chamber of Secrets,” which owes a little to Williams’ deliciously grim Dracula). Also memorable are the fine details in cues where it’s just a theme statement, yet the nuances in the all-woodwind “Nimbus 2000” are filled with an amazing level of wit and merriment.

The shift to a new group of composers for the remaining five films in the franchise may seem like a bold move – virtually each James Bond installment since Tomorrow Never Dies (1997) has been scored by David Arnold – but unlike the Bond films which only need to maintain continuity by quoting and riffing Monty Norman’s theme however the composers see fit, the Potter films mandated a large orchestral scope, strong themes, and tonal shading that specifically comments on the changes in the aging lead characters, as well as the increasing darkness which permeated later installments.

Patrick Doyle’s approach for Part 4 is steeped in Celtic themes with heavy strings and thunderous organic percussion, but he also distinguishes his approach from Williams’ more florid style by adding sly minimalist touches (note the cyclical string figures in “Foreign Visitors Arrive”), not to mention his own knack for evoking dark psychologies.

Doyle’s score is given the bigger showcase on CD2, perhaps because its style establishes the darker tone for the disc, and its suite format & lengthy theme versions are less jarring for the listener after a heavy dose of ebullient Williams on CD1. Balancing the grim cues like “Black Lake” is the regal “Neville’s Waltz,” the brassy (and very British) “Hogwarts March,” and the string-saturated “Harry in Winter,” subtly ornamented with glockenspiel hits.

After the regal “Hogwarts Hymn,” CD2 moves into the remaining scores, of which Parts 5 & 6 were scored by Nicholas Hooper who reintegrates Williams’ main themes, and some new material, including the gilded & bombastic “Professor Umbridge,” the celtic-styled, thunderous “Flight of the Order of the Phoenix,” and “Loved Ones and Leaving,” which closes the suite on a very pensive theme statement.

The CD’s final three cues pay homage to the remaining Potter Parts, starting with Hooper’s mournful “Dumbledore’s Farewell,” and two theme extracts from Alexandre Desplat’s “Obviate” and “Lily’s Theme” from Parts 7 and 8. Even though the last 3 films are given singular theme representation, they form a fitting close to the franchise, recapping main themes, and certainly from a mood stance, wrapping up the characters’ journey.

As a 2-hour musical journey, it’s quite surprising how the narrative moves from bubbly and pubescently giddy towards darker terrain, and closes with grim themes tied to death and grievous loss.



© 2012 Mark R. Hasan


External References:

IMDB Soundtrack AlbumComposer Filmography


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