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Section Header
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Common Cover

Variation Cover

Composed and Produced by:
John Williams

Adapted and Conducted by:
William Ross

Orchestrated by:
Eddie Karam
Conrad Pope

Performed by:
The London Symphony Orchestra

The London Voices

Atlantic Records

Release Date:
November 12th, 2002

Also See:
Harry Potter and the Socerer's Stone
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial
Home Alone
Star Wars: The Phantom Menace

Audio Clips:
3. The Chamber of Secrets (0:30):
WMA (195K)  MP3 (241K)
Real Audio (150K)

5. The Flying Car (0:30):
WMA (197K)  MP3 (242K)
Real Audio (150K)

14. Meeting Tom Riddle (0:28):
WMA (182K)  MP3 (223K)
Real Audio (138K)

18. Dueling The Basilisk (0:30):
WMA (197K)  MP3 (243K)
Real Audio (151K)

Regular U.S. release. The albums have five different exterior covers, but they all contain the same inner cover (shown above as the "Common Cover"). The variation covers include one each of Harry, Hermione, Ron, Hagrid, and Dumbledore. The Harry cover is shown above as well. While none of the covers has been reportedly shortprinted, the Dumbledore cover has sold with more frequency than the others (according to statistics from national retail outlets).

  Nominated for a Grammy Award.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
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Buy it... if you intend to own all of John Williams' scores for the first three films in the Harry Potter franchise, because this entry is arguably the weakest, least cohesive of those endeavors.

Avoid it... if you never considered Williams' work for the superior Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone to generate enough magical spirit to represent the concepts in the stories.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets: (John Williams/William Ross) The Harry Potter locomotive steamed into its second film installment with only a year having passed from the first film, mirroring and competing with the breakneck franchise pacing of Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings films. Despite the competition from both The Lord of the Rings and the renewed Star Wars franchise in 2002, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets held its own with both adults and a slightly younger set of audiences. The second story in the Harry Potter series, however, begins a movement towards a darker and more mysterious journey for the young witches and wizards at Hogwarts, causing each successive entry to lose the flighty innocence conveyed by composer John Williams' score for Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. The second film's more ominous tone, despite several flurries of comedy in its ranks, provided a much darker overall canvas for the veteran Williams to work with, this time utilizing the adaptation and conducting assistance of long-time associate William Ross to complete the score on schedule. Williams was no stranger, of course, to the blockbuster scene, with scores for sequels coming as a natural assignment for the maestro. With an effective, Oscar nominated score for the first film, director Chris Columbus was just as enthusiastic about Williams' musical production for the second venture. The path to the completion of that work was complicated, however, by the extremely busy year that the composer was experiencing in 2002. The assignment of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets came just as the finishing touches were being put on Star Wars: Attack of the Clones for George Lucas and Minority Report for Steven Spielberg, and Williams had already committed to the latter director's Catch Me If You Can when he realized that there would be a conflict with Columbus for the second Harry Potter film. Since he was absolutely resolute on the issue of continuing his music for the franchise, he called Ross early in 2002 and asked him to assist in arranging the themes from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone into the new material he was frantically composing for the sequel in available time.

Contrary to popular belief, Ross didn't actually compose any of that new music for Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. A veteran orchestrator and a capable composer, Ross had written solo scores in the late 1990's that had often reminded listeners of the composers for whom he had orchestrated (and this especially applied to Alan Silvestri), so the emulation of Williams was not a task out of his ability. As Ross stated at the time of the film's release, "John communicated how important it was for him to establish musical continuity between the first and second installments of the series. Although he planned to write the new themes and new musical material for Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, there would be areas of the new film in which he intended to utilize and adapt themes from the first Potter score." Ross' duties were to be limited to the areas in the film that had been designated (during their joint spotting sessions with Columbus) to receive adaptations of the previous score's material. "John was very specific about what material and themes would be played where," Ross continued. "By [May of 2002] he had begun writing new themes and material. There were a few instances where he suggested I use some of the new musical ideas to elaborate and expand the music from the original score that I was working with." Williams wrote five significant themes for the film, four of which he adapted himself into the concert suite versions that exist near the start of the commercial album for Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Some of this material was sent to Ross as late as the final day of recording with the London Symphony Orchestra; the conducting of the famed group was Ross' duty for this score, a responsibility that thrilled the less experienced composer. While performing Williams' music with their usual precision, Ross stated, "They truly made me feel at home and comfortable." Ultimately, Ross diligently attempted to push all the credit for the score back on to Williams, though the maestro insisted that Ross be given adaptation credit on screen and album, causing much of the confusion about the attribution of the work and, consequently, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets was the only of Williams' three scores for the franchise not to be nominated for an Academy Award.

The finished score for Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is one that contains all of the expected musical references to the first film and expands upon Williams' plethora of fresh ideas for newly introduced characters and locations. The integration of character cross-references is, of course, a strong highlight of the books, and Williams had proven with the increasingly complex Star Wars prequel scores that such merging, crossing, overlapping, and counterpoint is no difficulty for him. This area of subtlety is where Williams' lack of involvement in each moment of the score's arrangement causes the most problems, however. Each of the new themes for Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is adequate (though none could argue that any of them are as strong as the primary three he composed for the first entry), but they rarely mingle with each other. Nor do the themes from the first film exist with the masterful integration as they had in that film's extremely intricate score. Williams had a knack for inserting extremely subtle references to the other themes in almost every prominent statement of an idea in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, and that level of sophistication is somewhat lacking here. Instead, we hear a score that contains several strong thematic ideas, but ones that are mostly self-contained. The album release for Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets complicates matters even more, because although the product clocks in at over 70 minutes in length, it doesn't offer many of the better adaptations by Ross and thus cuts the two parts of Hedwig's theme from most of what you hear on that presentation. You can almost distinguish the fragmentation of Williams' process of writing in the lack of cohesion from which the score suffers. One of the great disappointments of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is that none of its themes exist for concepts general enough to classify any of them as "the primary theme" of the film. Ironically, it's the theme for Harry and his friendship with Ron and Hermione (heard in the concert suite "Harry's Wondrous World" reprised in full on this album) that transcends the three major, magic-related themes from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone and plays a significant role in the sequel score.

Thus, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is a disappointing score in terms of its thematic constructs and their relation to the first film. The only major cue in the film to touch upon the material from the previous entry is the opening "Prologue: Book II and the Escape from the Dursleys," which seems like a cursory and blatant attempt to provide some early screen time for each of the four major ideas from the first score without altering them significantly. This cue opens with the delicate, celesta performance of the magical side of Hedwig's theme (technically for the owl but also encompassing the general world of wizardry) and builds to a relatively lonely French horn and bass string performance of the second half of the theme, representing Hogwarts, for the actual title sequence. Celesta and woodwinds cover some of the lesser motifs from the first score before, at 1:35, the flying theme, otherwise denoting magical mischief, is introduced. The flying theme's concert arrangement dominates the middle portion of the cue, yielding at the 2:50 mark to Harry's theme, also seeming pulled from the concert arrangement. The lack of a strong presence for the two parts of Hedwig's theme in the remainder of the score is the most devastating problem facing Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. The new themes are adequate, but not nearly as memorable. The first of these ideas is the one for "Fawkes the Phoenix," a stately piece that very well could have represented Professor Dumbledore himself and finally exhibits some of that Gryffindor pride. Fluttering woodwinds are the trademark element of flight in this theme, adding a sense of whimsy to the otherwise conservatively dramatic strings that represent the bird. A more varied and natural exploration of this idea exists in the entirety of "Fawkes is Reborn," and a slower tempo lends majesty to the theme at the climax of the film in "Dueling the Basilisk." Performing groups looking for a piece from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets to represent the score in their compilations often choose the actual "The Chamber of Secrets" concert suite, which does a disservice to the score given the fact that the piece doesn't actually have much to do with the rest of the entire work.

The merits of the theme in "The Chamber of Secrets" are admittedly quite strong, taking a mutated version of both the Hogwarts theme and flying theme from the first score and transforming them into a demented, tumultuous march of evil. The closing minor third progressions from the Hedwig themes also conclude the phrases of this new theme, strongly suggesting the connection between Potter and the Chamber. The sequence starting at 1:05 into the concert suite touches upon all three of the magic-related themes from the first score in succession, with a creative, minor-key approach and even a hint of the theme for the Ark of the Covenant from Raider of the Lost Ark. On the whole, this theme is engaging, but it does not figure to any effective degree whatsoever in the rest of the score, not even in the cue "Dueling the Basilisk" that actually involves the chamber (a massive flaw in the score). A little scherzo for "Gilderoy Lockhart," complete with cute harpsichord to match the fraudulent, pompous professor's prissy personality, is an obnoxious part of the score for Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets that isn't particularly listenable on album (despite its effectiveness for the film). Its short concert suite arrangement is joined by a comedic performance early in "The Dueling Club" and a fragmented, serious arrangement in "Cornish Pixies." An exuberant, swirling brass theme for the flying car is heard in just the one cue in the score ("The Flying Car") but is among Williams' more enticing fantasy creations of light-hearted spirit. An intentionally awkward little piece for "Dobby the House Elf" defines the character on meandering woodwinds, and the lack of any anchor in this seemingly listless idea is a perfect representation for the character's personality (though like Lockhart's theme, it doesn't make much of a dramatic impact on the score). Among the lesser motifs representing specific situations in the film, the choral-aided version of Harry's theme for "Moaning Myrtle," with whooping female voices, is pleasant and an eerie, descending woodwind motif for the spiders in the forbidden forest (heard in "The Spiders," "Meeting Aragog," and "Cakes for Crabbe and Goyle") is functional. The lack of overlap in any of these themes remains the most surprising aspect of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, leaving that duty up to the fleeting use of the previous score's identities.

As mentioned previously, many of Ross' adaptations of the previous film's themes cannot be heard on the album, though there are still certainly enough references to place Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets in context. The opening cue indeed runs through the previous four major themes in snapshot succession. The lack of the first part of Hedwig's theme is the most surprising omission from the subsequent major cues; Williams saves the most prominent performance for the last half-minute of the work. Arguably the best part of the entire score is this last flurry of Hedwig's theme, expanded to nearly fanfare-level, symphonic bliss. Outside of the opening cue, the only major performance of the Hogwarts phrase of Hedwig's theme is heard later in "The Flying Car" as the castle is once again seen for the first time. Given that this is the primary theme of the franchise, its usage in the sequel score is surprisingly sparse. The flying theme is also sparingly applied, translating into its mischievous variant on low woodwinds and tuba in "Polyjuice Potion" and "Cakes for Crabbe and Goyle," respectfully. These moments are highly reminiscent of Home Alone, almost to a fault. The employment of Harry's theme (heard in the suite "Harry's Wondrous World") is the most extensive of reprised ideas in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. It's the only returning theme heard in extended performances, starting in the opening cue and extending to "The Flying Car" and "Reunion of Friends," with several shorter references in between. Its original concert suite arrangement is also appended to the end of the album. Williams' theme for Voldemort receives its due spotlight in the film, with Tom Riddle's appearances perfect for further exploration of the idea. It's heard in full, repetitive glory at the end of "Meeting Tom Riddle" (much like the vault sequence in the first film) and simmers in "Cakes for Crabbe and Goyle" before one last, unfortunately underplayed performance in "Dueling the Basilisk." With Voldemort mostly absent from Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, this theme by Williams would become lost in the franchise from this point on. Patrick Doyle dropped the ball in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, failing to carry on Williams' theme for the character despite Voldemort's official resurrection in that story.

Overall, the general effectiveness of Williams' work for the franchise was once again a debate surrounding the release of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, with some listeners still unconvinced that the composer infused a genuine sense of magic into Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. Many argued (with valid points), that both of these first two scores in the franchise lacked the sense of transcendent, powerful adventure that had defined the height of Williams' career in the early 1980's. Not since the highly acclaimed score for Jurassic Park had Williams begun a blockbuster franchise, and debate exploded in 2001 about whether or not he maintained the same ability to start such a series with a bang. For many listeners, the only method of judging the success of Williams' Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone arose from its comparison to Howard Shore's The Lord of the Rings pilot score and Williams' own Star Wars: Attack of the Clones. When analyzing those three franchises for only their music, both The Lord of the Rings and Star Wars fare better in the record stores with hardcore film music collectors. The love theme from Star Wars: Attack of the Clones alone exceeded the combined music from Williams' Harry Potter scores in scope, with the possible exception of the stunning and popular theme for "Buckbeak's Flight" in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. It's possible that expectations for Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone were simply too elevated in all of the hype generated before its release, and the score has indeed aged well relative to its successors. As for Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, listeners were once again treated to a clearly identifiable return of Williams to his undeniably strong 1989-1991 style of composition, presenting some originality problems that hinder this score more than the similar usage in the previous effort. Portions of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and Hook, and Home Alone (among others, including the Star Wars prequels scores more recently) obviously influenced the Harry Potter scores, and the second entry's comedy portions especially suffer from a bit of Williams "auto-pilot" syndrome.

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While this continuation of style bothers some listeners, it's also important to remember that John Williams, no matter what era since the 1970's in which you place him, composes at a level that exceeds many of the best works of his contemporary counterparts in the industry. In short, Williams' rehashing of old ideas is still better than practically any other composer today as his or her best, and it is this general sense of atmospheric superiority that Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets has going in its favor. The recording quality is superb, as are the performances of the London Symphony Orchestra and the London Voices. In a technical sense, Ross accomplished his task and the film maintained Williams' sound to a better degree than the later entries in the franchise. On the other hand, in an intangible sense, the music fails to adequately capture the gravity and awe-inspiring nature of the films and, especially, the books. While Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets contains a much scarier and sinister storyline, the score never stirs the true power of the orchestra or voices to extend that fright to a level even equivalent to the chess game scene in the first film. The higher quantity of comical elements, from the bumbling Lockhart and his pixies lesson to the celebrity status of Harry and the quirky actions of Dobby, pull the score further from the dark undertones that run throughout the book. The cute sub-themes are, despite their necessity, a killer of cohesiveness. Williams has become almost too predictable in his instrumentation, with the fat tuba bubbling along for Slytherin fools Crabbe and Goyle, the high-pitched strings for the spiders, and a sharp snare roll for the dueling club scene. There is no special instrumentation of note in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, nor are the voices used to any great extent. Nearly absent in key cues are the timpani and other percussion that brought excitement to the climax of the previous score. Overall, the score does its job, but Williams was obviously playing it safe. It was the only of his three scores for the franchise not to be extensively bootlegged within a few years of its release, and without an expanded album treatment, the extent of the cohesion problems are difficult to assess. The maestro took all of 2003 off before returning for Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, an arguably more engaging score. **** Price Hunt: CD or Download

Bias Check:For John Williams reviews at Filmtracks, the average editorial rating is 3.74 (in 69 reviews)
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 Track Listings: Total Time: 70:17

• 1. Prologue: Book II and the Escape from the Dursleys (3:31)
• 2. Fawkes the Phoenix (3:45)
• 3. The Chamber of Secrets (3:49)
• 4. Gilderoy Lockhart (2:05)
• 5. The Flying Car (4:08)
• 6. Knockturn Alley (1:47)
• 7. Introducing Colin (1:49)
• 8. The Dueling Club (4:08)
• 9. Dobby the House Elf (3:27)
• 10. The Spiders (4:32)
• 11. Moaning Myrtle (2:05)
• 12. Meeting Aragog (3:18)
• 13. Fawkes is Reborn (3:19)
• 14. Meeting Tom Riddle (3:38)
• 15. Cornish Pixies (2:13)
• 16. Polyjuice Potion (3:52)
• 17. Cakes for Crabbe and Goyle (3:30)
• 18. Dueling the Basilisk (5:02)
• 19. Reunion of Friends (5:08)
• 20. Harry's Wondrous World (5:02)

 Notes and Quotes:  

The insert includes extensive credits and a note from director Chris Columbus. The packaging also unfolds into a rather unattractive poster of Dobby.

  All artwork and sound clips from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets are Copyright © 2002, Atlantic Records. The reviews and other textual content contained on the site may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the prior written authority of Filmtracks Publications. Audio clips can be heard using RealPlayer but cannot be redistributed without the label's expressed written consent. Page created 11/7/02 and last updated 12/2/08. Review Version 5.1 (PHP). Copyright © 2002-2015, Christian Clemmensen (Filmtracks Publications). All rights reserved.