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Section Header
Composed, Conducted, and Produced by:
John Williams


Release Date:
December 27th, 2005

Also See:
Schindler's List
Memoirs of a Geisha

Audio Clips:
1. Munich 1972 (0:32):
WMA (211K)  MP3 (269K)
Real Audio (189K)

4. Remembering Munich (0:31):
WMA (202K)  MP3 (254K)
Real Audio (179K)

16. Thoughts of Home (0:31):
WMA (204K)  MP3 (254K)
Real Audio (179K)

18. End Credits (0:32):
WMA (213K)  MP3 (269K)
Real Audio (189K)

Regular U.S. release.

  Nominated for an Academy Award and a Grammy Award.


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Sales Rank: 33076

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Buy it... if you enjoy Williams' finely crafted, introspective, and personal scores defined by their subtle solo statements of melancholy theme.

Avoid it... if you expect the overwhelming beauty and lush, dramatic themes along the lines of the more poignant Schindler's List.

Munich: (John Williams) Perhaps only the founder of the Shoah Foundation and the most well-respected Jew in the history of filmmaking could pull off such a striking commentary on the history of the Middle East's deadly history of religious and cultural reprisals. Like Schindler's List, Steven Spielberg approaches his history of the aftermath of the 1972 massacre of Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics from the perspective of a documentary. But unlike Schindler's List, the Jews aren't the outright victims in Munich, with Spielberg angering both Israelis and Palestinians (despite his obvious love for Israel) with his seemingly unbiased take on the opening days of the perpetual cycle of terror-styled violence that has existed between the two peoples since Munich. Based on the book Vengeance by George Jonas, the film deals with the trials and failures of the small team of men organized by the Israeli prime minister herself for the purpose of hunting down the eleven Palestinian men behind the terror attacks at Munich and eliminating them in the public fashion of horrific bombings. Likewise, the tragedies that occur during these assassinations are presented by Spielberg with a distinctly mournful atmosphere, often with the cinematic effect of bright lights above, or outside a window, shining in on an otherwise bleak canvas of muted colors. This affect of common melancholy between both the Israelis and Palestinians is directly interpreted in the score by John Williams, whose music serves to further merge the tragedy by sharing themes across cultures and producing a score of both restrained beauty and stark shades of gray.

Likely remembered as the year of Williams' final Star Wars score, 2005 has been a very active one for the maestro, with Munich capping a series of scores that have all dealt in the genre of high drama and action. For collectors of Williams' works (and, given his universal popularity, a large portion of average movie-goers), it will be tempting to compare Munich with Schindler's List, and while the basic tragedy at the hearts of the stories is similar, Williams' handling of Munich is different if only because it successfully conveys the dazed affects of both cultures' hopeless futures should they continue down the path of perpetual reprisals. Williams doesn't take a side in his score for Munich, with the highlights of the score ironically existing in the Middle-Eastern-stylized vocals meant to dramatize the culture of the Palestinians. Both the opening cue of the film and the stunning "Remembering Munich" feature the lamenting vocals of Lisbeth Scott (excelling here far more than in her concurrent efforts), with the latter cue surpassing any other cue from Williams' pen in 2005 (in sheer grip and raw emotional appeal) with its solemn mourning of the event. Structurally, Williams offers a symbolic translation of that theme into one that the strings of the orchestra can present for the Israeli interests, with the lush and labored performances of the theme resembling in parts the same extreme heavy-heartedness of Schindler's List. The single most similar string performance to the earlier classic is heard in "Hatikvah (The Hope)," with the Israeli national anthem powerfully enhanced by the composer.

A secondary theme for the leader of the Israeli assassination group (Avner) is intertwined with the softer performances of the Munich theme as the film passes between flashback and aftermath. The culmination of this gloomy character theme exists in "A Prayer for Peace," which Spielberg lauds as a "quintessential movement" that both pays respect to the fallen athletes while remembering the historical significance of the tragedy both during and after the assault. The Avner theme would reappear more often than any other, though in its subtle performances by acoustic guitar and oboe, it doesn't allow those instrumental soloists the opportunity to shine as brightly as Scott does in her vocals. Without the big name soloists for a modern Williams score, it's interesting to note that the five or six main performers here, while certainly sufficing in their duties, lack the punch and memorability that previous Williams scores --and Schindler's List specifically-- have traditionally provided. But this restraint is a byproduct of the score's intent, and a significant portion of Munich is defined by a use of tense electronic loops and dissonant piano strikes that resemble, in their basic usage, the rhythmic sections of JFK. Used for the tarmac flashback and raid sequence, these slightly frenzied sections are qualified but difficult to enjoy apart from the visuals. There are other "Williams-isms" in Munich that continue to prove the composer's superior talents, and while the score is saturated with such techniques and twists of theme more often than Williams' two previous efforts in 2005, the "Thoughts of Home" cue stands out; in this darkly thoughtful piece, Williams establishes the Munich theme with the cello and French horn and eventually brings the story to the present with a subtle switch to Avner's theme (first with counterpoint).

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The finale cue, for the end credits, is a resolute contrast between the styles of solo cello and solo piano, with the full ensemble providing interludes for the rolling elegance of the piano. The obvious concert piece from the score, the end titles performance of Avner's theme highlights the drama of the story in its layered string statements while bringing the story home with the highly personal piano. If this track does serve as the concert piece for Munich, the only shame in its construction is the lack of the poignant Munich theme heard earlier in the score (though dragging around Scott for vocal performances at every concert isn't realistic either). The Hollywood Studio Symphony does a commendable job with Williams' material, although one can't help but wonder if some additional emotional grip could have been achieved by one of the more heralded and established performing groups elsewhere. Overall, there are parts of Munich that are spine-chilling, and there is no doubt that it is an effective piece. But unlike Schindler's List, for which Williams went over the top to express the tragedy of history with gorgeous theme after gorgeous theme, Munich doesn't outward express the same level of emotion. Its bittersweet sadness is countered by a quiet confidence, and perhaps some of this temperament is due to the ominous statement that Spielberg is making with the film... that it's entirely possible that without extraordinary circumstances, peace can never be achieved. Williams captures this dilemma well, but in so doing, you can't help but be drawn downward by Munich's stark realities. Don't be surprised to see Williams achieve multiple Academy Award nominations at the end of January, for his overall output in 2005 was magnificent, and his two scores later in the year (this and Memoirs of a Geisha) are both finely crafted art. **** Price Hunt: CD or Download

Bias Check:For John Williams reviews at Filmtracks, the average editorial rating is 3.74 (in 69 reviews)
and the average viewer rating is 3.59 (in 337,530 votes). The maximum rating is 5 stars.

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Regular Average: 3.46 Stars
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 Track Listings: Total Time: 62:36

• 1. Munich 1972 (2:37)
• 2. The Attack at Olympic Village (3:00)
• 3. Hatikva (The Hope) (2:02)
• 4. Remembering Munich (4:38)
• 5. Letter Bombs (2:48)
• 6. A Prayer for Peace (3:51)
• 7. Bearing the Burden (8:11)
• 8. Avner and Daphna (4:02)
• 9. The Tarmac at Munich (3:59)
• 10. Avner's Theme (3:07)
• 11. Stalking Carl (4:24)
• 12. Bonding (1:57)
• 13. Encounter in London/Bomb Malfunctions (3:37)
• 14. Discovering Hans (2:47)
• 15. The Raid in Tarifa (2:03)
• 16. Thoughts of Home (4:03)
• 17. Hiding the Family (1:25)
• 18. End Credits (4:06)

 Notes and Quotes:  

The insert includes a note from Steven Spielberg about the score and film.

  All artwork and sound clips from Munich are Copyright © 2005, Decca/Universal. 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 1/6/06 (and not updated significantly since). Review Version 5.1 (PHP). Copyright © 2006-2015, Christian Clemmensen (Filmtracks Publications). All rights reserved.