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Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Composed, Conducted, and Produced by:
John Williams

Vocals Performed by:
The London Voices

The London Oratory School Schola

Orchestrated by:
Conrad Pope
Eddie Karam

Atlantic Records

Release Date:
May 25th, 2004

Also See:
Harry Potter and the Socerer's Stone
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Star Wars: Attack of the Clones
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2

Audio Clips:
2. Aunt Marge's Waltz (0:33):
WMA (211K)  MP3 (264K)
Real Audio (164K)

3. The Knight Bus (0:31):
WMA (202K)  MP3 (251K)
Real Audio (156K)

6. Buckbeak's Flight (0:30):
WMA (197K)  MP3 (243K)
Real Audio (151K)

20. Finale (0:30):
WMA (195K)  MP3 (242K)
Real Audio (150K)

Regular U.S. release.

  Nominated for an Academy Award and a Grammy Award.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
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Buy it... if you, like most film music collectors, marvel at the ingenuity with which John Williams explores each of his mind-bogglingly complex ideas for individual concepts within his fantasy scores.

Avoid it... if you are a strong believer in issues relating to the thematic continuity of any franchise, for the maestro largely tackled this score as though it were a series of self-contained vignettes with surprisingly little regard for his previous identities.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban: (John Williams) After a year devoid of J. K. Rowling's beloved witches and wizards on the big screen, Warner Brothers provided the third installment of the Harry Potter franchise in 2004 at an uncharacteristic summertime release date. While continuing the trend of the series of (then only five) books towards a darker, more serious conflict of good versus evil, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban also introduces a great number of characters that would prove pivotal in future installments. Potter's parents and their relationships with friends and enemies in their own years at Hogwarts finally begin to take shape and help explain allegiances that will be both tested and redefined in the years to come. There have been many strong arguments stating that this third book is, despite the absence of Lord Voldemort, the most intriguing story of the series, the best integrated clash of the lighter fare of the earlier entries with the action soon to dominate the concept. Composer John Williams returned once again (along with a continuing cast and crew mourning the sad loss of actor Richard Harris) after receiving the assistance of conductor William Ross in completing the arrangements on his Chamber of Secrets score in 2002 due to the maestro's hectic schedule. For the first time in nearly a decade, Williams had taken a year off, allowing 2003 to break his vast streak of consecutive years with an Academy Award nomination. Partially because of this break, partially because of the haunting Christmas carol-like music that Williams provided for the film's trailer, and partially because of the magic that is always possible in the non-muggle world of Harry Potter, Williams' score for Prisoner of Azkaban was as highly anticipated as any in 2004. No matter your opinion of how well these scores hold up over time, there is a consensus about the generally high quality of Williams' writing, the importance of the carryover of his style, and recognition of how identifiable the composer had made his delightful plethora of themes thus far. Had he continued in the franchise past Prisoner of Azkaban, he may have had more themes on his hands for the Harry Potter universe than he created for the Star Wars one. Unfortunately, due to shifting directors in the franchise and the composer's semi-retirement in the late 2000's, and despite empty speculation about his interest in returning to score one or both of the Deathly Hallows scores, Prisoner of Azkaban turned out to be his final venture in this concept.

With so many new characters and ideas revealed in Prisoner of Azkaban, it's no surprise that three major new themes are introduced by Williams, as well as several smaller motifs that may have been given further development in future films had the composer continued in the franchise. Interestingly, not one of these themes is attached to any of the substantial new characters in this entry. Don't expect, for instance, a major showing of thematic force for Sirius Black, Remus Lupin, Peter Pettigrew, or even the dementors. Instead, listeners receive some colorful treatment for characters in individual scenes, as well as more nebulous, atmospheric themes that encompass the wintry atmosphere of the film as a whole. The choral Christmas song for "Double Trouble" is a great example of this flavor, as is the ethereal motif for Potter's patronus and a familial theme in the cue "A Window to the Past" that arguably serves as the primary identity for Prisoner of Azkaban. As with many Williams scores, the amount of personality injected into every specialty cue requires a track-by-track analysis of the album to get a comfortable feel for how the score will likely appeal to the listener. As such, the opening cue is really the only substantive connection to the previous scores on the album, the "A" phrase of Hedwig's theme (lacking the full statement of the "B" phrase for Hogwarts as had been heard over the titles in the previous two scores and Patrick Doyle's follow-up for Goblet of Fire) tinkering about with celesta without much fanfare. The waltz for Aunt Marge is the first of several cues that prove that Williams was still at his peak; in this cue, he provides a very classically structured piece for the pompous nature of Potter's aunt, with so much old-fashioned tempo and instrumentation as to make for pure comedy. Depending on your opinion about wild, crazy jazz, the "Knight Bus" cue could either be a guilty pleasure or a major irritation. Its zany, carnivalesque attitude is admirable, but irritating nevertheless. Both the cues "Apparition on the Train" and "Monster Books and Boggarts!" play as closely to Williams' standard horror/action underscore as possible, producing plenty of interesting dissonant tones for the dementors while not progressing the thematic direction of the franchise. The "Double Trouble" song is Williams' dark counterpart to his Home Alone carols, with McBeth-inspired lyrics and an accelerated pace tilting the song just far enough off center as to maintain the frightening realization that this Christmas season at Hogwarts is even more ominous than ones past. Its melody and Medieval tone is reprised on celesta and harp in "Secrets of the Castle" and in the fluffy, weightless cue, "Portrait Gallery."

One of the fantastic highlights of the Prisoner of Azkaban score is "Buckbeak's Flight," the only really broad and majestic, fully bombastic Williams cue on the album and among the last reminders of the maestro's early 1980's heyday before his sabbatical of the 2000's. An impressive barrage of timpani at the start leads to two minutes of grand and epic fantasy music that serves as the highlight of the score within the film and likely alone earned Williams his Oscar nomination for this effort. The lovely recorder theme in "A Window to the Past" is the primary musical identity in Prisoner of Azkaban, dancing in the solo performance (by composer/performer Richard Harvey of Animal Farm, Arabian Nights, and Suriyothai) of an almost Irish folk tune and building into a fully orchestral statement with Hedwig's theme built in as an interlude. The split track "The Whomping Willow and the Snowball Fight" (literally two cues spliced into one) begins with more of the outstanding drum and horn action in "Buckbeak's Flight" but dissolves into non-descript (although charming) underscore for the snowball scene. The cue "Hagrid the Professor" is surprisingly disappointing and potentially out-of-character; perhaps Williams was aiming strictly at comedy by scoring Hagrid's awkward teaching attempts with a period waltz of light historical parody. In a more natural move, Williams scores "Quidditch, Third Year" with a greater sense of urgency than in the preceding gaming scenes, sadly abandoning his flying theme from previous scores in the process. The bright fanfares have yielded to serious battle tones of the level of intensity most closely associated at the time with Star Wars: Attack of the Clones. In fact, there are many similarities between "Quidditch, Third Year" and the Star Wars prequels, highly complex action movements on brass accented by a meandering female choir. This high standard of rolling excitement continues in "Lupin's Transformation and Chasing Scabbers," exhibiting layers of writing that proved that Williams' was still sharp as a tack. A very simple adult choral performance in "The Patronus Light" foreshadows the finale of the film, and the darker, distorted, and frantic tones following in "The Werewolf Scene" confirm, as with Williams' rather mundane atmospheric cues, that the franchise is indeed headed into the murky depths of horror and mystery. The Buckbeack theme is surprisingly absent in "Saving Buckbeak," even neglecting to hint at the momentous earlier cue. Williams instead handled the suspense of the scene by appropriately previewing (and creating a loop with) the rhythmic doomsday approach heard in the subsequent track, "Forward to Time Past."

The pivotal time travel scene in the last third of Prisoner of Azkaban is tackled by Williams with that very predictably mechanical method that you'll either love or hate. The ticking clock in "Forward to Time Past" is not really a novel idea, and its restraining persistence can get on the nerves, but it does further the quirky personality of the score, even at its most troubled moments. Williams merges two musical ideas with skill in "The Dementors Converge," as the "Window to the Past" theme is enveloped and attacked by malicious horns and choir, and a victorious choral performance of "The Patronus Light" predictably swells with orchestral power as Potter saves his friends from the dementors. The integration of these themes continues to impress in the "Finale" cue, finally possessing the positive energy with which Williams' best fantasy themes always seem to flourish, and this sadly abrupt finale is, along with Buckbeak's flight material, a highlight of the score. The lengthy "Mischief Managed!" assembly at the end (a nifty title for an end credits suite if you're familiar with the story) is the usual concert arrangement, opening with the flying theme and a quick Hedwig "A" reference before parading each of the major themes and motifs from Prisoner of Azkaban without much variation. This, with the exception of the "Double Trouble" material, which seems to be the only theme adapted into a new personality (in this case, a fully symphonic one) for the suite. The remainder sounds edited together, even down to the forced resolution of the celesta performance of the Hedwig "A" phrase at the very end. Williams' end credits arrangements began exhibiting signs of boredom or laziness in the early 2000's, and the rather dull and disjointed 12 minutes of material forced together inartfully for this track diminishes the listening experience on album. Overall, Prisoner of Azkaban is a highly acclaimed score that is often considered by fans to be the best developed and most maturely suspenseful of Williams' three entries in this series. As with his other Harry Potter scores, Williams tempts us with incredible musical ideas for individual scenes, the usual level of marvelous tonal colors and counterpoint, and ingenuity in originality of orchestral rhythms and instrumentation that continues to amaze. But while the score for Prisoner of Azkaban has plenty of melodic ideas at its core, it lacks a definitive passion that could (and should) encompass the entire series of scores. Its place in the overarching narrative is nebulous, and the shift to darker tones that listeners often associate its effectiveness was actually a striking asset already present in the highly underrated (and retrospectively superior) score for Chamber of Secrets.

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As a package, Prisoner of Azkaban showcases the brilliance of Williams' talents, great ideas rolling out one after another, and yet it sounded as though the maestro had lost a little of his touch in the area of wrapping all of these ideas into a coherent whole. Unlike the impressing tapestries woven by Williams for a score like Hook (or even one as recent as Star Wars: Attack of the Clones), managing an abundance of ideas with great skill, Williams disconnects with the previous scores in the franchise in Prisoner of Azkaban, failing to further develop them as the students age and war approaches. Sure, the Hedwig "A" theme is inserted as counterpoint in several places, but nowhere else are the first two films adequately represented. How about a slight Tom Riddle theme reprise for the mentioning of Voldemort's return? Or a mutated form of the flying theme for the Quidditch match? Or even allusions to Hedwig "B" for references to the history of the castle? In many ways, the score for Chamber of Secrets played significantly better in the film because of reprised and matured statements of ideas from Sorcerer's Stone, some of which weren't included on the sequel's album. The same is true to a lesser degree in Prisoner of Azkaban, in which Williams attempted too hard to create individual motifs and themes for specific scenes while neglecting the direction of all three, assuming the loss of celesta and glockenspiel magic would suffice to serve the larger narrative flow. Doyle's score for Goblet of Fire, not surprisingly, suffers from exactly the same issues, conveying superior ideas but unnecessarily reinventing themes for concepts Williams already addressed and largely ignoring the major thematic arcs of the existing music. On album, Prisoner of Azkaban is impressive in its display of Williams' immense talents, but it leaves you wanting more. Maybe more length. Maybe more of that Williams' magic from ten years prior. Maybe just more continuity with the first two scores. The end credits suite represents this disappointment perfectly, as does the stock opening performance of Hedwig's theme; the score's album presentation, despite its outstanding achievements in individual cues, clearly doesn't meaningfully progress the franchise. That product does improve sound quality over previous entries, however. Until film music collectors have the pleasure of hearing the full scores for both Prisoner of Azkaban and Chamber of Secrets, Williams' overarching plan will remain somewhat obscured. In the meantime, Williams' third and final Harry Potter score is both exhilarating and frustrating, and it ranks highly despite its flaws because the composer continues to translate mind-bogglingly complex ideas to the orchestra whether the maestro's baton was a magic wand or not. **** 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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   Re: Another bad Harry Potter review.
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 Track Listings: Total Time: 68:36

• 1. Lumos! (Hedwig's Theme) (1:38)
• 2. Aunt Marge's Waltz (2:15)
• 3. The Knight Bus (2:52)
• 4. Apparition on the Train (2:15)
• 5. Double Trouble (1:37)
• 6. Buckbeak's Flight (2:08)
• 7. A Window to the Past (3:54)
• 8. The Whomping Willow and the Snowball Fight (2:22)
• 9. Secrets of the Castle (2:32)
• 10. The Portrait Gallery (2:05)
• 11. Hagrid the Professor (1:59)
• 12. Monster Books and Boggarts! (2:26)
• 13. Quidditch, Third Year (3:47)
• 14. Lupin's Transformation and Chasing Scabbers (3:01)
• 15. The Patronus Light (1:12)
• 16. The Werewolf Scene (4:25)
• 17. Saving Buckbeak (6:39)
• 18. Forward to Time Past (2:33)
• 19. The Dementor's Converge (3:12)
• 20. Finale (3:24)
• 21. Mischief Managed! (12:10)

 Notes and Quotes:  

The insert includes a note from the director about the score and film, as well as a fold-out poster. The CD is enhanced with wallpapers, a screensaver, stills from the film, a video game demo, and a Warner Brothers contest entry.

  All artwork and sound clips from Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban are Copyright © 2004, 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 5/24/04 and last updated 8/29/11. Review Version 5.1 (PHP). Copyright © 2004-2015, Christian Clemmensen (Filmtracks Publications). All rights reserved.