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Let the magic in!
• Posted by: SlimeyDave   <Send E-Mail>
• Date: Monday, August 25, 2008, at 3:32 p.m.
• IP Address:

Each to his own, of course, but I do find that a peculiar review. To dislike the music because it was not to your taste would be fine, but to suggest that it's John Williams' on auto-pilot....?

I felt Williams' score to The Philosopher's Stone to be brimming over with magic, and whilst I have listened many, many times to The Phantom Menace, Home Alone and Hook - and I certainly acknowledge that there are certain little riffs and bits of instrumentation that make their way from one Williams score to another - I cannot recognise the notion that he was simply lifting sections of his earlier work in creating this music.

This score is so chock full of themes that you'd think it was a sequel with established themes being added to - and they're all superb! No, approaching magical subject matter by digging out the celeste and tremolo strings is not particularly original, but in Williams' hands it sounds fresh and alive and not in the slightest bit stale. As he does so frequently, Williams has taken various musical influences - most notably in this case, I'd say, Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Suite - and blended them into his own unique brand of musical story telling, which is what I think he does better than anyone.

I would cite an example of Williams at his less inspired being The Revenge of the Sith where he seemed to me to have tired of the poor quality of the films he was scoring and produced what by his lofty standards was an under-developed, unfocused, somewhat weary score that really did lift stuff from the past far too straightforwardly without adding any really interesting new material - still undoubtedly superior film scoring, but a let down when compared to his best work.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone seems to be to be the antithesis of this: fresh, vibrant film scoring that is very recognisably John Williams and certainly has some roots in Hook, Home Alone, The Phantom Menace and - most particularly - The Witches of Eastwick, but which is also very much its own score, specifically crafted to this particular film.

Personally, as wonderful as I think the first two Harry Potter scores are - with William Ross do an outstanding job adapting Williams' material to fill out the second one - my favourite is The Prisoner of Azkaban, which saw Williams ditching nearly all of his prior thematic material and starting almost from scratch to create a different style of score for a different style of - and much better - film. That he should be able to get away with doing that and still come with a first-rate score demonstrates what an extraordinary talent he is.

For me, far from lacking magic, the Harry Potter scores have proved that John Williams still has the magic in the twenty-first century. He may not be turning out classics at the rate that he was in the late seventies and early eighties, but he's still capable of crafting some absolute gems, and this, I think, is one of them.

But, as I say, each to his own.

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