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Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Album Cover Art
2002 Atlantic Common Cover
2002 Atlantic Variation Cover
Album 2 Cover Art
2018 La-La Land
Album 3 Cover Art
Composed and Produced by:

Adapted and Conducted by:
William Ross

Orchestrated by:
Eddie Karam
Conrad Pope

Performed by:
Labels Icon
Atlantic Records
(November 12th, 2002)

La-La Land Records
(November 23rd, 2018)
Availability Icon
The 2002 Atlantic album was a regular U.S. release. The 2018 La-La Land set contains all three of Williams' scores for the franchise. It is limited to 5,000 copies and available initially for $100 through soundtrack specialty outlets.
Nominated for a Grammy Award.
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Availability | Awards | Viewer Ratings | Comments | Audio & Track Listings | Notes
Buy it... without reservation on the 2018 La-La Land Records set, for the expanded presentation of the work illuminates thematic development and connectivity to its predecessor that greatly elevates the status of this score.

Avoid it... if you still believe that John Williams' music for the thematically superior but generally comparable Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone failed to generate enough magical spirit to represent the concepts in the stories.
Review Icon
WRITTEN 11/7/02, REVISED 3/3/19
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 since 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 more melodramatic 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 music for sequels coming as a natural assignment for the maestro. With a highly effective and memorable, 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 continuing his music for the beloved 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 the 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 seven or eight distinct themes for the film, four of which he adapted himself into the concert suite versions that exist near the start of the initial 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, which had been unavailable for the preceding score but offers superb performances here. 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 most 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 was no difficulty for him. The extent of the subtle integrations between old and new themes in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets isn't as extensive as hoped, the adequate new themes for the sequel rarely merging with the prior score's main melodies outside of a few choice highlights. On the upside, however, the themes from the first score generally receive significant adaptations in their self-contained, reimagined forms. The Hedwig, Harry, and mystery themes all receive significant development in this score, and the composer, with Ross' help, twists their personalities to fit the darkening atmosphere of the second picture. None of the new themes in this work is as memorable as those that dominated the original, but they are no less effective at their task in this story. Without more sophisticated integration between the new themes and old, however, the score may strike listeners as an attraction of many singular highlights. The original album release for Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets complicated 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 prior score's themes from most of what you hear on that presentation. That product suggests a fragmentation in the score's cohesion that was actually not present in the film, and only in the absolutely necessary, longer album to come many years later could listeners piece together the smart choices made by Williams in the spotting sessions for the project. Still, one of the disappointments of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is that none of its themes exists for a concept general enough to classify one of them as "the primary theme" of the film. Not surprisingly, the "Harry's Wondrous World" suite of ideas for the children, as illuminating Harry's friendship with Ron and Hermione, transcends in the sequel, though the magic-related themes play a significant role in the sequel score as well.

Williams' dedication to his existing melodies in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is admirable, and he presents them with satisfying frequency without making their spotting sound forced. The Hedwig theme and its secondary variation for Hogwarts are extensively explored in the score, and their performances here are, in many cases, more enjoyable than those in the first work. In "Prologue: Book II," Williams 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. Of all eight films' opening title sequences, none of them opens with as beautiful a combination of visual and aural appeal as Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Williams borrowing two notes from the Hedwig version's second phrase and applying them to the first phrase of the Hogwarts version of the theme to give the latter a feeling of eerie displacement. The pure Hedwig/magic melodic progressions are rather scarce in this score, heard in snippets during "Hagrid's Arrest," "Dumbledore and Harry," and "Lucius Returns," among a few others. The composer seems content withholding that identity as a threat to the pure optimism of the prior score. Along those lines, the Hogwarts variation of the theme really builds off of the opening title performance to dominate the score, utilized in several important scene changes throughout the film. This more resolute identity, which might have become the de-facto melodic phrase for the franchise if Williams had not left and subsequent composers turned more to the Hedwig variant, turns up in "Knockturn Alley" before the castle's reveal in "The Train Station and the Flying Car" affords the idea its obligatory choral introduction, although brief here due to the movement of the scene. The castle's theme receives extensive attention in "Filch's Warning and Boys Receive Detention," the latter half of the cue presenting a rousing rendition for full horns over descending bass strings between the two phrases that would return at the end of "Meeting Tom Riddle." Lush renditions of the Howarts theme in "Potion Wears Off/The Diary" and "Lucius Returns" are truncated but equally attractive. Early recordings of "Prologue: Book II" show repeated attempts to turn this theme towards the darkness, the forceful bass string accompaniment quite striking.

Ratings Icon
Average: 3.76 Stars
***** 4,807 5 Stars
**** 3,970 4 Stars
*** 2,696 3 Stars
** 1,157 2 Stars
* 984 1 Stars
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My alternate review...
Hari Haran - January 24, 2017, at 2:51 p.m.
1 comment  (762 views)
My thoughts
Vincent - June 19, 2015, at 3:19 p.m.
1 comment  (970 views)
Best score!
Owen - October 5, 2012, at 7:20 p.m.
1 comment  (1428 views)
Complete Score   Expand >>
Drew C. - July 15, 2012, at 9:31 a.m.
2 comments  (3045 views)
Newest: June 16, 2019, at 3:52 p.m. by
Drew C.
U are Evill Muggles
jane - January 19, 2008, at 5:21 a.m.
1 comment  (2401 views)
In the end....   Expand >>
Titus - December 10, 2005, at 6:37 a.m.
3 comments  (5916 views)
Newest: March 2, 2012, at 6:03 a.m. by

Track Listings Icon
Audio Samples   ▼
2002 Atlantic Album Tracks   ▼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)
2018 La-La Land Album Tracks   ▼Total Time: 152:30

Notes Icon
The insert of the 2002 Atlantic album includes extensive credits and a note from director Chris Columbus. The packaging also unfolds into a rather unattractive poster of Dobby. The album had five different exterior cover variants, but all contain the same booklet 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 sold with more frequency than the others according to national retail outlets.

The 2018 La-La Land set contains extremely detailed information about the Williams scores for the franchise, with several booklets containing a wealth of information. The track listings are not featured in any convenient place on the packaging, however.
Copyright © 2002-2021, Filmtracks Publications. All rights reserved.
The reviews and other textual content contained on the site may not be published, broadcast, rewritten
or redistributed without the prior written authority of Christian Clemmensen at Filmtracks Publications. All artwork and sound clips from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets are Copyright © 2002, 2018, Atlantic Records, La-La Land Records and cannot be redistributed without the label's expressed written consent. Page created 11/7/02 and last updated 3/3/19.
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