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Film Music Review (Volumes 1-7)






Music from the first four HARRY POTTER films by John Williams and Patrick Doyle.

15 Tracks (Playing Time = 54:34)

Performed by the City of Prague Philharmonic, conducted by James Fitzpatrick. “ Fawkes the Phoenix” and “Hedwig’s Theme” conducted by Nic Raine. Produced by James Fitzpatrick. Recorded at Barrandov Studios, Smecky Soundstage, Prague. Engineered by Jan Holzner. Mixed and mastered by Gareth Williams at Pickles Studio, Cambridge. Art Direction and design by Damien Doherty.

Silva Screen 1206

Rating: ****


 T he people at Silva Screen are once again releasing a flurry of new and re-packaged film music. This one features music from the HARRY POTTER franchise including a generous portion of music from Patrick Doyle’s score to last year’s GOBLET OF FIRE.

Like practically all of Silva’s recordings this one features wonderful sound that is a little more ambient and fuller than some of their digital surround discs. The celeste, piano, and bell sounds of “ Harry’s Wondrous World.” Which opens the disc, are quite bright and sometimes just a little more forward than in the original soundtracks. The performance, taken just a tad slower, is still a lush and purely enjoyable one. It is a chance to hear this music with different ears so to speak. And with these composer versions of the music for many of the tracks it will serve only to increase ones appreciation of these scores. The wind detail in “Nimbus 2000” does both performers and music proud and is just one of the many exemplary moments in this release. Adam Saunders’ arrangements of “Fawkes the Phoenix” and “Hedwig’s Theme” are a cut above pops-type film music arrangements managing to capture the thematic material along with the spirit of their originals in such a way that they can stand alongside the composer’s own arrangements.

The selections from THE CHAMBER OF SECRETS are primarily character pieces for Dobby, Gilderoy Lockhart, and the chamber itself. All are in composer arrangements thus representing the concert versions of the score. Slightly slower tempos in places may irritate purists but taken in context of these performances they fit perfectly.

The selections from Doyle’s score in a way also highlight the difference in approach by the composer as they include set pieces like the “Hogwart’s March,” the “Hogwart’s Hymn” and the waltz from the ballroom sequence. The Celtic flavored “Quidditch World Cup” sequence is melded together with “The Foreigners Arrive” here to create a satisfying introduction to the fourth film’s music. It includes a little of Williams’ thematic music as well thus allowing to connect the previous film with this new one. Doyle’s very English celebratory music is gorgeous to hear and again sounds completely at home with the earlier Williams’ selections. Also included is the standout cue from the film, “ Harry in Winter.” Here it is again quite similar to the original score version. The Doyle tracks are all featured in arrangements by orchestrator Christopher Tin and it is hard to believe that there was not some contact with the originals to pull these together especially given the time line between these sessions and those of the film. That Silva put these performances into circulation is yet another mark of their belief that this is one of the best sessions they have had in Prague and they are right on target in that assessment. The selections are unbelievably closer to the originals more than any other of Silva’s releases in some time. But, rather than just trying to recreate the original tracks, the performance are musically believable and gorgeously recorded to boot.

Tin also has pulled together a suite from THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN that is similar to the end credits music from the original score album. It includes “Mischief Managed,” “A Window to the Past” and “Buckbeak’s Flight.” It is somewhat odd that the choice of recording a suite instead of individual cues was made but coming as the penultimate track it serves to bookmark the Doyle selections nicely before the final track, “Hedwig’s Theme” creates a most satisfying conclusion to the disc as a whole. Incidentally, the suite seems recorded in such a way that Silva will be able to edit the individual tracks out as separate ones in the future.

James Fitzpatrick, the producer, has now stepped to the podium and proves to be the equal to Nic Raine in getting the most out of the Prague orchestra. In other compilations this appears to be the case at least. For this release, two of the tracks, those conducted by Nic Raine, likely appeared earlier elsewhere. Unlike other Silva releases this one tracks in under an hour but it is a worthy endeavor all the same. Those who were perhaps frustrated by the more suite approach taken in their INDIANA JONES compilation will not be disappointed by this recording. In fact this is the kind of disc that manages to introduce the musical world of HARRY POTTER in a manageable way for those looking for an overview of the current music in the series.

About the only complaint one can make is that the cover art is not eye catching and if one is not careful when picking the disc out of the HARRY POTTER section in their music store they may accidentally grab one of the inferior compilations of electronically created music from the films. So be sure to check the label! Otherwise this is one of the best compilation discs of film music to come along in some time.


--Steven A. Kennedy 28 April 2006

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