Music composed by John Williams
14 Tracks (Playing Time = 61:15)
Album produced by James Fitzpatrick. The City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Paul Bateman, Nic Raine, and James Fitzpatrick. Also features the Crouch End Festival Chorus and the Prague Philharmonic Choir. Mastered by Rick Clark. Artwork and design by Damien Doherty.
Silva Screen Records 1219
It is not uncommon for Silva to repackage past recordings in new clothing. The present compilation is essentially a re-issue of their 2004 CD Music from the Star Wars Saga. The track order has been slightly altered (even the cover art is but a slight variation of the 2004 release) but the music is still presented with music from the 1977 film through RETURN OF THE JEDI followed by selections from the latest three films and concluding with the “Throne Room and Finale” from STAR WARS—A NEW HOPE, an apt conclusion. This seems a bit goofy given the title of this disc but old favorites die hard. The sole new selection here is the addition of “ Battle of the Heroes” from REVENGE OF THE SITH which I believe appeared on a mid-price John Williams compilation from the label. This is a far more successful traversal than the Indiana Jones Silva disc which features a variety of ways the “Raider’s March” was used in end credit suites.
It is undeniable that these are all wonderful pieces of film music, the deciding factor will be whether you want this particular set of recordings collected from Silva’s many film music releases. In all the many Silva compilations that are in my music library, I discovered that some of the music included here was absent on the discs I owned. These were the performances conducted by Paul Bateman from the label’s early days (though William Motzing’s recordings are not featured here and rarely re-issued). Bateman’s recordings have moments of brilliance but occasional intonation can be distracting and percussion and brass are often badly imaged against the strings. Cross-rhythms still gave the ensemble a lot of trouble in those days but the enthusiasm often more than makes up for it. These recordings cannot compare to the originals (but if we are truthful there are moments that even the LSO struggled in those early 1977 sessions) and often the earlier ones have an odd recessed ambience.
Nic Raine is on the podium for two of the tracks (a slightly improved performance of “Han Solo and the Princess” and “Across the Stars”). Given the many newer recordings that James Fitzpatrick has conducted with the City of Prague Philharmonic, it is unfortunate that he did not consider newer performances with an orchestra that sounds much better now than it did when Silva first began their film music series with them. He conducts the “ Battle of the Heroes” track. These appear to be the published concert arrangements of this music rather than in-house ones.
This is a mid-price disc and as such is quite a bargain. The booklet features synopses of the individual films for those who somehow do not know these stories and oddly a specific film “blooper” to watch for when viewing the film. It remains to be seen whether Silva will release a 2-disc set for these films as it did quite successfully with THE LORD OF THE RINGS and the HARRY POTTER films. The disc is perfect for those who want the highlights of these familiar film pieces and the sound quality makes these perfect driving companions.
--Steven A. Kennedy , 5 August 2008
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