There couldn’t be a more fascinating time to look at the career and style
of Williams. Midway came right after the hullabaloo of
Jaws’ success, and just before the milestone of Star Wars.
It has not been possible before now, since no recording was made available
at the time of the film (1976). Instead the main theme - that of "The Midway
March" - has teased us in concert repertoires and on collection albums. Here
it is in its full glory and it provides some telling pre-echoes of the later
music that has popularised the man so much.
The decisive Battle of Midway was pretty potent material - cinematically
speaking, and a stellar cast always seems to raise the stakes for the creative
talent involved. To Williams it spoke of patriotic pride about the heroics
leading to victory. It shines through in the fanfares for brass that have
become the composer’s ‘trademark’. If you want to swell the chests of a crowd
with pride, who else do you turn to ?
After the brief "Prologue" which is essentially a bugle call rendition of
the March, "Main Title" features some very interesting piano figures over
snare drumming. It is a disarmingly different voice from Williams since it
does not re-appear in the rest of the score, which like the remainder of
the cue instead plays upon our familiarity with later works. A quieter moment
of reflection from "Yamamoto’s Choice" is a red herring with "Signal Corps
Con" picking up the drama. In both, a lighter piano touch demonstrates just
how subtle a master of underscore Williams can be. That is even more evident
in "Haruko’s Dilemma", where a flute and harp are as gentle as a sea breeze.
What tends to happen with the chronological sequencing of the album, is a
series of lulls and crescendos. For every quiet interlude such as "Missing
The Flatlands", there is the militaristic suspense and cymbal crash filled
drama of "Morning Of The Battle". The peaks and troughs do not dilute the
enjoyment of the music. Whereas with another composer’s style it might tire
of such choppy swaying, with Williams it as a prolonged teasing - in expectation
of the inevitable March.
Alluded to above were forecasts of music to come contained within this score.
It would be extremely picky to latch onto more than a few specific examples.
I would cite an early part of "Men Of The Yorktown March" as calling up an
image of the Rebellion’s Throne Room from the end of Star Wars. "Hiroshima
Harbour" smacks of upcoming hero Indiana Jones before some subtle
oriental flavours take over. In many places, the style of both those trilogies
is evoked. Like the sequencing, this isn’t something detrimental to the music
itself but merely a welcome insight to the frame of mind within which Williams
was obviously in during the mid ‘70s to mid ‘80s.
The two Marches naturally finish the disc in some style, although strictly
speaking "Men of the Yorktown" isn’t a March in the truest sense. Originally,
it came as a bonus B-side to a Japanese single release of the main theme.
"Midway" itself is the real toe-tapping feel-good jingoistic jaunt. With
a pipe at counterpoint to the snare rumbling and of course the theme itself
picked out on trumpet, it is quintessential Williams.