November 2003 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Gary S. Dalkin
Managing Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster Len Mullenger

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40 Years of Film Music  
The Music of John Williams
  The City of Prague Philharmonic and Crouch End Festival Chorus
Conducted by Paul Bateman, Nic Raine, Mario Klemens
  Available on Silva Screen TVPMCD810
Total running time: 228.52 min Disc 1: 60.25
Disc 2: 49.47
Disc 3: 61.07
Disc 4: 57.33

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john williams 40 years

  • Disc: 1
    • 1. The Sugarland Express - Main Theme
    • 2. Jaws - Main Theme
    • 3. Close Encounters of the Third Kind - Suite
    • 4. Raiders of the Lost Ark - March
    • 5. Raiders of the Lost Ark – "The Map Room: Dawn"
    • 6. E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial – "ET’s Adventures on Earth"
    • 7. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom – "Mine Car Chase"
    • 8. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom - End Credits
    • 9. Empire of the Sun – "Exsultate Justi"
    • 10. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade – "Indy's First Adventure"
  • Disc: 2
    • 1. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade - End Credits
    • 2. Always – "Follow Me/Dorinda's Solo Flight"
    • 3. Hook - Main Themes
    • 4. Jurassic Park - Main Themes
    • 5. Schindler's List - Main Theme
    • 6. Amistad – "Dry Your Tears, Afrika"
    • 7. Saving Private Ryan – "Hymn To The Fallen"
    • 8. A.I. Artificial Intelligence – "Where Dreams Are Made"
    • 9. Minority Report
    • 10. Catch Me If You Can
  • Disc: 3
    • 1. The Rare Breed - Suite
    • 2. Jane Eyre - Theme
    • 3. Jane Eyre – "To Thornfield"
    • 4. Jane Eyre – "Restoration"
    • 5. The Cowboys - Overture
    • 6. The Poseidon Adventure - Prelude
    • 7. The Towering Inferno - Main Titles
    • 8. Family Plot - End Titles
    • 9. The Fury - Main Titles
    • 10. Superman - Main Theme
    • 11. Dracula – "Main Titles and Storm"
    • 12. The River - Main Theme and Love Theme
    • 13. The Witches of Eastwick – "Dance of the Witches"
  • Disc: 4
    • 1. Born on the Fourth of July - End Credits
    • 2. Presumed Innocent - End Titles
    • 3. JFK – "Arlington"/End Titles
    • 4. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone – "Hedwig's Theme"
    • 5. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets – "Fawkes the Phoenix"
    • 6. Star Wars - Main Themes
    • 7. The Empire Strikes Back – "Han Solo and the Princess"
    • 8. The Empire Strikes Back – "The Imperial March"
    • 9. The Phantom Menace - Anakin's Theme
    • 10.The Phantom Menace – "The Flag Parade"
    • 11.Attack of the Clones – "Across the Stars"
    • 12.The Phantom Menace – "Duel of the Fates"

This is a four CD set comprised of mostly new recordings, elegantly packaged in a "clamshell" box and coming with a card slipcase, offering Dolby Surround and HDCD options, and retailing for less than the price of many full price albums. Given this remarkable value there is no purpose in grumbling about the music which is not – we can all play the game of deciding what tracks we would have included – but rather it makes much more sense to recognise this set as a superb introduction to the work of the world’s most famous film composer.

There is 3 hours and 48 minutes of music here. Some will sourly note that this running time could be accommodated on 3CDs, but even so it is astonishing value for money and the extra disc does mean the tracks can be sequenced in a more logical way than three silver platters would permit; the first two discs are devoted to John Williams’ on-going collaboration with Steven Spielberg, the third disc covering a miscellany of generally somewhat lesser known scores from the 60’s to ‘80’s, the fourth CD charting Williams’ work with Oliver Stone, the Harry Potter and Star Wars films. Incidentally, the set won’t live up to its title for another three years, the earliest music being from the 1966 film, The Rare Breed, though obviously "37 Years of Film Music" would look a little odd.

The Williams/Spielberg part of the programme offers music from every feature film collaboration between the director-composer team with the exception of The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997). The selections are thoroughly mainstream, the expected famous main themes such as Jaws, Jurassic Park and Schindler’s List all being included alongside dependable versions of the shorter of the two suites from Close Encounters of the Third Kind and "ET’s Adventures on Earth" from (of course) ET. One might argue there is an over-dependence on music from the Indiana Jones trilogy (35 minutes worth) but then this could well be explained by Silva Screen’s recent album devoted to the trilogy. (See our review). Serious John Williams fans will have the majority of the original soundtracks anyway, but for a newcomer to this music this is a fabulous entry point – Jaws does lack the menace of the original, though the Raiders march is terrific. I just wish there had been such good value sets available when I was first discovering film music as a teenager a quarter of a century ago.

The more committed Williams fan will probably find the greatest interest in CD3. The eight minute suite from The Rare Breed (1966) offers the earliest hint in Williams’ career of the epic Americana style which would come to be one of the defining aspects of his later, more celebrated music. Rousing Western music in the grand tradition, but in retrospect unmistakably Williams, this leaves one wanting more. It is followed by a gorgeous 8 minute, three part suite from one of Williams’ finest achievements, the score for the 1970 TV movie Jane Eyre. A lovely, lyrical work, beautifully performed by the City of Prague Philharmonic, this is the highlight of the entire set. Enjoy this then buy Silva Screen’s reissue of the original soundtrack LP. Complimenting The Rare Breed is a sweeping, nine minute take on the overture to The Cowboys, another of Williams’ occasional Westerns, which is followed by the more contemporary 1970’s sound of two disaster movies the composer scored for Irwin Allen – The Poseidon Adventure and The Towering Inferno. Here is the last gasp of the old style early ‘70’s Williams, before he single-handedly reverted Hollywood film music to the grand symphonic model of the 1930’s and ‘40’s. Rather out of place here is the magnificent main theme to Superman (1978), sandwiched as it is between the epic darkness of The Fury and Dracula (1979), two of the composer’s most under-rated works which superbly compliment one another. The disc concludes with the innocent folk-like melody of The River and the mesmerising "Dance of the Witches" from The Witches of Eastwick – an abysmal film only worth watching for Williams’ fine score and the beautiful Panavision cinematography of Vilmos Zsigmond.

Disc 4 opens in comparably dark vein with the downbeat end titles from Presumed Innocent, placed chronologically between music from Williams’ work with Oliver Stone – the end titles from Born on the Fourth of July and "Arlington/End Titles" from JFK (Williams’ other Stone film, Nixon, is not represented). Then its back on more familiar ground for two themes from the two Harry Potter films to-date, before the set concludes with approximately half-an-hour from the five Star Wars adventures. From the unforgettable original Star Wars themes to the glories of "Across the Stars" (Attack of the Clones) and "Duel of the Fates" (The Phantom Menace), the selections may inevitably only scratch the surface this vast musical achievement, but the tracks serve to remind us that John Williams remains by far the greatest composer of epic film music who has ever graced the silver screen.

The performances recorded for this set do of course vary, though they are generally excellent and anyone fearing this is some cheap cash in have no need to be concerned. Over the years the City of Prague have developed to become one of the top film music recording orchestras in Europe. Likewise, you don’t get Williams himself conducting, but Paul Bateman, Nic Raine and Mario Klemens do generally fine work realising his music. All round a simply splendid bargain.

Gary Dalkin

****(*) 41/2

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