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Review: The Complete Harry Potter Film Music Collection

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The unforgettable music of the films comes alive in this collection...

The Complete Harry Potter Film Music Collection

Music is an intricate part of movie making, and it is absolutely necessary to make sure that the composer should have a firm grasp on whatever genre the film is. This is especially true when you’re bringing a book or series of books that is loved by millions to life on the big screen. The trouble is finding the right composer when dealing with the magical world of Harry Potter. The seven books of the series were transformed into eight beautiful films – if not always adhering to the source material one hundred percent – and creating the musical soundscape was just as important as the sets, costumes, actors, or special effects. The City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra have taken some of the finer selections from these eight films and presented them brilliantly in a new collection that is a treat for any Harry Potter fanatic.

The collection starts off with the easily identifiable “Hedwig’s Theme”, which has been associated with the Potter films ever since. It was up to master composer John Williams to create a musical world fitting for a boy wizard. After all, it was Williams who created such wonderful scores for the Star Wars films, the Indiana Jones films, and so many others. Williams proved in his work for the first three films why he is still one of the best in the business. He utilizes every part of the orchestra, and every piece has a lot going on. While there’s a main theme being presented, there are smaller parts being played at the same time, all of which combine and make for wonderfully blended compositions. In “Harry’s Wondrous World”, we experience that feeling of being a young boy and being exposed for the first time to the magical world he had been denied by his Muggle relatives. “Christmas at Hogwarts” is a playful theme, expressing the wonder that Harry feels, finally feeling as though there’s somewhere that he truly belongs. “Leaving Hogwarts” is a melancholy piece that presents Harry’s love for his new home, but the sadness of leaving it – and the friends that he had never had before – behind to go back to life with the Dursleys.

Next we have “Fawkes The Phoenix”, a musical theme that seems to express the change that Harry has already undergone, and yet promises more change in the lad’s future. “The Chamber of Secrets” has both the sense of adventure and of foreboding. It’s another piece that is a prime example of Williams’ mastery of his art, as you have so many different sections of the orchestra playing different themes upon themselves, and yet instead of the ensuing chaos that one would expect, they all complement themselves without overplaying one another. “Gilderoy Lockhart” is a theme that well accompanies the man of the film. It’s bravado and flair with a sense of mystery, playing up to the image that Lockhart has made for himself.

“Aunt Marge’s Waltz” is a fun, busy theme that brings to mind the scene of Aunt Marge being blown up by Harry and of her flying away to the astonishment of both her and Harry’s family. Williams gives us a chaotic jazz-inspired piece for “The Knight Bus”, and if you haven’t seen the movie, you might be turned off by it. The insane bus ride that Harry takes into London is presented very well in this track. “Double Trouble” is a choral piece that the Hogwarts choir sings in the film, and it is a haunting theme with layers of instrumentation and voices, and it makes for great listening. “A Window to the Past” is a contemplative theme which really shows Harry’s happiness for finding friends of his parents to learn more about them, but also his sadness, because their shared memories are mere shadows of a past that Harry cannot know because of Voldemort. It is that constant struggle between his happiness and sorrow for that which might have been that give the story – and for that matter, the music – such a deeper meaning.

Disc 2 starts off with Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, and new composer Patrick Doyle. Nominated twice for both the Academy Award and the Golden Globe, Doyle is a wonderful composer who is able to capture the majesty of the Quidditch World Cup, the tension and triumphs of the Tri-Wizard Tournament, and the horror of the return of Voldemort. “The Golden Egg” depicts Harry’s face-off with a dragon in order to attain his prize in the first part of the tournament. “Neville’s Waltz” is a lovely piece that accompanies the students of Hogwarts as they learn to dance for the Tri-Wizard Ball. “Harry in Winter” is another of those sweeping epic sort of pieces that captures Harry’s many feelings during the year: Feelings of love, loss, betrayal, true friendship, and dread as he is yet again the target of those who would destroy everything he holds dear. “Black Lake” is dark and well presents Harry’s struggle with the second task of the tournament, as well as his triumph. “Hogwarts March” is the piece played at the beginning and end of the maze, the last challenge of the tournament; a heroic fanfare fit for a parade or honor guard. “Hogwarts Hymn” is a touching finish for a movie that had so much in it (and left still more from the book out). The epic feel of the music for this film is fantastic, and fitting for such a sprawling story.

Composer Nicholas Hooper takes over for Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix as well as Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. There aren’t many selections from these films here, but what is here is excellent. “Professor Umbridge” is prim and proper, presenting her façade while hiding her sinister nature altogether. “Dumbledore’s Army” is slightly playful, presenting the scene where the students of Hogwarts decide to take it upon themselves to learn the magic that Umbridge feels is unnecessary. “Flight of the Order of the Phoenix” captures the essence of the group of students flying toward the Ministry of Magic. “Dumbledore’s Farewell” is a tearful, somber theme as we say goodbye to Harry’s father-figure and mentor. Violins and woodwinds play on the emotions here, and it’s well done.

Alexandre Desplat isn’t given much time here, as his work for the last two films, the brilliant two-part Deathly Hallows, is represented by only two pieces. “Obliviate” is named after the spell that Hermione uses to wipe her parents’ memories of any trace of her. The piece is used at the beginning of the first film to show how much everything has changed, as Harry needs to leave his childhood home before he can be found by Voldemort’s agents. The theme is masterfully done, showing the emotion that all three of our heroes feel as they start their new lives as adults and go into the cold world to fight against a seemingly unstoppable foe. The two disc set finished with “Lily’s Theme”, which is another haunting piece, beautiful yet heartrending. Here we see the love that existed between mother and son, and the love felt for Lily by Snape, who finishes the films out a hero after being a heel for the first seven. Desplat’s work isn’t as intricate as those who came before him, but his darker take on the material matches the films’ tones.

The City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra is brilliant here, fully capturing the splendor of the original recordings. The sound is sharp, and is wonderful to listen to whether you’re reading the books or just need some music playing. This is one collection I would have to recommend to any Harry Potter fan, or to anyone who loves good instrumental music. There’s much here to check out, and it is certainly magical.

5 stars

The Complete Harry Potter Film Music Collection is available now (US) on SilvaScreen Records [UK link]

See also:

Inside the Ministry Of Magic - 'The Making Of Harry Potter' studio tour

Green-Eyed Jedi, or why I envy Harry Potter fans

Harry Potter and me: The aging effect of Witchcraft and Wizardry

Harry Potter Comes To An End


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