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Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
  • Composed by John Williams
  • Warner Sunset / 2002 / 70:19

While John Williams’s score for the first Harry Potter film made for a reasonably entertaining album, it was so bombastic as to overwhelm and overpower the film and was improbably, arguably its weakest feature.  Second time around, Williams was too busy with Steven Spielberg to go through his usual composing/orchestrating/conducting routine and so handed some of the reins over to William Ross, but still in fact wrote the majority of the score.  Most agreeably he has toned things down a lot to write a far less heavy-handed score with far more of the kind of exciting fantasy moments we have grown to expect from the composer over the years.  

By far the best part of the first score was the curiously-named “Hedwig’s Theme” (which doesn’t actually seem to be associated with Hedwig in any way) which over time will I’m sure enter into the public consciousness in the same way as Williams’s other classic themes have.  Pleasingly, it makes several appearances through the new score without so dominating it as it did the first.  A couple of new themes make appearances: “Fawkes the Phoenix” is a very beautiful, sweeping piece while “Gilderoy Lockhart” is very much like the more comic music from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

John Williams

There’s a few great action set-pieces, with cues like “The Flying Car”, “The Duelling Club” and “Duelling the Basilisk” really setting the pulse racing, the latter two seeing the London Voices joining the LSO.  Also, the sense of humour so missing from the first score is very much in evidence here – the aforementioned theme for Lockhart, along with cues like “Knockturn Alley” and “Introducing Colin” have a charming feel to them and serve as a most welcome antidote to the bombast of the action pieces, which were ever-present in The Sorcerer’s Stone.

Exactly what Ross’s contribution was is not really known (his credit on movie posters and the soundtrack album is surprisingly prominent) but the album really sounds 100% Williams.  I still don’t think the Harry Potter music can hold a candle to Williams’s other franchise scores like Star WarsIndiana Jones and Jurassic Park, but The Chamber of Secrets is a step in the right direction.  It’s a far more enjoyable album and a more well-rounded piece of music than the first score, and if you liked that you’re bound to love this.  ****

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  1. Edmund Meinerts (Reply) on Thursday 6 September, 2012 at 09:34

    The Duelling Club “sets the pulse racing”? That hardly qualifies as an action cue at all, in my books…thirty seconds or so in the middle surrounded by the Last Crusade-ripped Lockhart theme and underscore.