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Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
  • Composed by John Williams
  • Warner / 2004 / 73:27

OK, so it had been said that the kids are really beginning to grow up by the third entry in the series, but when Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban opened with Harry doing something under the sheets involving a torch and him desperately hoping not to be discovered by his family, I wondered whether maybe JK Rowling had gone a little too far.  Fortunately, it turned out that he was secretly doing homework.  Almost certainly the best of the series of books to that point, HP3 (it will save time later on, believe me) is also the most obviously cinematic, having a far more traditional narrative structure and being less of a collection of disparate episodes than its two predecessors.  Chris Columbus jumped ship to be replaced, intriguingly, by Alfonso Cuaron, who seems an inspired choice (though won’t be back for the fourth installment).  I have to say (and Potter fans the world over will no doubt attempt to put a curse on me), that the only particularly disappointing things about the novels and films is Harry himself: secondary characters seem to be more lovingly drawn and far more interesting, Harry is just a typical “jolly hockey sticks” English public schoolboy type, who we are expected to revere by default.  Things are most certainly not helped by Daniel Radcliffe, who portrays him onscreen.  It is difficult to know whether to laugh or cry at the fact that, following a worldwide search involving literally tens of thousands of young boys being interviewed for the part, the most coveted role for a pre-teen actor in cinema history should go to… the casting director’s son.  Who – by the by – can’t act.  

John Williams’s scores for the first two have proved to be as wildly popular as his great work on popcorn movies in the past, though they are not without problems.  He seemed to be simply over-egging the pudding in the first one, going all out for maximum bombast.  The second was certainly better (and in “Fawkes the Phoenix” has one of Williams’s most beautiful themes), but the third is in a different league entirely.  Content to leave the movie to weave its own magic without him needing to accentuate every moment, HP3 is a far subtler and more withdrawn score, and all the finer for it.  Of course, a couple of familiar themes return, but they play a far reduced role here.  “Hedwig’s Theme” opens, as usual, but then it takes a backseat, appearing only fleetingly, and usually very subtly, in subsequent tracks.

John Williams

“Aunt Marge’s Waltz” is a delightfully old-fashioned piece, followed by the score’s most unusual component, “The Knight Bus”, which is a little like the Cantina Band music from Star Wars, after doing some serious acid.  “Apparition on the Train” demonstrates that this is a far darker film and score, with some reasonably full-on horror music.  “Double Trouble” is the delightful song Williams wrote for the trailer, vaguely Danny Elfmanesque, and entirely enjoyable.  Then comes arguably the score’s highlights, the all-too-brief “Buckbeak’s Flight” (which is utterly gorgeous and full of the childhood innocence and magic Williams once provided in ET) and liltingly beautiful “A Window to the Past”, which showcases the unexpected presence of mediaeval music specialists the Dufay Collective, and features a lovely rendition of the score’s “main theme” (the melody from the song).  “The Whomping Willow and the Snowball Fight” is a great contrast between the first half, which is a powerful and extremely detailed action piece, and the playful second half, another delight.

With those highlights coming thick and fast in the magnificent first eight tracks, it would be tempting to think that the rest of the album could never live up to its opening twenty minutes, and in truth it probably doesn’t, but that is more a reflection on the outstanding opening than any lack of quality thereafter.  “Quidditch, Third Year” is far more strident and impressive than previous years’ efforts, featuring a full-on onslaught from the brass section and even a brief burst from the choir which showcases impressively adult, serious writing from the composer and is another highlight.  Notable throughout is the degree of intricacy to the orchestration, exceptional even by Williams’s standards (highlighted by a gloriously detailed recording by Shawn Murphy).  “The Patronus Light” is an unexpected treasure, a brief but sumptuous choral depiction of beautiful light.  “The Werewolf Scene” is, by contrast, extremely dark and threatens to almost reach Close Encounters of the Third Kind levels of intensity, taken even further in “The Dementors Converge” with the addition of the choir. Everything then gets wrapped up in the lengthy end title piece “Mischief Managed!”, a lovely summary of the score’s main thematic content.

HP3 is a wonderful score.  It is probably a little more disjointed than its predecessors, but as director Cuaron notes in the album booklet, Williams has somehow managed to pull together all the different styles (traditional classical romanticism, ancient music and even avant garde jazz) very well – which is praise indeed, since Cuaron reportedly would have used a different composer had it been up to him.  Frankly, it’s impossible to imagine another composer coming up with a score quite this good for a summer blockbuster and Williams is still ahead of all of his peers at this type of thing.  Roll on the next one!  **** 1/2

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  1. Lucas (Reply) on Wednesday 20 July, 2011 at 02:22

    Actually, Radcliffe is not the casting director’ son. His mother is a casting director but has no relationshio with HP. Mark Radcliffe (one of the producers) hast the same last name but is no relative to him. The actor has clarified this issue in some interviews

  2. Sakis (Reply) on Friday 15 May, 2020 at 07:09

    Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban Music Themes & Motifs. Main Music Theme. Hedwig’s Theme. Its a really Harry Potter Music Theme. Harry Potter films generally no Harry Potter character. The New Main Music Theme in the movie Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.
    Double Trouble is a mystery hymn from choral Hogwarts. I love it very mystery, dark with magic tunes and gothic like in the movie dark mood. My favourite Music Theme is Windows To th Past. I love Lupin and Dobby. Because is the most good light guys in the films Harry Potter. A secret for the soundtrack. I love soundtracks.
    Like the Horcux Theme is a Umbridge Music Theme. So the Windows at the past is a Lupin’s Music Theme. I’m sure John Williams (master in film music) wrote the Windows to the past and for Lupin. First of course its a Harry Potter Past & Parents Music Theme. But second it is Lupin Music Theme. Improved. If listen carrefully in track Lupins. We heard it subtly in harpichord when Lupin leaves from Hogwarts. We heard it all the scenes with professor Lupin. Windows at the past is sad and light Music Theme like Lupin. Simply, subtly and the end of the film when harry saved himself and serius from dementors in the lake become epic. That theme is a gift from John Williams. My favourite Harry Potter Music Themes in my life. Lily’s Theme. Obliviate. Window To The Past. Sky Battle. Statues. And of course Harry Potter- Hedwig’s Music Theme. Music Themes & Motifs. Sirius Black The Grim Motif. It a menace motif. Sirius Black is a bad guy in the the film for all wizards. When Sirius say goodbye with Harry the end of the film. We heard it Windows to the past. Sirius is a godfather Harry. Also its a character from the Harry past & parents. Sirius have not music theme. Grim motif really is a Pettigrew Motif. If you listen on harpichord Petiggrew Motif small tune menace like mouse. It is like with Grim Motif 3 notes. But Pettigrew Theme is more slow and it has many same notes in harpichord. But is based from Grim Motif. Petiggrew is the really bad guy. John Williams is the master of film music. Marge Music Theme and Bus Knight is exciting music themes with large orchestra and jazzy music tunes. John Williams is crazy master music in the fim. Buckbeak Music Theme. Its a flying theme of course because Buckbeak flying in the film. A surprise now. I don’t know if you listen in the film. Snape Motif from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone returns in that film. In the scenes Lupin’s classroom with Neville and Snape boggart. When Snape’s coming from wardrobe we heard it. Snape Motif its a Menace Motif like Snape. I love soundtracks analysis reviews. Dementors music theme is a dark choral motif with no emotional is atmosphere frozen music theme like dementors. Time machine Theme like a fast clock. The Patronus Theme is a light choral atmosphere Music Theme. Sir Caddogan has a heroic music motif like small knight. Its a some crazy and very smarty. We heard it when we see Sir Caddogan in the film. The Shop with sweets in Hogsmead has a very playfull whimsical music motif. We heard it when Harry goes in the Shop. Also it is a comical music motif in the film. We heard it when Harry talks with Fred & George in Hogsmeade. It is a Fred & George Weasleys Motif?? Maybe. It is inspired from Fred & George spirit like Detonators Theme from Alexandre Desplat in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1. In track snowballs we heard it. Hagrid has no motif. Hargid Professor is the Double Trouble Theme with another orchestrations and music organs (harpichord, oboe). Harpichord and piccolo with choral the most important music organs in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. John Williams is a genius. I love him very much. John Williams is the most better composer film music in the world. Music Master for me like Wagner, Mozzart & Betthoven. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is the most dark soundtrack in three Harry Potter fims. sorry for my english. Thanks. John Williams – Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban *****. I love Harry Potter films and soundtracks. Alexandre Desplat Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows & Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is my favourite Harry Potter soundtracks.

  3. Sakis (Reply) on Friday 15 May, 2020 at 16:45

    I forgot some Music themes – Music Motifs. Snape Music Motif has a 3 menaces notes in brass. I forgot The Monters Book Music Theme. Very fast action – playfull with some menace Music Theme like the Monster book. The Secret in Castle is Double Trouble with another variations. Its a Music Track for the dark mystery and dark mood in the film. Trelawney has a atmosphere Music Motif like sleepy. It sounds like in sphere. In the scenes with her classroom Trelawney. We heard it in track recording sessions “Crystall ball”. A very mystery and strange, unusual music like Trelawney. And in track Trelawney’s Prophecy with dark atmosphere choral music. Also a New Music Action Motif in track Quidditch Third Year. Its become a epic music track. John Williams is master composer for film music. He used Music Themes & Motif better from all composers in film music. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban its very dark soundtrack with many New Music Themes. Nicholas Hooper used it Action Music Motif in Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince. In Quidditch scenes. Also the bird, Whomping Willow & Leaky Cauldron has a very smarty Music Motifs. Thanks.

  4. Sakis (Reply) on Friday 15 May, 2020 at 20:25

    Sorry i forgot again very important Music Themes & Motifs. Soundtrack Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban has many Music Themes. Weasleys Music Theme from Harry Potter and the Chambers of Secrets returns in the scenes with Harry meet Ron in Leaky Cauldron. And Harry saw saw Weasleys Family in Agypt. Weasleys Theme heard very smarty and with Agyptian music variations. Its a variation with different colour and orchestrations like Agyptian music vintage. I think played from harpichord. It played from Leaky Cauldron vinyll in the shop. So its difficult to heard it. And very, very most difficult to understand how is the Weasleys Family Music Theme from second film. Amazing music variation. Im not sure but i think it is Weasleys Theme. Maybe it isn’t. Also cat Hermione’s has a very small music motif fast and tinny trouble like Crookshanks. I think for many time Ghosts has a New Music Theme in the third film. Very medieval and like elegant march theme. We heard it when Ghosts “broken” a window in the Hogwarts. Im growing my musical knowledge in film music. So i know now. This is the Sir Caddogan Music Theme. I think now its a New Music Theme with vintage music for all mystery characters in the castle. Sir Caddogan, Sir Nicholas, Ghosts generally. Its a Music Theme for the mood in castle. Dursleys Motif returns with Amazing variations if listen very carrefully guys. In track Aunt Marge’s Flight. John Williams is a master i said again and again. Aunt Marge’s Music Theme its inspired from Dursleys Music Theme from firsts films Harry Potter. Especially the first notes very whimsical and orchestrations from John Williams with humor comical music sense because Aunt Marge’s become from Harry Potter like a ballon. All the Music Theme is based from Dursleys Music Theme. Improved. Proof for that who i said. Aunt Marge’s is a Dursley Family member. So its very logic and genius. The tubas notes from Dursleys Theme. (When Vernon saw the letters Harry from Hogwarts from first film. And When Dursley close the room windows Harry in the second film) now become a Aunt Waltz Music Theme with big orchestra with playfull “jazzy” notes. That is music genius. A New Music Theme we heard when Sirius speak with Harry in the forest. Lupin Transformer is a really dark horror like a Werewolf Danny Elfman track. We heard it very law horns like a menace when Snape studys in the classroom Defence Against Dark Arts for Werewolfs. End. Firebolt has a Music Theme. Very magic playfull with strings and winds very fast because is a firebolt like a flying broom! Something from sense Hook Flying Theme and Harry Potter first Flying Theme. I finally finished my soundtrack review for Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. I hope all friends in the film music understand me with my strange english. Ι love film music very much from very young. And of course i love so much music because i’m Greek. I listen all the soundtracks next of sea with Greek sun. So i listen soundtracks very clearly and carefully. The voices of sea and birds with natural is the most beautiful music. Alexandre Desplat played flute next of the sea when he was 15 years old in Greece. Alexandre said that in some interviews. I want to write a review soon for “Alexandre Desplat : The Ghost Writer. And The Grand Budapest Hotel” with Greek melodies and greek music orchestrations Soundtrack from Alexandre Desplat (like mandolin, baglama, dulcimer) or Argo Soundtrack. I love Argo. Harry Potter and the PRISONER of Azkaban finally is Free from me 🙂 Thanks.