Great Film Fantasies/Williams & Shore

April 28, 2006

Great Film Fantasies


John Williams and Howard Shore


Film compilation recordings are at best difficult! Because the Star Wars, Harry Potter, and The Lord of the Rings films are the only ones featured on this CD we are talking about a total of twelve films from which 16 tracks were chosen by Robert Woods the ageless producer and Erich Kunzel the tireless conductor who has recorded over 80 CD's with the famed Cincinnati Pops Orchestra. Quite an assignment! This is a conductor who once conducted in front of nearly a million people in the 4th of July celebration in Washington D.C. in 1996! What a contribution this man and orchestra has made to music including film, which you are likely interested in, if you are reading this review. There are many who turn up their nose or scoff at any sort of compilation. Unless it is the original soundtrack material "I have no interest in the material" is the reply to the question if asked whether or not to purchase the compilation. Just buy the "Prisoner of Azkaban" and don't worry about any other recording. This, in my humble opinion, is the wrong way to approach any compilation recording! Compilation recordings should be looked at and considered as an introduction to the material. Let's go back to the example of "Prisoner of Azkaban" once again. Included on this CD is the 'Aunt Marge's Waltz' from the Harry Potter film. Maybe this particular track was striking enough to get your attention and you found yourself playing this one over and over. That being the case you should go out and purchase the entire score! On the other hand, after hearing it your comment to yourself might be how can anyone possibly enjoy this kind of off the wall waltz, then you would pass on purchasing it. By using this compilation as an example you just saved yourself some money. Or you are reading this review and just a casual listener of film music and want a nice sampling of John Williams and Howard Shore. Then this is the right CD for you!

The first 10 tracks are devoted to the six Star Wars films and the major themes that contributed to the huge success are all there. Should they have included 'Flag Parade' from "Phantom Menace"? On a compilation just like an all star team something is missed. Let's just let it go that they missed one! They did include the famous Main Theme. Oh wait, famous isn't strong enough as an adjective as this theme is usually recognized by people who have little or no interest in film music at all! There is also the poignant Princess Leia theme, the swinging rocking big band 'Cantina Band' and the 'Imperial March' played by grade school, high school and college bands the world over! The reminiscent strains of a Mahler symphony surface in 'Anakin's Theme' from the "Phantom Menace" making me want to hit the repeat button on the CD player over and over. But then the next selection is 'Across the Stars' from "Attack of the Clones" with its delicate harp and oboe followed by the longing strings which is also excellent so listening to the entire CD over and over is a good plan of attack.

The final six tracks are devoted to Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings. There is one track for each of the six films. Yes it does seem a bit lacking especially when there are several CD's devoted exclusively to the Lord of the Rings alone. Thus there is no 'Riders of Rohan' from "The Two Towers" or 'Lighting of the Beacon' from "Return of the King". But each film is represented with one selection and this is a compilation!

Telarc since its inception has always been known for its state of the art recording techniques and this is no exception. The DSD recording system results in a dynamic range of 120 dB and a frequency response of 0 Hz to 100kHz. For those who are not familiar dynamic range is the difference between the softest and loudest passages in a work. 60 dB is a lot. Frequency response measures the kinds of sounds from the lowest to the highest. Both of these numbers represent figures far beyond the capability of the human ear. 30Hz-14kHz is excellent hearing! The chorus was miked a little too closely on 'Duel of the Fates' but this is a minor point.

Apparently, tracks from "War of the Worlds" and "Batman Begins" were also recorded at the same time this CD was recorded but are available only on iTunes as a download. No matter as this is a good solid CD without them and is recommended. Caution! Buying this CD will likely cause you to explore the original soundtrack material so listen at your own risk!

Score Reviews Rating: ***

Recording produced by Robert Woods

Recording Engineer is Michael Bishop

Telarc # is CD-80664. This recording is also available in SACD.

Performed by the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra conducted by Erich Kunzel

Total Playing Time is (61:48)

Track Listing:

Star Wars

1. Main Theme from Episode 4: A New Hope (5:35)

2. Princess Leia from Episode 4: A New Hope (4:07)

3. Cantina Band from Episode 4: A New Hope (2:14)

4. The Imperial March from Episode 5: The Empire Strikes Back (2:56)

5. Yoda's Theme from Episode 5: The Empire Strikes Back (3:16)

6. Luke and Leia from Episode 6: Return of the Jedi (4:38)

7. Duel of the Fates from Episode 1: The Phantom Menace* (4:18)

8. Anakin's Theme from Episode 1: The Phantom Menace (2:30)

9. Across the Stars from Episode 2: Attack of the Clones (3:15)

10. Battle of the Heroes from Episode 3: The Revenge of the Sith* (3:34)

*Members of the Cincinnati May Festival Chorus

Harry Potter

11. Harry's Wondrous World from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (4:49)

12. The Chamber of Secrets from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (4:09)

13. Aunt Marge's Waltz from Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2:22)

The Lord of the Rings Trilogy

14. May It BE & Themes from The Fellowship of the Ring (6:06)

15. The Hornburg from The Two Towers (4:04)

16. The Ride of the Rohirrim from The Return of the King (2:35)

Tracks 1-13 are composed by John Williams and 14-16 by Howard Shore and others.

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