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John Williams

Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace [Original Motion Picture Soundtrack]

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The familiar fanfare is there, in all of its swaggering-brass glory, though it seems a little less expansive in the actual depth of its instrumentation. This may be an artifact of the digital age, however -- that fabled, oft-mentioned "transparency." Regardless, Star Wars fans will thrill at the sound of it. What's open to question is whether or not long-term fans will be as overjoyed with the remainder of the score. Composer John Williams continues to use his Boston Pops experience to good advantage, turning in a score that echoes the music and themes for the original trilogy of films (particularly the brooding theme for Darth Vader) while charting a direction for the new film. The multi-themed "Duel of the Fates", in particular, uses the complete dynamic range of the digital studio for an effective punch. Of course, "new" is a relative term when it comes to film music; Williams' use of dramatic dissonance and discordance is somewhat innovative for the Star Wars series, as are the bravura choral passages, the score deliberately references the great film composers of the '30s and '40s. Just as George Lucas intended his movie to reflect an earlier time in the life of his universe, Williams' music follows suit, with choral passages that bring to mind both Prokofiev and Carl Orff (insofar as the choral material brings to mind Orff's interpretation of the Carmina Burana). The Episode I score bears more consideration than the trio of earlier scores, and it is a small regret that more material was not included (thus making this a two-CD set that would fit nicely with the special edition releases of the originally trilogy scores.) The overall development of Williams' musical palette bodes well for the greater emotional requirements of Episode II. ~ Steven McDonald, Rovi

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