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Please be aware that this review of the soundtrack DOES contain spoilers of the movie, so if you don't want anything ruining before you see it I suggest you skip past the individual track descriptions or don't read it at all.

.: "Order of the Phoenix" Soundtrack Review :.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix:
Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Music Composed by Nicholas Hooper
Performed by The London Chamber Orchestra
Conducted by Alastair King

I’d like to start by bringing you slightly up to date on my opinions of this film scores’ predecessors.

This is the second time that the mighty reigns of composer have been handed over to someone other than John Williams since the beginning of the Harry Potter film franchise. Williams’s first soundtrack for ‘The Philosophers Stone’ brought us another trademark theme that he is so famous for, having created such well known themes for movie series’ such as ‘Star Wars’, ‘Indiana Jones’ and ‘Jurassic Park’ not to mention some of his most memorable work on ‘ET The Extra Terrestrial’. The first movie score was stunning with an endless supply of thematic grandeur to die for, of course it did let itself down by being magical in a decidedly childish way, not entirely but within the majority. The second score composed by Williams for ‘The Chamber of Secrets’ was unfortunately dull and lacked in new compositions with only a theme or two being added here and there that resembled the main theme every so slightly. The third movie score for ‘The Prisoner of Azkaban’ is in my opinion one of Williams’ finest works. He finally hit just the right notes and brought the dark mysteriousness that the magical world is destined to possess. The simple addition of harpsichords and haunting, eerie or beautiful themes captured the tone of the film and its plot perfectly. Definitely the best Potter score so far. After that, Williams schedule couldn’t make way for the scoring of another Potter movie, so just as the directorial reigns were passed on so was that of the composer to Mike Newell’s long time collaborator Patrick Doyle. Doyle created a score for ‘The Goblet of Fire’ that was completely new to the film franchise and similar to Williams score for the third movie, made a lot less use of the main theme better known as Hedwig’s theme. Doyle’s music did fit in well with the heroic area’s of the film especially in the triwizard tournament and most noticeably he composed an extremely memorable cue titled ‘Voldemort’ on the soundtrack album which was spine tingling alongside the visuals of the movie. But, much like the film itself, it left me feeling a little unsatisfied.

Now the time has come, and we have fresh meat to scrutinise. ‘The Order of Phoenix’ see's the film directed by David Yates who insisted on bringing along with him his collaborating composer Nicholas Hooper. Being relatively new to the scene I had my doubts, although he has received some acclaim and is of course a BAFTA winner…which still means nothing to me. Awards don’t suddenly make you the best. But I go into it with a fully open mind and I’m always excited to hear what a new composer can do with the wonderful main theme that is thankfully remaining steadily present throughout the movie franchise and will continue to do so. I’ll go through each track on ‘The Order of the Phoenix’ soundtrack album and then sum everything up with a final verdict. I’ll try to keep things brief but informative.

01 Fireworks [1:46]
A steady fast moving piece opens the album. Boisterous strings carry a hefty quick moving melody that out of the blue dwindles away and bursts into an electric guitar solo. This is an unexpected and unwelcome addition. The guitar is then accompanied by the continuation of the hefty movement of the melody from before, ending on a screeching note. This guitar solo isn’t actually featured in the film when this cue takes place; simply the string melody which I feel is a good decision. Although I think the guitar is intended to represent the rebelliousness of Fred and George, it just wouldn’t fit in with the tone of the film and does feel a tad out of place on the soundtrack.

02 Professor Umbridge [2:33]
A pleasant bouncing theme that suggests a feeling of pompousness which can only fit perfectly with Umbridge herself, this is a great theme to see Umbridge marching through the corridors of Hogwarts enforcing her rules wherever she goes, a great brassy theme. The piece moves along nicely throughout finally coming to a deep foreboding close.

03 Another Story [2:38]
Opening on a short eerie build up of deep sounds this track softly goes into the trade mark 'Hedwig’s Theme' on wind, beautifully accompanied towards the end by some powerful strings. The theme only lasts for a short while and serves as an opening title of the movie in which the Warner Bros. logo and the movie title thrust towards the camera through thick grey clouds. The track continues with soft haunting sounds on piano, light strings fluttering in the distance. This piece is beautiful and suggests real emotion and maturity in the Harry Potter series, the sadness within the music is incredible and hits the tone of this film just right.

04 Dementors in the Underpass [1:43]
This piece opens with a steady beat which if listened to on a good sound system you can really feel it as well as hear it. It then jerks with surprise into an intense array of strings at frightening notes with a deep choir humming in the background. Just as things become all too unpleasant the mood suddenly switches when the choir become louder and ethereal which have the perfect sound as Harry produces his patronus. You can almost hear the beautiful white light from his patronus charm. This is a very intense cue and fits into its scene wonderfully.

05 Dumbledore’s Army [2:40]
Starting on with a theme of sadness and memory this track slowly lifts into a beautiful piece that is bursting with happiness and excitement, gorgeous strings that give the whole track a feeling of movement which works so well with this scene where each of the students are practising their spells and patronus’s as the camera moves around the room with a beautiful flow. Music that compliments the on screen events as well as this is a joy to listen to both in the movie and isolated here on the soundtrack.

06 The Hall of Prophecies [4:26]
A large majority of this piece is ambient humming sounds, an eerie foreboding build-up with a hint of Hedwig’s theme added. It suddenly bursts into a moment of intensity and dwindles back down to its ambient sound with a light melody accompanying. Again the track takes a sudden burst and rolls on a fast paced string section suggesting a feeling of frantic running as something chases close by; the travelling strings climax on a short louder note, definitely some stirring music.

07 Possession [3:19]
This track opens with an intense flood of strings and chorus that fades to near silence with deep fluttering strings. The feeling of tense emotion continues and strings play a beautiful melody that builds and builds going through the motions with suggestions of fear and pain, the build up and climax are intensely emotional and firmly one of my most favourite tracks on the album. This is a great example of Hooper’s talent for emotional music that could almost bring upon tears by itself. A highly fitting piece for the painful moments of Voldemorts possession of Harry while he fights him out of his mind with all his might.

08 The Room of Requirement [6:08]
A light magical opening that has hints of a similar sound created previously by Williams, intentional or not it sounds beautiful. This piece starts with some soft twinkling sounds which almost remind me of some of the music heard around Hogsmead in ‘The Prisoner of Azkaban’ especially from the brief scene in Honeydukes sweet shop. The playful music continues and builds providing some added humour which is fitting for many of the scenes taking place in the film involving Filch making a fool of himself as usual. The music builds up into a rather powerful moment still with some comical suggestion. This is a lovely light hearted playful track and is very enjoyable.

09 The Kiss [1:56]
There is no particular theme here for the kiss but it’s a brief and pleasant track that provided some pretty background music when Harry and Cho have there moment below the mistletoe. The music is sweet and provides nice emotion without becoming too over the top. Again, perfectly fitting for the moments on screen, the music builds into a lightly tense moment only to fade out beautifully.

10 A Journey to Hogwarts [2:53]
This track opens with a version of Hedwig’s Theme performed beautifully once more on strings, which made for some nice shots of the Hogwarts Express in the film as it journey’s on to school. The track continues on into a rather sombre melody and then uplifts into a simple rich playful melody that represents the change back into the new term at Hogwarts after Christmas and when the trio discover Hagrid has finally returned from his mysterious absence. The playful music towards the end of this track accompanies the trio hurriedly running down the hillside to visit the lovable half giant.

11 The Sirius Deception [2:34]
This track opens on a dark rumbling melody that remains sinister and unpleasant throughout. The title of the track gives a clue to what’s going on, it’s dramatic and fits well as with the rest of the score. The track moves into a steady melody on strings that suggests a build up to something more dramatic and then the music moves into a more beautiful travelling theme which if memory serves me well takes place in the film as some of Dumbledore’s army take flight to the Ministry on the strange winged beasts that only Harry and Luna can see, the Thestrals.

12 The Death of Sirius [3:57]
Opening very similar to track four this one starts on very deep notes that continue for a while, building slowly into something more and suddenly the trumpets sound and the track bursts into an action packed sequence of strings and choral sections accompanying the spectacular duelling between the Order and the Death eaters in the veil room. The choral boost of music as the Order makes their entrance is beautiful. And just as suddenly as Sirius’ life is ended the music breaks swiftly from action into very sombre, gentle music of emotion bringing the track to a close. An enjoyable piece of the soundtrack here with a lot of different styles going on, moments of tense fear, gripping action and saddening emotion.

13 Umbridge Spoils a Beautiful Morning [2:39]
Opening on beautiful notes that have a feeling of morning bloom and beauty with sprinklings of pretty harp sounds and a cheerful flute, the track dwindles into some mysterious plucking strings that continue steadily with bassy accompaniment. A sudden silence befalls, and then a twinkling variation of Umbridge’s theme brings the track to a close with a more powerful foreboding end juxtaposing the rest of the fairly bright, light hearted music.

14 Darkness Takes Over [2:57]
A simple piece of ambient music keeping with the much darkened tones of the movie, the music begins to take on frightening strings soaring and sweeping scarily, shades of Doyle showing through a bit here. It continues steady and comes to an end almost on a sort of march type melody finally closing with a busy array of strings on changing eerie notes.

15 The Ministry of Magic [2:47]
This track opens gently and comically with wind instruments providing a jolly little melody for Mr Weasly’s amazement at the marvels of the Muggle world. This then sweeps into a pleasant theme as the 'visitor’s entrance' lowers into the vast and busy atrium of the Ministry of Magic building to a grand moment as we see a huge banner displaying the Minister for Magic in all his glory. The track continues with the mildly comic theme and takes a change suddenly at an unnerving rumble of the orchestra to end it. Theirs a part of this track that distinctly resembles the introduction of "At the End of the Day" from the musical Les Miserables.

16 The Sacking of Trelawney [2:13]
Hooper seems to have a great talent for emotional music and this is no different as it helps to make this sweet moment of sadness all the more tear jerking. Poor Trelawney is reduced to tears while this beautiful melody helps to pull at your heartstrings. The music takes on a slight change of tone for a moment and then builds into a mildly powerful climax of strings which very nicely runs straight through into the penultimate track.

17 Flight of the Order of the Phoenix [1:32]
Opening with building militarily drums, you’re just waiting for an action packed theme to burst out and it does this indeed. Not really a discernable theme that you could hum and remember but beautifully composed music that works so well as the Order travel in formation across the River Thames, complimented by fleeting shots of some landmarks of London. A moment of this piece becomes highly beautiful as the strings take over and perform a beautiful sweeping melody that I simply adore, it only lasts a short moment before moving back into the heroic theme of flight and coming to a gentle 'landing'. This is another of my favourite tracks on the album and sounds just fantastic in the movie.

18 Loved Ones and Leaving [3:16]
Hooper’s talent for emotion shows through very strong again here throughout the track, which creates a nice ending for the film. It sounds beautiful alongside the final shot of the breathtaking landscape where Hogwarts is nestled. The track features a momentary pause of twinkling music that I believe is a fitting piece for Loopy Luna Lovegood as she skips away for pudding. Continuing into a beautiful ending which is built up by emotional shimmering strings into a mildly climactic but gentle and heart warming ending to the music. A perfect close to the soundtrack album, and to the film.

This soundtrack album is presented out of chronological order which I’m sure was intended to make it a more enjoyable listening experience, but I can’t help but feel that it may have been just as enjoyable (if not slightly more) kept in the order it would appear in the movie. This may be because at times it takes a sudden change when one track is dark or action packed and the following is upbeat and light, or airy and comical. It’s not necessarily a bad thing merely an observation.

I have looked through a lot of other reviews of this soundtrack and it seems a firm opinion that (in so many words) it’s not that good. And often when I read the comments of the experts I almost feel I should agree because they “know what’s what”. But I’ve decided to ignore that and give you my entire honest personal opinion. I think this soundtrack is a gem. A fully beautiful score that fits perfectly with the new tone that David Yates brought to the film. Hooper’s music is beautiful; he seems to excel in his writing of emotional tear jerking music and intense moments of action. His use of strings excites me beyond belief as it’s always been my favourite portion of the orchestra.

Hooper has made use of the material given on screen as inspiration and written a score that is most fitting and enjoyable to hear both in the movie and isolated on its soundtrack album. He’s made just enough use of Williams composition of Hedwig’s Theme which is mainly the ‘Harry Potter Theme’ but not tried to use in odd places which is the way I felt Doyle had often used it in his score of the 'Goblet of Fire'. I’d say this is definitely the kind of music you’ve got to take note of in the movie because it brings a certain sense of visual stimulus to the music and why the composer has made the decisions in how he’s written the score.

I don’t like to give star ratings, it just seems petty. So I would like to end by saying that with this soundtrack (like any) you’re going to love it, or hate it. You’ll have the usual hardcore Williams fans that slate it and demand that Williams return for the next movie soundtrack so their eardrums won’t be insulted much further. But that’s life. I put this soundtrack and the soundtrack by Williams for 'The Prisoner of Azkaban' as my two favourites of the Harry Potter series so far and I firmly cannot wait to hear what Hooper comes up with for the Half Blood Prince as its safe to assume that with David Yates holding the directorial reigns that Nicholas Hooper be alongside once more to create hopefully the perfect sound for the next movie, similar to what he has for Order of the Phoenix.

Paul Michael Hodgson July 2007



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