Music for Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones
London Symphony Orchestra conducted by John Williams
CD No: Sony Classical SK 89932 Duration: Reviewed: May 2002
John Williams: Music for Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones
Reviewed by Colin Anderson
Its just like film music. A common phrase, a derogatory one, used when something for the concert hall displeases. Well, theres some pretty duff symphonies around, and what we now term as film music was being written before the genre was created you only have to listen to Korngold before the silver-screen beckoned him to Hollywood; and Mahler got a posthumous credit!
The snobbery shown to film music is worrying; also taking its name in vain. I can align myself very happily to Birtwistle, Boulez and Carter; equally I love Waltons music now theres a man who could write film- and concert-music with style. Ingo Metzmacher, no stranger to Luigi Nonos music, told me he has a soft spot for Oklahoma!
Yet, I would not have pursued this CD. It arrived, and playing it has proved pleasurable and stimulated this response.
Ive not seen the latest Episode of Star Wars. Therefore the stills in the booklet aside Ive no specific images in mind. If I didnt know that this was film music, I would recognise it as being so, yet twentieth-century classical music is the foundation of Williamss score, and with it comes that extra bit of gloss that extends boundaries towards popular. Music-plus, if you will, for it goes beyond melodic and harmonic structure in obviously being inspired by an image, a situation, an emotion.
Listening to Williamss latest score cold, one has no option to respond primarily to invention and sound, and to a scenario that is implicit if imagined. There is also the musics image-making potential and one does become enwrapped in a particular atmosphere and circumstance and the oh-so-familiar opening credit-music helps!
For the ears only, Williamss music makes for good listening. One recurring tune provides an idée fixe it comes round a couple of times too often perhaps (from a symphonic standpoint), yet each appearance is different, and the whole score is wide-ranging with plenty of moments apprehensive, aggressive, tender and richly expansive. Memorable ideas and colourful orchestration abound to transport the listener to spectacular vistas and vivid intimations.
Those foundations I mention are fleeting high trumpets recall Bartóks Miraculous Mandarin; the opening of Yoda and the Younglings took me to Ravels Mother Goose; then Holsts Planets, not unreasonably perhaps, appears to take centre-stage (voices à la Neptune too) but its really Vaughan Williams, and somewhere else a rasping trumpet had me in mind of Birtwistles Triumph of Time. These are but passing references. There is a more specific link to the distinguished film scores of Korngold, Steiner and Herrmann; Williamss lavish scoring makes sure of that.
This may not be great music but it is very effective it can be enjoyed on its own terms if appreciated as being a continuation of tradition used in a very precise way.
I certainly enjoyed Williamss imagination and skill, the LSOs superb playing (this band is now a veteran of Star Wars sessions), the first-class recording and will, like the Jedi, return to this CD. Must go and see the film now!