Monday, November 28, 2011

War Horse: New from John Williams

It has been three years since John Williams scored a movie, and this holiday season brings us two new scores, both for films directed by Steven Spielberg: The Adventures of Tintin and War Horse.

War Horse, based on the same book as the currently running play on Broadway, is about a horse who's separated from his owner during World War I. The score is beyond lush and beyond rich. Many themes are woven throughout, from the mysterious yet beautiful opening track "Dartmoor, 1912" to the building drama and highly emotional crescendo of "Plowing." So much of this score is heartbreaking, and yet somehow celebratory at the same time.

Many of the tracks here are classic Williams, with a main theme as a base, with strings cross-crossing atop it, building emotion and expectation to a fever pitch, until he releases us in a fit of massive melodic seduction. Later, in "The Reunion," the horse's apparent return is scored with a loving tentativeness, seemingly as he and his owner meet each other again. (As of this writing, I have not seen the film.)

For those used to the John Williams of Star Wars and the like, you'll find a different composer here, one more along the lines of lush romantic scores like Far and Away and even The Terminal. Like those films, the score for War Horse contains lighter, almost amusing cues, as well as those that dive deeply into your heart. Williams is a master at using a single color, such as the piano, to present all one needs, and then using a layering spray of strings to punctuate the smile of a soul. There is yearning here, the true and powerful yearning of love set to melody.

For those, like me, who have anticipated a new Williams work, the drought is over. The wait for War Horse was well worth it.

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