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Soundtrack Review

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John Williams: Themes and Transcriptions for Piano


Composer: John Williams
Performed by: Simone Pedroni
Label: Varèse Sarabande
RRP: £13.99
Release Date: 07 July 2017

Varèse Sarabande release John Williams: Themes and Transcriptions for Piano. The album features the original music composed by John Williams from classic films like Lincoln, The Empire Strikes Back, Schindler's List and Harry Potter, among others. All pieces were specially recorded for this release and performed by acclaimed classical pianist Simone Pedroni...

John Williams was the sole reason I began collecting soundtracks in the early '80s. As a pre-teen, the cover of the vinyl release of Raiders of the Lost Ark caught my eye while I was walking past the record aisle in the local WHSmiths. I must have played that album until the stylus wore out. Since then I've managed to amass a huge collection of scores but I always look back fondly to Williams's output in the '80s, when for me he was at the height of his creative output. Of course, he still manages to deliver some incredible scores - most recently War Horse and The Book Thief.

While this album is interesting, personally I much preferred 2016's Across the Stars The Music of John Williams for Solo Piano performed by Dan Redfeld. However, the two projects are very different beasts. If you want an album to relax to then Redfeld has what you're looking for. With Simone Pedroni's release we are offered more of an insight into the original compositions.

Over the course of these 27 tracks (1 hr, 18 min, 47 sec) Pedroni does appear to stumble, hesitate and deliver the odd bum note. This is most notable on 'The Asteroid Field' (but let's be honest, that's almost unplayable on a single instrument) and 'Hogwarts Forever'.

In his sleeve notes for the album, the project's executive producer, Robert Townson, states: These are not arrangements. Not a note has been changed." That's not strictly true as 6 of the album's tracks are "Arranged by John Williams and Expanded by Simone Pedroni" (see track listing information below). I think what he means is that the original WIlliams composition sheet music have been used, not someone listening to the original orchestrated scores and arranging the music as they see fit.

It's a bit of a curiosity to my mind. Nothing can match the beauty and power of the original orchestrated score recordings overseen and conducted by Williams (if applicable) but as a look into the raw composition process this is fascinating.

While I probably wouldn't listen to this very often, musicians, composers and fans of piano music will enjoy what Pedroni delivers here.

Track listing:

01. The People’s House (2:40)
02. The American Process (3:53)
03. Getting Out The Vote (2:38)
04. The Blue And Grey (3:20)
05. The Peace Delegation* (2:17)
06. Elegy (2:24)
07. The Meeting With Grant* (2:46)
08. “With Malice Toward None” (1:47)

09. Theme (3:24)

Presumed Innocent
10. Remembering Carolyn (4:46)

The Empire Strikes Back
11. The Asteroid Field (4:30)

Return of the Jedi
12. Luke & Leia (5:23)

The Book Thief†
13. The Visitor And The Book Thief (3:11)
14. Max And Liesel (1:11)
15. The Snow Fight* (1:53)
16. Learning To Read* (2:44)
17. Max’s Departure (2:20)
18. The Visitor At Himmel Street (2:11)
19. Finale (3:00)

Schindler's List
20. Theme (2:27)

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
21. Hedwig’s Flight (2:08)
22. Voldemort (2:45)
23. Hogwarts Forever (1:58)
24. Fluffy’s Harp (3:29)

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
25. Buckbeak’s Flight‡ (2:17)
26. A Window To The Past (4:28)
27. Aunt Marge’s Waltz (2:18)

Tracks 5, 7-9, 13-18, 20 Arranged by John Williams
Tracks 1-4, 6, 10 Arranged by John Williams and Expanded by Simone Pedroni
Tracks 11, 12, 19, 21-27 Transcribed by Simone Pedroni
*Contains Previously Unreleased Music
†First Recording This Version
‡Cristiano Pirola, Percussion


Darren Rea

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