While not quite as good as the first film, the score to Chamber Of Secrets is a solid entry to the John Williams side of the Harry Potter musical franchise.
Harry Potter & The Chamber Of Secrets was an interesting score to review. Despite the fact that it has John Williams written on the front, the majority of the album isn’t actually composed by him at all. At the time, he was busy scoring Attack Of The Clones and Catch Me If You Can, so the maestro could only contribute a small amount to Harry Potter. This left William Ross to pick up the pieces, weaving in Williams’ new music with a lot of borrowed elements from the first film and of course some of his own compositions. Unfortunately, this had a major effect on the score as a whole, as it was very similar to the first film due to the lifted elements and doesn’t have enough new or interesting music to be held anywhere near as high up as Sorcerer’s Stone or Prisoner Of Azkaban. It also isn’t entirely clear what parts of the score are Williams’ and which are Ross’s. There are many obviously lifted Sorcerer’s Stone elements and some “This Doesn’t Sound Like Williams” tracks, but honestly it is pretty difficult to tell overall.
The album opens with Prologue: Book II (a curious title) and much like the first film the first thing we hear is that iconic main theme. It plays through once before strings arrive to back it up followed closely by loud brass that blasts out the theme again as the title card rolls in the film. Mystery then descends as a new and darker rendition of The Arrival Of Baby Harry begins playing, but this doesn’t last long as the music quickly switches into the more upbeat secondary main theme. The pace picks up here as that amazing heroic piece (Mr Longbottom Flies) that didn’t get nearly enough screentime in the first film makes another welcome appearance. Memories of the perfect score that was The Sorcerer’s Stone come flooding back as the tertiary main theme then plays out in a fantastic victorious rendition before the track then draws to a close.
Fawkes The Phoenix is the most notable of the new themes in Chamber Of Secrets. It is an upbeat, sweeping heroic piece to represent the phoenix that saves Harry’s life a number of times in the movie. This particular track sounds very Williams’, but Ross did try to heavily emulate him in this score so honestly who knows who composed this theme. Like much of Williams’ music the main Fawkes theme plays through before then cycling around for a louder and more strings-backed rendition, and this repeats for it’s highly enjoyable just under four minute runtime.
We have the first major action cue of the score in The Flying Car, and it is very Williams – harking back to the likes of Hook and Indiana Jones particularly. The music moves along at a very fast pace, with rapid brass and strings taking up the forefront for a good two minutes before we get a glorious brass-based rendition of the tertiary main theme that then transitions rather nicely into the primary one before the track then abruptly ends. All-in The Flying Car is a highly enjoyable action piece, especially if you are a fan of Williams’ “Throw Everything At It” policy when it comes to action music. It also happe sot be one of the few entirely new pieces of music on the score (apart from the main theme renditions anyway).
The Spiders is a very creepy track, using strings primarily that play a series of notes that incrementally get lower in pitch before cycling back after a few seconds. This theme does an absolutely fantastic job of representing the way spiders move and then capturing that in a very eerie and shiver-inducing piece of music. The theme for the spiders doesn’t last long however before we are thrust into more of Williams’ fantastic action music. Brass takes centre stage for much of this, and in places there are definitely some heavy hints towards Attack Of The Clones, signifying yet another album this score has borrowed from. This fact becomes much more prominent in the quidditch match of Chamber Of Secrets, where an action cue from Attack Of The Clones is used in its entirety, Star Wars references and all. This does not appear on the score however, for fairly obvious reasons.
The villain theme of this album is Meeting Tom Riddle, a dark and ominous-sounding strings-based piece meant to represent Lord Voldemort in yet another form. After a minute or two the strings then take a backseat to some villainous-sounding vocals before the Voldemort theme from The Sorcerer’s Stone then makes a brass-based appearance. It plays quietly at first, then getting louder and more prominent until the end of the track. The Voldemort theme sounds much more threatening and scary here compared to the previous film, and does a great job of representing the character in this film’s darker tone.
The standout cue of this score is Dueling The Basilisk, which starts out with a fantastically heroic rendition of Fawkes The Phoenix before moving into faster and more action-based territory. Brass and percussion take the forefront here, and we are treated to several great sounding renditions of the Fawkes theme as well as some very dramatic vocals. There are some more heavy hints to the musical style of Attack of The Clones dotted around here, but thankfully these are few and far between and so for the most part we get a very John Williams action cue with fantastic percussion that is overall just a highly enjoyable piece of music.
The score then closes out with Reunion Of Friends and Harry’s Wondrous World, the first of which heavily borrows from Leaving Hogwarts and the latter is almost a note-for-note copy of Harry’s Wondrous World from the first film. These are still fantastic pieces of music, but they fall flat slightly here are they are for the most part no different from the previous film, and really that sums up this score in it’s entirety.
Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets is a very enjoyable album, but it borrows significantly from both the musical style and several of the major tracks from the first film, and because we’ve heard the music before it just doesn’t do anything for me. It isn’t new. Sequel scores should take the themes from the first film and expand upon them, but Chamber Of Secrets just takes them. The new pieces of music are few and far between, and there just aren’t enough of them to be able to overlook the very obvious borrowing from both the first film and Attack Of The Clones (which Williams scored around the same time).
This album makes for good listening, but the lack of expansion on previous themes makes it a fairly dull sequel to the frankly revolutionary first score.
Standout Cue: 18. Dueling The Basilisk