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Harry Potter is quite simply the most popular and successful franchise in the world. Everyone's heard of it, and there are too many broken records and shocking statistics to list. But the series eventually had to come to an end, and despite the novel 'Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows' being released in 2007 (has it really been five years?!), it wasn't truly over for fans until the 2011 adaptation 'Part 2', with the tagline 'It all ends' being quite suitable. It was a momentous occasion for the series and for film, and while there was pressure to get it 'right', equally, pressure was quite minimal because people were going to enjoy it regardless of the quality of film. Personally, I didn't think it was a fantastic effort, but J. K. Rowling's story is so brilliant and the nature of such an event so epic that it was nonetheless greatly enjoyable.
Pressure was a bit higher for somebody like Alexandre Desplat, however, but perhaps on a more underground level. John Williams, composer for the first three films and of course the legendary Hedwig's Theme, was sought after to compose the score to the final instalment 'Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows - Part 2' after Alexandre Desplat's excellent score for 'Part 1'. You feel a bit sorry for Desplat, but it was such a big deal that it's completely understandable. I feel John Williams is simply the biggest and best composer in the world...ever. He's not my favourite, but he's created more well-known melodies and pieces than any other composer. Star Wars boasts at a minimum two very famous themes, while Indiana Jones, Jaws, Superman, E.T., Jurassic Park, Schindler's List and Home Alone offer at least recognisable ones. His melodies are sublime, his orchestrations mind-blowing. Two composers besides Desplat have taken over the Harry Potter soundtrack helm since 'Goblet of Fire': Patrick Doyle and Nicholas Hooper, and while they both did great jobs, Williams is unrivalled. Desplat's score for 'Deathly Hallows - Part 1' was superb, in my opinion better than Hooper's and Doyle's, but when it Mr. Williams stated that he couldn't return to score the final Harry Potter instalment due to scheduling issues (he really did want to return to do it!), Desplat was under a lot of pressure to provide a soundtrack fitting and powerful enough to complete the saga.
-== Track Listing ==-
1. 'Lily's Theme (Opening)' 2:28
2. 'The Tunnel' 1:09
3. 'Underworld' 5:24
4. 'Gringotts' 2:24
5. 'Dragon Flight' 1:43
6. 'Neville' 1:40
7. 'A New Headmaster' 3:25
8. 'Panic Inside Hogwarts' 1:53
9. 'Statues' 2:22
10. 'The Grey Lady' 5:51
11. 'In the Chamber of Secrets' 1:37
12. 'Battlefield' 2:13
13. 'The Diadem' 3:08
14. 'Broomsticks and Fire' 1:24
15. 'Courtyard Apocalypse' 2:00
16. 'Snape's Demise' 2:51
17. 'Severus and Lily' 6:08
18. 'Harry's Sacrifice' 1:57
19. 'The Resurrection Stone' 4:32
20. 'Harry Surrenders' 1:30
21. 'Procession' 2:07
22. 'Neville the Hero' 2:17
23. 'Showdown' 3:37
24. 'Voldemort's End' 2:44
25. 'A New Beginning' 1:39
Total length: 68:26
-== The Review ==-
[Please note that while I refer only to Alexandre Desplat in this review, I acknowledge that many other people worked very hard on creating this score, including veteran orchestrator Conrad Pope, who has worked on many John Williams scores such as Star Wars and Harry Potter.]
'Deathly Hallows - Part 2' - Lord Voldemort has stolen the Elder Wand and Harry, Ron and Hermione have just a lost a dear friend. However, they must resume their quest of destroying Voldemort's horcruxes, which, in this final instalment, takes them from the underworld of Gringotts bank to Hogwarts for the final battle. 'Part 2' is very different to 'Part 1'. The latter was very patient and tense, exploring the characters' mindsets and relationships. 'Part 2' is pretty relentless, with important events and deaths occurring frequently. Unfortunately for film composers, the style of a film almost completely dictates what style of music will be present, and thus, they have little control over this element when a soundtrack album is released. 'Part 2' features many dark moments and battle/chase scenes, although there are definitely some softer periods. Therefore, this soundtrack had the potential to be very sickly, in that it's never good to have too much of one thing. However, the composer manages to retain the magic throughout, providing enough variety to keep the listener or viewer (of the film) thoroughly entertained and in awe.
While Desplat's powerful 'Obliviate' theme (from 'Part 1') plays a role in 'Part 2', the composer introduces a new theme that relates directly to a very important idea that threads through the film. 'Lily's Theme (Opening)' features a very melodic, melancholy line sung by a female soloist. This melody serves as the theme for Lily (Harry's late mother), but rather acts as a symbol to the love she had for her son - the blanket of protection she left that saved Harry's life, and in a sense, Harry's best weapon. It also relates quite neatly to the character of Severus Snape. The theme is basic and child-like - deliberately so. It's there to represent Harry as a child, and in a sense, is the direct antithesis of the 'Obliviate' theme, which symbolises the protagonist growing up and moving on. 'Lily's Theme (Opening)' emerges in a light crescendo quite like 'Obliviate', and the singing begins very quietly and softly. It's very eerie, and accompanies the evocative scenes in the film very well. A string section enters after the theme is heard in its entirety and builds on the emotion massively, with fantastic use of divisi (dividing of orchestral sections; for example, splitting the cello section up into halves or thirds) and aching dissonances.
Desplat is often known for his rather obsurd sounding scores, particularly for films such as Roman Polanski's 'The Ghost' and Wes Anderson's 'Fantastic Mr. Fox'. The Harry Potter soundtracks are rather tame in comparison. He aims to blend fear and darkness with a 'magic' sound, with a full orchestra in mind, and does so to better effect than many composers, who often lean towards heavy use of brass, strings and percussion with complete dismissal of woodwinds, perhaps the odd flute here and there. I have no problem with selective ensembles, but it's refreshing to hear such fluent use of full orchestra. A track like 'The Diadem' explores very peculiar sounds through using instruments in combination; a basic string accompaniment is brought to life by a twinkling celesta passage and interesting use of brass and woodwinds, while 'Dragon Flight' uses the woodwind section and triangle to highlight a rather traditional (of soundtrack music) use of strings and brass. This track soars - just as the name suggests - presenting both Lily's theme and Hedwig's theme in epic fashion. Desplat, with 'Part 2', makes the decision to revisit Hedwig's theme more frequently than in 'Part 1', relating quite closely with the ideas behind Lily's theme, but also due to Harry's heroic return to Hogwarts. 'A New Headmaster' underscores Harry's grand revealing of himself to the school, his old teachers and in particular, Severus Snape, and utilises Hedwig's theme effectively. Opening with a foreboding string passage, a solo horn presents the theme but in a downbeat manner. A harp and celesta provide a strange edge to the track, which is furthered by a high oboe rendition of Hedwig's theme as the track begins to become more hopeful, before a rather chaotic ending.
'Battle music' has almost become a sub-genre in itself in the world of film music; military snares, thumping bass drums and crashing cymbals, chugging strings and epic violin melodies, heavy brass - they're all integral components, but when trying to score battle, or a chase of some sort, it becomes quite difficult not to replicate what's already been done. Desplat avoids any worn-out sounds and ideas in 'Part 2' and continues to build excitement, although there are clear John Williams-inspired passages present, that just don't sound quite as good as John Williams. 'Statues' is very epic; a resonating bass drum pattern underlies music that starts in the lower strings before the horns pick up a melody. Soon, the percussion becomes more prominent and a choir is introduced along with flutes. And while all of the above sounds typical, Desplat manages to create a highly interesting piece that avoids cliché and retains his unique sound. 'Battlefield' quickly establishes percussion and choir as a key aspect, and uses a large unison melody and overall crescendo to evoke a war-like quality, with a solo trumpet later on in the track only furthering this notion. 'Broomsticks and Fire' continues with such an ensemble, but uses a rhythmic violin accompaniment and large stabs to form an aggressive feel. Excitement, uniqueness and tension are all achieved in Desplat's 'battle music'; dark melodies, intelligent orchestrations and menacing swells and stabs combine to provide accompaniment to the numerous fight/chase sequences in 'Part 2', and each track is enormously enjoyable.
The latter third of the album returns to the emotion, however, as the conclusion draws ever nearer. 'Snape's Demise' revisits Hedwig's theme momentarily, but more prominently, Lily's theme. Desplat creates rather dark, demonic sounds before a big swell leads to a stillness, and a revisiting of 'Lily's Theme (opening)'. Here, Desplat employs his first obvious use of electronics to the soundtrack. Here is clear ambient underscoring, and it serves as a very nice break in the album. 'Severus and Lily' accompanied Harry's visit to the Pensieve and Snape's memories in the film. This visiting of a different, more innocent time calls for much lighter music, and this is what Desplat delivers. Fluttering strings and a peaceful flute melody soon evolves into a larger orchestration, but is just absolutely beautiful - yet there is always a foreboding air. It is one of the longer tracks on the album but certainly doesn't feel like it. At about just after the mid-way point, the track changes, and a passage begins with such power and poignancy that it moves you without even knowing what scene it accompanies. The crescendo is grand, and although not featured on the soundtrack CD, there is a reprise of 'Dumbledore's Farewell' from Hooper's 'Half-Blood Prince' soundtrack, and with these two pieces combined, it is one of the best scenes in 'Part 2', and one of the most moving scenes I've witnessed in film. The music plays such a huge part in this.
The following three tracks continue in this expressive fashion, due to what Harry learns in the Pensieve. The 'Obliviate' theme is finally revisited in a far more uplifting manner, with wonderful orchestration I might add, while 'The Resurrection Stone' explores a new emotional domain - it's very light but eerie. There is a choir & flute break that is particularly brilliant, before the harp enters and 'Lily's Theme' is reprised, as are some ideas from 'Severus and Lily'. 'Procession' is very dark with (apparently) sporadic bass drum hits and with the cor anglais providing the melody, a rather odd aura surrounds it. 'Neville the Hero' is inspiring and moving, and provides a nice section of music before the final showdown begins. The latter half of 'Neville the Hero' and the following two tracks return to the 'battle music' but with added desperation and emotion as the final chapter fast approaches. 'Voldemort's End' in particular is absolutely brilliant, but completely understated. Desplat doesn't hit the nail on the head by providing the best piece of music of the score and does not revisit any music heard before in the soundtrack; rather, he creates an excitingly dark piece with all new material. After hearing this a second or third time, the break in the middle is almost excruciating before the swell to the grand finale. The passage uses violins, choir and a big brass sequence to build up to the final moment, where the final chord is hit and wonderful stillness is heard, and Lily's theme is heard lightly and peacefully in the background.
'A New Beginning', Desplat's last track for 'Part 2' is absolutely stunning. Taking a completely and aptly different approach, a far more hopeful piece is heard. With a subtle harp opening, beautifully light high divisi strings swell in, before a tranquil horn melody joins. A pause is followed by a return of accompaniment and a lovely glockenspiel melody, and a climax is achieved by the heightening of the high violin line. Desplat creates an absolutely fantastic but shortlived piece with 'A New Beginning', and like the track before, interestingly uses completely new material. It's a strange end to the Harry Potter soundtracks, not hearing a single theme heard at any point previous, but it simply suggests that the world has truly come to a close; Harry, Ron and Hermione will move on, the magic is over and a new start is upon us.
Of course then you get the '19 Years Later' bit and hear John Williams' sublime music from 'Harry Potter and The Philosopher's Stone', but that's unfortunately not on the 'Part 2' soundtrack - you'll have to get the 'Philosopher's Stone' soundtrack for that - sorry!
-== Conclusion =-
The soundtrack to 'Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows - Part 2' is excellent. Admittedly, I do prefer 'Part 1', simply because of the pure magic he composed, the emotions he conveyed and the sheer variety on offer, but 'Part 2' is a completely different soundtrack and a nonetheless enjoyable one. It works fantastically well both as a film soundtrack and as a standalone CD. Although Desplat tries to sound like John Williams at certain points in the soundtrack (and inevitably doesn't quite get there), overall his writing is fresh and thoroughly pleasurable. The unique, expressive nature of his music is definitely still present, and although there is potential for this album to get repetitive, Desplat avoids this. While fans may be left wondering 'What would this soundtrack have been like if Williams had signed on?', one can simply not be disappointed with Desplat's work; he deals with the pressure of John Williams' legacy and provides a powerfully fluent score for the final chapter of the Harry Potter films.
-== Three to Download ==-
Want to hear a taster of the score? The three tracks I would you recommend you check out are: 'Severus and Lily', 'A New Beginning' and 'The Diadem'.
-== Technical Details ==-
Composer: Alexandre Desplat
Release date: 12 July 2011
Label: WaterTower Music