Permit me to start by saying that it’s a shame the composing duties have changed hands so many times over the course of the Harry Potter series. John Williams, as one would expect, set the bar extremely high with music that is synonymous with the films. But it could be argued that a new composer now and then might be able to keep the movies’ soundtracks from getting too repetitive and stale. Alexandre Desplat has been given the honor of writing the music to the concluding two chapters of the Harry Potter film saga. While Williams’ music will forever remain the music that comes to mind when people think of the films, Desplat’s scoring is nonetheless very well done. At times, in fact, his style of scoring resembles Williams’ very closely, with heavy use of the woodwinds and strings playing fast flourishes of notes. For those who enjoy the original Williams soundtracks, though, Desplat’s scoring does lack the original themes written by Williams except for about 20 seconds of “Hedwig’s Theme” near the end of the second track.
One unfortunate departure that this soundtrack takes from the previous ones is the absence of musical themes. There is no longer any theme for Hedwig or Hogwarts, or even Harry Potter. That isn’t to say, however, that the music lacks character or emotion. Anything but. In fact, Desplat does a fantastic job of conveying the mystery and fantasy and suspense of the film. But I would contend that he managed to accomplish little else with his score writing.
While the entire album doesn’t deserve praise, I’ll give credit where credit’s due, and that is tracks 2, 3, and 25 (“Snape to Malfoy Manor,” “Polyjuice Potion,” and “Farewell to Dobby,” respectively). Each of the pieces is of such high caliber, with rich instrumentation and emotional playing, that I doubt anyone could write equally impressive music. Other tracks have brief moments of beauty, like “Ron Leaves,” which features a French horn line that ends far too soon. But that seems to be the recurring problem for this soundtrack: a large number of the 26 tracks possess beautiful bits of music that Desplat neglects to fully develop or rewrite in future tracks. As a result, the listener’s hopes are raised time and time again, only to be disappointed.
I think Desplat was really on to something when he wrote this soundtrack, and perhaps if he had given it a little more thought, he would have recognized how close he had come to writing something outstanding. Instead, the soundtrack’s musical gems come and go and never fully develop, leaving the listener disappointed by how close the soundtrack came to musical greatness. Whether the fleeting moments of musical genius outweigh the soundtrack’s cons, I suppose, ought to be left to the listener’s discretion.
Read other recent reviews by Steve Ewing: Game of Thrones
, Winnie the Pooh
, Breakfast at Tiffany's