Release Date: 2006
Conducted by Erich Kunzel
The Cincinnati Pops Orchestra
|1.||Main Theme from Episode IV: A New Hope||5:38|
|2.||Princess Leia from Episode IV: A New Hope||4:10|
|3.||Cantina Band from Episode IV: A New Hope||2:17|
|4.||The Imperial March from Episode IV: A New Hope||2:58|
|5.||Yoda's Theme from Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back||3:20|
|6.||Luke and Leia from Episode IV: Return of the Jedi||4:42|
|7.||Duel of the Fates from Episode I: The Phantom Menace||4:20|
|8.||Anakin's Theme from Episode I: The Phantom Menace||2:35|
|9.||Across the Stars from Episode II: Attack of the Clones||3:19|
|10.||Battle of the Heroes from Episode III: The Revenge of the Sith||3:38|
|11.||Harry's Wonderous World from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone||4:52|
|12.||The Chamber of Secrets from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets||4:12|
|13.||Aunt Marge's Waltz from Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban||2:25|
|14.||May It Be & Themes from The Fellowship of the Ring||6:08|
|15.||The Hornburg from The Two Towers||4:07|
|16.||The Ride of the Rohirrim from The Return of the King||2:36|
|Total Album Time:||61:17|
|by Rafael Ruiz
May 25, 2006
When I first got into film music (about the time that Swatches were initially cool), these types of compilation albums were a great way to discover scores and certain artists. I remember having a few of William albums which had these suites verbatim. Now that all of the Star Wars films are complete, it is neat to see all of the main themes side by side and since we're up to four Harry Potter movies so far, we should lookout for more "best of" releases.
I'm curious though... in the days with individual track downloads from iTunes, is this album format is becoming obsolete? As a compilation album, Great Film Fantasy is middle of the road. The Cincinnati Pop Orchestra isn't the London Symphony Orchestra and it's not fair to compare them. They've always been a talented orchestra eager to strut their stuff, but conductor/arranger Eric Kunzel makes peculiar choices through the album that undercuts some of their efforts.
The brass and string sections have power, but not focus. The "Main Theme" from Star Wars is played big and robust, but it doesn't have the subtle youthful lightness that the music needs. Additionally the "Imperial March" feels rushed and not weighty enough. But all of the delicate and gentle pieces are fine ("Princess Leia", "Yoda's Theme", "Luke and Leia"). The two big choral numbers have a hot/cool quality; "Battle of the Heroes" is fantastic while "Duel of Fates" is by marred awkward vocals. "Aunt Marge's Waltz" is an odd theme to choose from Prisoner of Azkaban. Buckbeak's Theme or the Potter Family theme are stronger pieces of music. The only reason I can think of is they wanted to change the mood of the album. There are some unfortunate "comedic" additions of slide-whistles to the piece that unfortunately doesn't improve it. Another poor choice is performing "Cantina Band" with a large orchestra as opposed to a small jazz ensemble. It's too much for too small of a piece
In general, the orchestra feels more comfortable with William's newer works (the Star Wars Prequels and Harry Potter) andthese tracks overall are more impassioned and accomplished. "Across the Stars" in specific has some added Debussy flourishes that really clicks with the music.
Where the album gets most interesting is when they tackle The Lord of the Rings Trilogy. Fellowship is covered by a suite of themes including the Hobbit theme, Rivendall and Fellowship themes while Two Towersand Return of the King focus on the Rohan theme. While the previous selections sound like the original soundtracks to varying degrees, the LOTR tracks are completely different interpretations of the music. It is a robust romantic approach, much more in line with the Williams pieces beforehand. The Fellowship track starts with the Rivendall theme, overemphasizing flute highlights and brass flourishes. It tells us on the surface that this music is magical. All of the themes in the three tracks are played up-tempo with whatever dominating instruments standing out too much from the rest of the orchestra. Shore's restraint and melancholy is what made his original compositions so vibrant. Here they are simply loud and grating. While these tracks are bad, they are bad in interesting ways. This type of reinterpretation what makes compilation albums compelling listens.
But that may not be what brings fans to pick up albums. I have some great Eric Kunzel/ Cincinnati Pop Orchestra albums that were clever combinations of popular film music, more obscure tracks and related classical music. Overall Great Film Fantasies is obvious in its selections and average in its execution. This keeps me from recommending the album. It warrants a listen for those that are interested, though not a recommended purchase.
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