Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace

Musical Score By: John Williams

Performed By: The London Symphony Orchestra, London Voices and The New London Childrenís Choir

Distributed by:  Sony Classical

Reviewed by Melissa Minners


            I was looking through my movie soundtracks a couple of weeks ago and discovered a travesty - I did not own the soundtrack for Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace.  I quickly remedied the situation and in a matter of days, I was happily listening to a John Williams soundtrack which included a track that would go down in history as one of the most exciting pieces of musical composition ever created.

            American composer, conductor and pianist John Williams is no slouch when it comes to musical composition.  Over the past sixty years, Williams has created some of the most famous musical scores in the history of the film-making business, including six films in the Star Wars saga, Superman, Home Alone, Harry Potter, E.T., Schindlerís List, Indiana Jones, Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Jurassic Park, Angelaís Ashes, Memoirs of a Geisha, and many, many more.  In addition to creating musical scores for film, John Williams has created the musical score for four Olympic Games, numerous television themes and scores of other concert works.

            When Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace first hit the theaters, it was an exciting experience.  Star Wars fans had waited forever for George Lucas to finally complete his saga and this was the first part of a prequel trilogy that promised to answer a lot of questions raised by the original trilogy.  The soundtrack of the film was expected to be just as exciting and enjoyable as the music composed for the first three films. 

            But John Williams had something else in mind - he wanted to raise the bar a bit and create something so moving, it would outdo the first trilogyís musical score.  And so, although the soundtrack of Phantom Menace begins with the familiar Star Wars Main Title, and there are glimpses of older themes like those pertaining to the planet Tatooine and the sinister Sith score, the rest of the soundtrack is quite different. 

            There are two standout tracks on this album - The Droid Invasion and Duel of the FatesThe Droid Invasion involves a great deal of fanfare and dark, sinister undertones created through lower registry notes performed by brass and woodwinds.  The entire track speaks of something menacing advancing with a single-minded determination, the lighter tones representing our heroes as they prepare to engage the enemy with hope and determination. 

            I have save the best for last - Duel of the Fates.  In my mind, this track represents some of John Williamsí greatest work.  Instead of simply creating an orchestral pieces with a great deal of drama exhibited through exciting, fast-paced horns, woodwinds, percussions and strings, John Williams decided that this piece of musical score required one more bit of dramatic flare - a choir.  This particular track served as background music for the battle between Qui-Gon Jinn, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Darth Maul.  This scene is incredibly climactic and deserves the treatment John Williams has given it, creating a musical score that is exciting, moving and incredibly dramatic.  Every time I hear Duel of the Fates I am moved and find myself becoming an air conductor, leading my imaginary orchestra through this moving and dramatic musical creation that may just be the standout composition of all six of the Star Wars soundtracks.

            My version of the Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace comes complete with a booklet that not only contains some words from John Williams and George Lucas, but also opens up to reveal a nice little mini-poster.  I have only owned this soundtrack for a couple of days and I have already listened to it five times!  This soundtrack, like my other Star Wars soundtracks, will hold a special place in my music collection and John Williams will always hold a special place in this music loverís heart as the master of musical composition.


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