John Williams: Harry’s Wondrous World
By the year 2001, John Williams was already one of the most sought after film composers in the world. With a wealth of awards and nominations behind him, he had already composed the iconic music to films like Jurassic Park, Indiana Jones and Jaws. While they were trying to find the right composer for the Harry Potter franchise, Warner Bros and Director Christopher Columbus tested composer’s before hiring someone. This also applied to Williams, who was asked to write some promotional material for the film.
Williams presented the first drafts of what we now know as the iconic Hedwig’s Theme. This leitmotif is now perhaps the most recognisable theme to ever come from the Harry Potter films. The theme is used in all eight films, plus spinoff production Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Director Christopher Columbus commented on the first time he heard Hedwig’s Theme:
“I remember first hearing Hedwig’s Theme, it was so clear that this was it. It felt so appropriate, sufficiently majestic and magical.”
Harry’s Wondrous World features the famous Hedwig’s Theme in the first few bars before going off into a new theme made just for Harry. This theme is used in the closing credits of both Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. The theme also pops up throughout these films, and is used in conjunction with Harry’s actions.
Opening with a sample of Hedwig’s Theme, the orchestra soon turns into a lyrical theme. This hopeful theme is chiefly led by the strings, who are decorated by unison woodwind interludes. Williams’ rich orchestrations gush with excitement and triumph. The horn feature adds to the heroic theme.
As the orchestra plays this main theme in unison, the central climactic section quickly turns into a sparkling second theme. Now led by the celli, the glittering woodwind and tuned percussion add a touch of magic to the music. The dancing harps accentuate the syncopated strings as they play their luscious melody.
The first theme begins rearing its head through various sections of the orchestra including the flutes, clarinets, horns and trumpets. This leads to the trumpets leading the way into the reprise of the main theme. The triumphant sound here is glorious and the rich textures adds to the grandiose style of the piece.
The last minute sees a reprise of the iconic lyrical theme, which is even more hopeful than the first time it was played. Now even more richly scored this theme has even more of an impact as it changes back into the brass theme. Swirling strings lead into a quiet section right before the end as solo wind players play fragments of the melody. A more mysterious end to the piece unfolds as pucked harps lead to the quiet end.
Triumphant, joyous and fizzing with excitement, Harry’s Wondrous World encapsulates Harry Potter’s character. This piece is only used in the first two films and as the saga goes on, the music gets darker. This piece is a celebration and is certainly one of the most iconic pieces penned by Williams.
Ⓒ Alex Burns