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CD: War Horse (2011)

Review Rating:   Excellent
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Sony Classical

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November 21, 2011

Tracks / Album Length:

16 tracks / (67:28)


Composer: John Williams

Special Notes:

8-page foldout colour booklet with notes by director Steven Spielberg

Comments :    

Steven Spielberg tends to bring out the inner-schmaltz in composers, and although War Horse is anchored around a big sweeping, folk theme bursting with warmth, a sense of freedom, and nobility for its titular equine character, as with most of John Williams’ scores what’s really intriguing is how the composer delivers the goods without heavy clichés.

The lofty theme is tightly woven into every cue, but as the horse goes through various extreme emotional situations, Williams similarly pushes his theme into unusual guises. Besides variations steeped in sensations of wariness, contemplation, and hesitation – each lovingly orchestrated for thickly grouped strings – there are some striking contrasts between strings and brass.

The amusement in “Bringing Joey Home, and Bonding,” with its dance-like rhythm in the first half, starts the score on a light emotional plain before the horse is pushed into the crises of vicious WWI combat. For the battle scenes, Williams is surprisingly restrained (perhaps due to the film's sound effects mix), but when brass and a march rhythm do appear, they hit the listener with great impact. Cues such as “The Charge and Capture” are exceptionally tense, and the syncopated rhythms are reminiscent of Williams’ Indian Jones scores, but far more dire.

There’s a genuinely elegiac quality to War Horse, and while Williams supports all the classic emotional plot points – the horse’s intro, bonding with his master, friendship, dangerous circumstances, near-death, and redemption – it’s one of his most majestic works.


© 2011 Mark R. Hasan

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