Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
August 9, 2022

Williams’ Book Thief score triumphs

By CONOR HAMMONDS | November 21, 2013

To say that composer John Williams is a seasoned professional would be a great understatement. After starting to compose music for TV in the 1950s, Williams began to establish himself as a titan in the world of film music, working on well-known films like The Cowboys and Jaws. Today, he is known throughout the world for his infamous themes to Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Harry Potter, and countless others.

At age 81, Williams is still going strong and on Tuesday released his most recent score to accompany the new film, The Book Thief. Set in Nazi Germany during World War II, The Book Thief tells the story of a young girl who uses the world of books as an escape. His first project since academy award-nominated Lincoln of last year, the composer took a very intimate approach to this score, using a smaller orchestra than usual as well as a plethora of solo instruments to tell the story effectively.

The piano is unquestionably the star of this score. With solos that both open and close the soundtrack and appear on the majority of the tracks, the piano is used as an elegant voice for both the main theme as well as other leitmotifs. On tracks such as “One Small Fact” and “Isla’s Library”, a delicate theme appears that Williams has said symbolizes the fascination that Liesel (the film’s young protagonist) has for books.

Other instruments, like the oboe and clarinet, play significant solo roles that call to mind Williams’ orchestrations on Lincoln. His generous writing for the harp, however, is something that is new and a step away from what is ‘usual’ in his scores. While these three instruments lend to the score’s intimate feel, the emotional power lies in the sweeping statements of the main theme in the string section. While the theme is not Williams’ most original (strongly calling to mind his work on Angela’s Ashes), it is a beautiful one that ties the score together impressively.

The composer, in a recent interview, saw The Book Thief’s music as “taking us out of reality…to areas where we think about better things than throwing bombs at each other.” His efforts on this score are doubtlessly effective — any listener is sure to appreciate every quiet melody in this hope-filled masterpiece.

Comments powered by Disqus

Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The News-Letter.

News-Letter Special Editions