Album Review: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (soundtrack) (2007)

Most everyone who knows me also knows about my child-like obsession with the Harry Potter franchise.  I basically grew up on the books, having first read the series when I was 11 and then continuing on with my fascination throughout adolescence.  Yes, I’m an adult now, but that doesn’t mean I’ve stopped loving Harry Potter.  I have, admittedly, taken down my life-sized Harry Potter cut out (which a friend bought for me, I swear!),   but I still go to midnight premieres, re-read the series every winter (I’m just starting it up again now- this might be the 8th consecutive year), and buy all the DVDs, video games and soundtracks.

When the Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix soundtrack was released, of course, I had to snap it up.  Composer, Nicolas Hooper,  joins the franchise and takes off where previous composers, John Williams (whom scored the first three films) and Patrick Doyle (Goblet of Fire), left off.  The soundtrack provides a perfectly haunting accompaniment for the first truly “dark” film in the series.

However, things start begin cheerfully enough with Fireworks.  A jaunty arrangement of cello, violin and Irish flutes (courtesy of the London Chamber Orchestra) start off the exciting number, which is played in accordance to a scene involving the Weasley twins, Fred and George.  Oddly enough, an electric guitar makes an appearance towards the middle of the song, giving the piece a sort of Metallica vibe that actually works nicely.

Likewise, Professor Umbridge is a bouncy little number, mostly composed of strings and brass instruments.  The piece works well with the character its’ named after; the mischievous sound of the violins and horns create a perfect juxtaposition with Umbridge’s sneaky character.

Meanwhile, Another Story, borrows elements from Williams’ original Hedwig’s Theme (the tune that is most synonymous with Harry Potter), and adds in some more flutes and instruments to give the piece an exciting feel, before fading into a slow and eerie, piano-based melody- showing the listener that this isn’t going to be just another happy story in the Harry Potter universe.

Dumbledore’s Army starts off very quietly with just simple flutes, before adding in a thrilling string arrangement.  The theme is, again, perfectly fitting for the scene in the movie- as Harry and the rest of the students rally up as a secret army to fight against Voldemort.  The orchestration is absolutely lovely here- the strings add both yearning and delight to the arrangement, and the sound is stunning.

One of the most important scenes of the film is Harry’s kiss with fellow Hogwarts student, Cho Chang.  So, of course, the score playing in the background had to be fitting, and The Kiss is every bit as magical and wondrous as the actual scene is.  This is Harry’s first kiss, and Hooper’s score reflects that appropriately; the light bells chiming at the start of the song create a feeling of innocence, and as the piece goes on (and Harry and Cho’s kiss deepens), the bells chime louder and the violins swell, making for an incredibly beautiful and romantic song.

Another integral part of the story comes with Death of Sirius, an appropriately dark and haunting piece.   You actually can’t hear much orchestration within the first few minutes, though you can hear a sort of creepy choir chanting quietly in the background.  This piece sounds like the Halloween music you’d expect to hear in a haunted house, which I suppose does go along well with the sounds of someone, well…dying.  The orchestration suddenly picks up with a beautifully frantic cello and violin duo towards the middle, giving some excitement to the piece and then ending on a epic, albeit slightly disturbing note, with the cello and violin crashing into the sounds of the choir chanting.  The last few moments of the track are highlighted with a more angelic choir singing and a light violin, which is played as Sirius goes floating into the veil and to his death.
 
The Ministry of Magic starts off with bouncy trumpet solo, before adding in strings and chimes.  The piece really takes off, however, when the harp and piano are added in with the trumpet, creating a delightful cacophony of sounds.   The strings in this song are some of my favorite on the album- they create just the right combination of harmony and tension.

The disc ends with Loved Ones and Leaving, which sounds a bit similar to the final piece of the Goblet of Fire soundtrack, titled Hogwarts Hymn.  Perhaps some themes are borrowed, but either way, the violins again create a somber and gorgeous finale to the soundtrack.

My only real complaint about the album is the fact that none of the tracks are in order with the movie.  Some of the songs at the beginning of the album don’t show up in the actual film until much later on, and I think the album would’ve just flowed better had it been arranged to fit with the sequence of the actual film.   I was also slightly disappointed to see that there was no full theme included for Luna Lovegood, one of the main characters in the film.  There is music that plays when her character arrives on screen in the movie, but it’s not present among the soundtrack.

That aside, the Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix soundtrack is a perfect counterpart for the film, and even works well as a standalone album of “classical” music.  Nicolas Hooper is a fantastic composer and a great addition to the Harry Potter franchise.

Rating: 200px-4_stars.svg

Track Listing
1. Fireworks
2. Professor Umbridge
3. Another Story
4. Dementors in the Underpass
5. Dumbledore’s Army
6. The Hall of Prophecies
7. Possession
8. The Room of Requirements
9. The Kiss
10. A Journey to Hogwarts
11. The Sirius Deception
12. Death of Sirius
13. Umbridge Spoils a Beautiful Morning
14. Darkness Takes Over
15. The Ministry of Magic
16. The Sacking of Trelawney
17. Flight of the Order of the Phoenix
18. Loved Ones and Leaving

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