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Return of the Sith Soundtrack Review

By | April 29, 2005

Revenge of the Sith Soundtrack

w/ bonus collector's DVDReview by Ash Darklighter

ROTS CD cover

On Monday, May 2, 2005, Sony Classical will release the original motion picture soundtrack of the last episode of the massively popular Star Wars saga, Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith. It features a new score by five-time Oscar winner John Williams, who is also the composer and conductor of the score for each film in the six-chapter Star Wars saga, and an exclusive collector’s DVD - Star Wars: A Musical Journey - an unprecedented bonus at no additional cost. -Republic Media  (Full Press Release)

The opening Twentieth Century Fox Fanfare, written by Alfred Newman in the 1930s and used for the first time in its extended version in 1954, breaks into the theme that we all know and love. Yes, this is recognisably a Star Wars film score. It then morphs into a brassy, militaristic rendering of the Force/Obi-Wan's theme first heard in 'A New Hope'. No longer is this the wistful melody that played as Luke gazed at the setting of the binary suns on Tatooine. In fact this is the theme that binds the whole of this score together.

From the outset, this score states its intentions. Much of this score is dark, much darker than the other five scores, but of course, the subject matter is darker. We hear the Force theme as a march, for example. It's the hint of the dictatorship about the marches, the awesome power of heavy brass, instruments playing at the extremes of their registers and lush string scoring at the heart of the more romantic, elegiac moments.

John Williams uses the thematic approach to his composition, tying together this lengthy work and, as always, giving us the characters in sound. Those already familiar with the previous five films will recognise all the familiar motifs in their many guises.

It would be difficult for this film score to be truly original, based as it is on the use of so many leitmotivs. It is magnificently played by the London Symphony Orchestra but there isn’t a new 'Imperial March' from 'The Empire Strikes Back', 'Across the Stars' from 'Attack of the Clones', 'Duel of the Fates' from 'The Phantom Menace' or Princes Leia's beautiful melody from 'A New Hope'.

'Battle of the Heroes' is impressive, with strident brass fanfares and chorus in a manner similar to 'Duel of the Fates', but doesn't stir as that piece did the first time I heard it. 'Anakin's Dreams' restates the bittersweet love theme from 'Across the Stars' and sinister low strings mingle with the Force/Obi-Wan's theme. 'Anakin's Betrayal' begins with a sombre section on strings with accompanying chorus as it rises to a crescendo with the horns swelling the sound.

'Palpatine's Teachings' contains the first statement of the Imperial March motif and is immediately followed by a re-harmonised statement of the Force/Obi-Wan's theme and ends with a fanfare from the Flag Parade in 'The Phantom Menace'.

'Grievous and the Droids' is relentless, percussive and dark with a single playing of Luke’s theme. Swirling woodwinds and frantic strings add to the overall sense of doom.

'Padme's Ruminations' – this section is built over a low pedal point with a sense of foreboding and has much of the feel of the market place on Tatooine during 'The Phantom Menace'. 'Anakin versus Obi-Wan' has the first full complete statement of the Imperial March with its power in the ascendancy. There are echoes of 'Duel of the Fates' without actually stating the theme and it breaks instead into 'Battle of the Heroes'.

'Anakin’s Dark Deeds' opens with a female voice choir effect over a lightly scored pedal punctuated by percussion. It then breaks into the chorus who declaim their powerful motif. A new melody is stated on brass until it is joined by the chorus. Fused together it reaches a powerful cadence. The ending to this section is again on brass - eight note descending motif with a string countermelody. This melody grows in energy until it rises triumphantly to its conclusion.

'Enter Lord Vader' is again dark, martial and powerful with hints of themes from the young Jedi’s former life and the Emperor's theme from 'Return of the Jedi'.

'The Immolation Scene' almost entirely features the string section, as the warmth and pain can be conveyed by strings more effectively than any other section – the sound of bow on string is almost akin to the human voice.

The opening to 'The Birth of the Twins and Padme's Destiny' is played on celesta, flutes, harp and other treble instruments but with a low underscoring giving an other-worldly feel to the music. Music from the 'Death of Qui-Gon' and its poignant vocal lines moves into music that has much of the pain and strength mixed with Obi-Wan's Force theme. Princess Leia's theme moves into Luke's theme, indicating the birth of the twins, and again there is a final statement of the Force theme on french horn. This is the nearest that this, the most pivotal theme in the whole work, has been to its first playing against the glorious backdrop of the binary sunset.

The medley of end credits brings us a taste of all the themes, from Luke's heroic melody to the wistful dreaming of Princess Leia's melody, including the new 'Battle for the Heroes' and ending with 'The Throne Room' in a blaze of triumph.

'Revenge of the Sith' is the final addition to the series, bridging the gap between 'Attack of the Clones' and the original 'A New Hope'. There has never been an undertaking like this spanning nearly thirty years and six films and there never will be. I don’t think it is the best in the series but it acquits itself pretty well. Real fans will love it. Star Wars owes its heart to the melodic work of John Williams.



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