It’s been over a year since the film series came to a conclusion, so now is a great time to look back over the extensive catalogue of top notch orchestral music from Harry Potter. Within the eight soundtracks there are a total of 181 fabulous pieces. Today I do the
stupid impossible heroic, and choose what I believe are the ten most rich and inspiring tracks from the entire Harry Potter series.
Sadly none of Patrick Doyle’s score for The Goblet Of Fire made it into my Top 10. This is unfortunate, since I really do love Doyle’s unique take on the Potter franchise. My favourite cues, however, all come from Nicholas Hooper, Alexandre Desplat and of course John Williams. It should come of no surprise that my list is dominated by John Williams.
Before I dive into the list, I feel I should note once more that this really is an impossible task, and that many superb pieces of music will inevitably be left out. However if there are some in particular that you would include in your top ten, I’d be very interested to hear from you! Simply leave a comment at the bottom of this page.
As the first track of The Deathly Hallows Part 1, this was an excellent introduction to Alexandre Desplat’s slice of the series. After a very slow and quiet opening the track builds into a wistful, rhythmic melody. The undercurrent impersonates the chugging sound a steam train (fitting for Potter) as the foreground is filled by seductively emotive strings. It’s an extremely effective piece I’ve been in love with since the very first time I heard it.
9. Dumbledore’s Farewell
Nicholas Hooper brought us many dark themes over his two-movie-long relationship with Potter, and this is certainly one of the best. It’s gentle and tender, with powerful strings accompanied by subtle, eerie chorals. This piece supplies a perfectly morose tone for several of the most tense and cheerless moments in the film series.
Rarely has fantasy action been so sentimental. Alexandre Desplat seems to rarely, if ever, compose action cues in the traditional way I expect. Instead, he creates beautiful, rhythmic pieces like this one, which don’t so much “score” the action of the film but instead toy with our emotions. The result in “Statues” is an beautiful piece of music which also works excellently in the film. I should note the similarity to another piece from The Deathly Hallows Part 2, “Courtyard Apocalypse”, which meddles with the same melody in a similar fashion. In the end I chose “Statues” for my list.
7. Dobby The House Elf
Playing to the lighter side of The Chamber Of Secrets, it’s impressive how well this track holds up by itself outside of the context of the film. In fact, I probably prefer this piece outside of the film, where you can really appreciate its musical prowess. Playful, mischievous and quirky, this piece is still totally grounded and controlled like all of John Williams’ greatest.
6. Flight Of The Order Of The Phoenix
This track from Nicholas Hooper’s first Harry Potter score may be tragically short, but it uses it’s one-and-a-half minute runtime to build into a spectacular cue. As with all of these great Harry Potter tracks, Hooper combines palpable senses of excitement and wonder to form a magical piece of music. It’s a tragedy that Hooper didn’t get to spend more time developing themes like this one.
5. Harry’s Wondrous World
As we head adventurously into the final five tracks, here’s John Williams doing what John Williams does best: non-stop magnificence. I think of this piece as the unofficial theme for Hogwarts, as it seems to describe musically the magical castle we know and love. It’s a remarkable combination of the themes of The Philosopher’s Stone, stirred together with copious doses of pure triumph, ending the film on a glorious note.
4. A Window To The Past
The perfect antithesis to “Harry’s Wondrous World”, this is John Williams taking Potter into dark and sombre territory in The Prisoner of Azkaban. The wistful melody never fails to conjure powerful images in my mind of darkness and snow and hooded Dementors from The Prisoner of Azkaban. Essentially a woodwind solo, this track contains the power to bring (manly) tears to my eyes. It really encapsulates an intense and childlike sense of longing.
3. The Chamber Of Secrets
Excitement and mystery are incarnate in this grandiose, almost vampirical piece. A spine tingling series of descending notes on organ lead into a waltz of strings and horns, building powerfully to an epic conclusion. The orchestra seems to come together so fluidly and graciously, changing drastically from moment to moment but never leaving the listener behind.
2. Hedwig’s Theme
This is the quintessential piece of Harry Potter music. From the delicate tinkling of the iconic theme we’ve all heard a thousand times to the cheeky pumping of brass, and then into the inevitable culmination of the united orchestra. Most of this track is used in film to score the action-packed wizarding sport, Quidditch. I’m glad Williams doesn’t hold back.
1. Fawkes The Phoenix
Fluttering out of the magic and mystery, this piece will forever be romantically entwined with the Harry Potter universe. Mixing an absolutely epic scale of majesty and grandeur with the delicate beauty and wonder of the enchanting melody, this track is another of the many reasons that John Williams is one of the greatest composers of all time.
There it is! My favourite magical music from Harry Potter. As I mentioned at the beginning, there are so many more incredible tracks and themes that I absolutely adore in the eight Potter soundtracks. In the end I whittled down to this list of ten, but maybe your list would be different? Let me know, what are your favourite pieces of music from the Harry Potter series?