Music composed by John Williams
Label: Sony Classical
Catalog: 88697975282

Release Date: 21-November-2011


1. Dartmoor, 1912
2. The Auction
3. Bringing Joey Home And Bonding
4. Learning The Call
5. Seeding And Horse Vs. Car
6. Plowing
7. Ruined Crop And Going To War
8. The Charge And Capture
9. The Desertion
10. Joey’s New Friends
11. Pulling The Cannon
12. The Death Of Topthorn
13. No Man’s Land
14. The Reunion
15. Remembering Emilie And Finale
16. The Homecoming

Total Time: 67:30

Reviewed by
Tom Hoover

I, like many of you, eagerly awaited the return of John Williams to the scoring scene. Unfortunately, I am not as smitten with War Horse as many of you are (likewise, with Tintin).

For War Horse, John does his best Ralph Vaughan Williams by paying homage to the vistas of the land. Not being a fan of landscape scores myself, the pastoral connection didn't work for me so much; it felt too "scenic.". Thus, I was unable to gain a vested interested in this type of approach as one would be best served reading poetry while listening to this. As someone who looks for creative inspiration out of my Williams' scores, it was too passive for my tastes. And perhaps a bit too predictable.

When it comes to the emotional connection, Williams doesn't lay it on so thick in this regard either, and I kind of wish he had. Unlike other fans who were unequivocally won over by this album, I really wanted the over-the-top melodic statements that I grew up on, unabashed and full of life. Instead, the great maestro plays it in a sophisticated manner, offering thematic development that doesn't infringe or impede the air of the film.

When it comes to the action material, there's not much to dive into, honestly. While there are certainly notes that prognosticate ominous situations, I didn't get any real sense of adventure in general. This again, is a disappointment. Given the sweeping arc of the film's story, I had hoped for a bit more boldness from the score. While granted, I can't predict at this time just what measures director Steve Spielberg had called for from Williams, there surely could have been room for some of the trademark cues that's been void from our musical world the past few years. Naysayers will tell me this tale is more of a personal journey and one of bonding, to which I will agree. However, given the right spots for the adrenaline to flourish, I just think there could have been a bit more gusto.

No doubt, the masterful sophistication from Williams is still there with War Horse, it's more the emotional impact that let me down. I suppose at his age, Williams has exceeded the world of mortal composers and has ascended to cerebral plateaus that fails to connect with me. In English, that means he might have reached such a complex level of writing that the magic of simplicity has departed and left me behind. At the end of the day, this score simply sounded more like a classical music album than it did a film soundtrack.

In the end, Spielberg was thrilled with the output, Williams fans are glowing, and the film itself will probably be a holiday smash. For me, I'm left on the outside looking in, wondering if perhaps future journeys with the War Horse score will somehow evoke a better appreciation from me. As it stands now, it rubbed me with a "B-minus" type of experience. I firmly recognize the mastery, but I just couldn't connect with it.