Rob Price
Gutbrain Records
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2024 January 01 • Monday

Happy New Year!

The 811th Soundtrack of the Week is John Williams's music for The Fabelmans.

I guess this movie didn't do too great at the box office but I loved it and I've seen it twice so far.

As a soundtrack composer John Williams occupies a place similar to that of, say, Henry Mancini, in that everyone knows at least one of their film themes (Jaws, The Pink Panther) and also in that while each is immediately identified with a certain kind of sonic emotional identity, they're both actually a lot more versatile than most people seem to realize.

So if I say that the main title theme from The Fabelmans sounds like "a very John Williams" solo piano piece, you probably already have an idea of a gentle and sweet melodic composition that glides around and hits the occasional minor note as a reminder of the sadness that's usually found in happiness, in at least trace quantities.

There's more sadness and longing in "Mitzi's Dance", in which Williams seems to be channeling Erik Satie. Considering that Mitzi's character is a pianist who's struggling with feelings of remorse regarding unfulfilled ambition and potential to have a career as a concert pianist, this is appropriate. Strings, harp and celeste or glockenspiel or whatever it is are used especially well here.

Speaking of concert piano, the next piece is Friedrich Kuhlau's "Sonata in A Minor, Op. 88 No. 3: III. Allegro Burlesco", solo piano as performed by Mitzi in the movie. I'm not exactly a classical music ignoramus but I hadn't hear of Kuhlau before. It sounds a little Bartok/Chopin to me and perhaps it's chosen for the burlesque qualities of Mitzi's dance, making a connection there.

Low ominous long tones from the bass section begin "Midnight Call", with equally unsettling harp notes creeping in. This could be a cue for a horror movie. Strings and winds come bleeding in softly, smoothing out the tone and the feeling into something less worrying.

"Reverie" is a reiteration of the "Mitzi's Dance" theme, this time for solo piano with the sustain pedal held down.

Acoustic guitar leads us into "Mother and Son", another very sweet and quintessentially John Williams-ish melody, soon joined by strings and harp.

Another classical piano piece comes next, Muzio Clementi's "Sonatina in C Major, Op. 36 No. 3: I. Spiritoso". Seems good to me.

For "Reflections" we get what sounds like a variation on the "Mitzi's Dance", once again featuring something that might be a glockenspiel, combined superbly with the harp.

If you've got a classical pianist in your movie, there's going to be Bach, right? And so here's "Concerto in D Minor, BWV 974: II. Adagio", probably a good performance, I don't know. It sounds sad, anyway, which is probalby the point.

"New House" is a pensive piano feature with string accompaniment, another sad number.

The "Mitzi's Dance" theme gets another bit of a reprise in "The Letter", which starts off sounding a bit like a music box before the orchestra comes in to make everything more substantial.

The CD presentation of the score (which leaves out a lot of music heard in the movie) concludes with "The Journey Begins", a cheerful, upbeat, buoyant and energetic cue, quite short, which includes a bit of Haydn's Sonata No. 48 in C Major, HOB.XVI 35: I. Allegro Con Brio as well as a run through of the other themes from the film.