Tony Black reviews The BFG score…
Make the most of John Williams scoring Steven Spielberg movies as chances are we won’t get all that many more, given the great man’s advanced age. The BFG, remarkably for a composer well into his 80’s, could well end up among some of his best work once we look back at the sum of his career, and while its difficult at this juncture to truly catalogue and rank everything Williams has done, it would be hard to cast The BFG off as among his lesser work (and let’s face it, Williams’ lesser work is most composers best). Regardless of whether Spielberg has succeeded or failed to recapture the child friendly filmmaking on which he mostly made his name, his film has a score which punches above its weight, largely thanks to a central spine of woodwind which courses across this just over an hour of music and serves to symbolise the sweet, genteel and furiously light hearted nature of the music Williams delivers throughout.
Following a quick, preppy ‘Overture’, he builds up to the magnificent ‘Dream Country’, a bravura ten minute piece which cycles through the central main themes inherent in The BFG and does what few other than Williams are capable of – captivate you with a suite of music which sweeps you up and throws you into the very picture itself. Continuing a dream theme which ripples across the score, in ‘Dream Jars’ Williams deploys a brace of flutes and lutes which create a typically somnambulist texture which invites you in. As he is often wont to do, Williams equally switches gears at various junctures, moving from the fun and Harry Potter-esque fantastical delight of many tracks to the more somber and mournful, such as ‘There Was a Boy’, in which the spinal theme pitches and rises as Williams takes us to a sad place and then rouses us up again by the climax of the piece. Tracks like ‘Meeting the Queen’ are filled with necessary gravitas as such a moment for the characters would befit, while everything in between provides a consistent ongoing connective tissue which builds to a beautiful, spiralling final eight-minute suite called ‘Sophie and The BFG’ which brings proceedings to a close by tying all of Williams’ disparate threads, all circling around his glorious woodwind, together.
This just skims the surface in real terms about what musical delights await in the score for The BFG, but in this latest collaboration with Steven Spielberg, John Williams once again passes that greatest of film score litmus tests – he creates a piece of music which can be listened to and enjoyed on its own terms, without the necessity of the moving image around it. I can think of no greater compliment. While time will tell if this ranks high on the ultimate list of Williams’ efforts in the most sparkling career of all, for certain it will rank as one of the most delightful scores of the year, and possibly even the decade.