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Length: c. 37 minutes

Orchestration: 3 flutes (1st=alto flute & piccolo, 2nd & 3rd=piccolo), 3 oboes (3rd=English horn), 3 clarinets (2nd=E-flat clarinet, 3rd=bass clarinet/E-flat clarinet), 3 bassoons (3rd=contrabassoon), 4 horns, 4 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, percussion (antique bells, bass drum, chimes, congas, cowbells, drum set, finger cymbals, glockenspiel, hand drums, hubcaps, marimba, mark tree, metal plate, crash cymbals, police whistle, side drum, siren, sizzle cymbal, 2 slide whistles, sleigh bells, snare drum, suspended cymbals, tambourine, tam-tam, temple blocks, tom-toms, train whistle, triangle, trolley klang, 4 tuned drums, vibraphone, wood blocks, xylophone), piano/celesta, 4 recorders, alto saxophone, and strings

First Los Angeles Philharmonic performance: 2007–2009, the composer conducting

About this Piece

Hedwig’s Theme

Aunt Marge’s Waltz

Diagon Alley

The Knight Bus

Fawkes the Phoenix

Nimbus 2000


The Chamber of Secrets

A Bridge to the Past

Harry’s Wondrous World

With the success of the Harry Potter series, composer John Williams created the kind of immediately identifiable musical franchise he established for the Star Wars and Indiana Jones films. Williams scored the first three films of the series: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001), Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002), and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004).

One of the few composers currently working in film with a direct connection to the music of Hollywood’s Golden Age of the 1930s and ’40s, Williams brings this legacy to his work. “Johnny” Williams got his start as a brilliant and versatile pianist in Hollywood, performing in the studio orchestras of Golden Age luminaries such as Alfred Newman and Bernard Herrmann, who became a mentor and close friend to Williams.

With this suite from Harry Potter, we survey this richly detailed imaginary world through Williams’ equally vivid and expressively pointed music, from the gliding, perfectly nocturnal elegance of “Hedwig’s Theme” to the ripe thematic summary of “Harry’s Wondrous World.” His touch veers deftly from the awkwardly floating humor of “Aunt Marge’s Waltz” through the manic, jazzy snap of “The Knight Bus” to the orchestrally expansive “Fawkes the Phoenix.” Williams brings “Diagon Alley,” the marketplace of magic, to quirky, bustling life, and cloaks “The Chamber of Secrets” with moody mystery.

Perhaps Steven Spielberg put it best in his speech honoring Williams for his Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Film Institute: “Without John Williams, bikes don’t really fly, nor do brooms in Quidditch matches, nor do men in red capes. There is no Force, dinosaurs do not walk the Earth, we do not wonder, we do not weep, we do not believe.” —Notes from the Philharmonic’s archive