James Newton Howard is Hollywood's finest composer in my opinion, but often his work is attached to films that lack the highest quality. The best examples for this come from his collaborations with M. Night Shyamalan, where his scores to The Village,Lady In The Water and Last Airbender are some of the finest I have heard. His ability to write amazing themes combined with stunning orchestrations in the fantasy genre meant my expectations were high for Snow White and The Huntsman. I can say categorically that they were met. This is a stunning orchestral soundtrack of the highest quality.
I won't go into every track in detail, but will mention some of my favourites. The opening track "Snow White" is my favourite on the album. It starts with a brass version of the main "Snow White" theme before a brief section for piano around the 30 second mark that lasts until just after the minute mark when the string section comes in and the track just builds from there before tailing off towards the end. I got goosebumps listening to this track, it is that good. Another JNH trademark track comes from Sanctuary (Track 10). This contains a stunning piece for piano, strings and choir that was reminiscent of Lady in the Water - again, a goosebump track. Another personal highlight was "Death Favors No Man" (Track 14) with a nice reprise of the Snow White theme before a female soloist comes in followed by a very pleasant harp solo piece just after the 4 minute mark. The Snow White theme itself is what you would expect from JNH - memorable and bold, but not overused to the point it becomes dull. Some of the action writing is also great. Of note are "Escape from the Tower" (Track 5) and "Warriors on the Beach" (Track 15) with some apocalyptic choral chanting to add to the mix at points along with pounding percussion. I should note that whilst action music is present on the album, it is not in the majority. There are also many other tracks I could mention, but needless to say the vast majority of the album is exquisite.
The score part of the album lasts just over an hour which is about average. There are 18 score tracks in total, ranging from just under 2 minutes (You Can't Have My Heart,Track 17) to over 6 minutes 30 (White Hart, Track 11). The longer tracks allow for more development musically, and the flow of the album is great. On a production side, the album is brilliantly mixed. The string, brass, woodwind, percussive and choral sections all have exceptional clarity as is usually the case with JNH scores.
The closing track and song "Breath of Life" was orchestrated by JNH I believe, and sung by the band Florence and the Machine. I thought the track was one of the better songs in terms of quality for closing a soundtrack album, but I do not own any Florence and the Machine CDs or know enough about their music to pass further comment. If you like their style though, I am sure you will appreciate this track.
Overall, this is an absolutely stunning album by James Newton Howard. I make no apologies for saying he continues to be my favourite composer of all time. In the CD booklet, director Rupert Sanders said "James has an ability to craft music that is at once epic in scale and emotionally intimate". I could not agree more with this statement. His mannerisms are saturated across the album - fantastic themes and stunning orchestrations that connect with me more than any other composer. The fantasy genre brings out the best in him, and I cannot recommend this highly enough for fans of JNH, or if you liked the score within the film. It makes for a sensational standalone album and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
If you saw the film or not you will love this soundtrack. It ticks all the boxes - mystery, adventure, fear and joy it will take you on a journey of light and darkness. Play it with the volume up and enjoy the roller-coaster of emotions ... finally coming to a close with a haunting tune from Florence & The Machine.
Saw the film and loved the screenplay. Plus the very appropriate music score captured my attention as well. It is uplifting, soothing, dark & mysterious, powerful & saddening at all the right places. A wonderful CD with a fresh sound. You must check it out. ,
Amazing use of string instruments to create really ace atmospherics. Some tracks are particularly mournful and really bring out the emotive sounds of the strings. 'Something for what ails you', and 'you failed me finn' are good examples if you want to preview this.