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54 of 56 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Like a fine wine, JW gets better and better
It saddens me to see there are reviews that try to compare John Williams recent output to that of his past. As a serious orchestral composer, I have watched and listened to him grow artistically in a manner reminiscent to our masters of the past 300 years of music history. He's not going to write music like he did 30 years ago. His orchestration style has become more...
Published on November 11, 2012 by D. Redfeld

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
Love other John Williams CD's much better.
Published 5 months ago by maf


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54 of 56 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Like a fine wine, JW gets better and better, November 11, 2012
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This review is from: Lincoln (Audio CD)
It saddens me to see there are reviews that try to compare John Williams recent output to that of his past. As a serious orchestral composer, I have watched and listened to him grow artistically in a manner reminiscent to our masters of the past 300 years of music history. He's not going to write music like he did 30 years ago. His orchestration style has become more dense and focused, his melodic lines longer and more complex, his harmonic palette ridiculously advanced. This is master craftsman and our nation's greatest living composer at work. And in LIncoln, those talents are openly displayed. The music is simply breathtaking, beautifully orchestrated and as dense as ever. Yet the clarity of line as of late never ceases to astound the ear. At times I feel Williams channeling Mozart or Ravel. What I mean is that there is a richness and complexity to the music yet every line is crystaline and seems that it inevitably had to sound like this.

The Chicago Symphony plays with precision and sweeping dynamics, reaffirming their status as One of the Five. Easily one the year's best scores. I was particularly stunned with Malice Towards None and it's passionate string lines. Highly recommend this one. Like Waxman, Goldsmith, and Korngold, John Williams' music functions as a strong support or emotional center to the image its written for as well as standing up as serious concert music. A remarkable feat.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Serenade to Freedom Williams-Style, November 6, 2012
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This review is from: Lincoln (Audio CD)
If I could have one wish come true, it would be that I will enjoy this Motion Picture, as much as I enjoy this Music.

I awoke this morning with John Williams' rousing score for "The Cowboys" in my head. That's a beautiful theme and I hadn't hummed it in many months, but knew every note by heart. There hasn't been a day since June 1977 that I haven't had at least one of John Williams' scores playing in my head, or hummed on my lips.

"Lincoln." This is music which should be listened to in the evening hours. In a dimly lit room, shades drawn. With a glass of wine and candles lit, you'll soon fall into an ambiance of love and remembrance, traveling back 148 years to 1864.

Now about Lincoln, the man. We know how the story ends. It's tragic. Lincoln was a tragic figure in American history. A great leader, wise and courageous and a mystery of how he comported himself and sounded in real life. Maestro Williams segregates (forgive the pun) Lincoln in a magnificent aura of haunting melodies to portray the President as a hallowed figure, and a leader who loved America. This is important in fully appreciating this masterful score.

Performed by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, the music is utterly flawless and beautiful. Shawn Murphy has been recording and mixing John Williams' scores for many years, and he deserves much appreciation from Williams' fans when it comes to tweaking digital music to perfection. Thank you, Shawn!

"The People's House" reminded me just a little of some passages from "NIXON" with a fading solo trumpet, however this is all original and different from anything I have heard from Maestro Williams. It is unbelievably new and you will be moved by it.

"Getting Out The Vote" will have you tapping your toes to the beat of this great little fiddle melody. This is wonderfully folksy, you're ears will be grinning from this one.

"The Southern Delegation And The Dream." An incredibly moving and fanciful selection. Nobody does it better than the Maestro.

"The Race To The House." A period-piece, country lively and city robust that makes me want to see the movie.

If there is anything missing in this score (but perfectly understandable) is the scarce use of percussion instruments. In all of the symphonic universe, John Williams is the greatest composer who ever lived to master the use of the percussion section in an orchestra. He must have inherited this from his father. But "Call To Muster" is satisfying in this regard, and the chorus singing "Battle Cry Of Freedom," will make the hair on the back of your neck stand at attention!

Perhaps something else missing which I would have loved to hear, would have been the Chicago Symphony and Chorus, conducted by the Maestro doing "The Battle Hymn Of The Republic," included as a bonus on this CD. Rats.

"With Malice Toward None" (Symphony) and "Freedom's Call." After listening, you'll be proud that you are an American. Incredible music.

"With Malice Toward None" (Piano solo) will touch your heart, and bring visions of a time when this nation was young and needed a leader like Lincoln, to give it a new way of dealing with giving liberty and justice to all.

Perhaps this explains why I woke with the theme for "The Cowboys" in my head this morning. God Bless America and Maestro John Williams!

You'll love this music. :-) Keith Anderson
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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Williams Returns to Triumphant Form, November 7, 2012
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After my first listen, I was both moved and disappointed by this score. As an avid Williams fan, I have impossible expectations for America's greatest composer. Each and every time, I expect Williams to create a score that will become entrenched into the annals of great movie soundtracks. He has shown time again he is capable of doing so. That being said, this score is average for Williams. He goes through all of the motions and creates a beautiful score, but its nothing we haven't heard before albeit with a new permutation. William's days of experimenting with new techniques and sounds are over and I have been critical of him as of late.

Between his recent War Horse and Tintin soundtracks, Lincoln is the best. He establishes a signature theme and plays with it effortlessly. I was privileged with being able to see an early screening of the movie and the soundtrack is almost exclusively played softly for a subdued background effect. Unlike the Patriot, which I consider this score to be most similar to, the score is not the focal point. The most powerful moments of the film are times when there is no score being played at all.

The main theme is really only played in the ending credits thus making this soundtrack almost better as a stand alone listen. Overall, I was moved by the score and it truly demonstrates the work of a god amongst men, yet it falls short of my admittedly lofty expectations.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Subtle yet Spectacular, December 2, 2012
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This review is from: Lincoln (Audio CD)
Everyone knows (and should know) John Williams. Because of his partnerships with George Lucas, Chris Columbus, and the great Steven Spielberg, we are used to hearing extravagant orchestral scores that can't possibly be imagined without the silver screen behind them. However, on Spielberg's new film Lincoln, both the director (Spielberg) and the composer (Mr. Williams) take a new approach.

Lincoln's score is subtle, "felt, not heard" in a sense. Williams demonstrates supreme taste and maturity by tactfully introducing the music at key moments in the film, and adding to its subtle grandeur. Just like in his other scores, the musical themes are synonymous with particular characters or emotions. With that said, the music is absolutely beautiful. You will hear a blend of sweeping Americana in the style of Copland, but also a delicate folk side. It is important to note that Mr. Williams hired music historians that specialized in the Civil War era to help him accomplish an accurate and idiomatic sound.

Another highlight is the fact that the Chicago Symphony Orchestra recorded the music. The orchestra lives and breathes like one big soloist. The blend and phrasing is phenomenal. You'll never hear a better brass section than CSO's. Williams uses all the cohorts of the ensemble: militaristic percussion, warm brass choirs, and the light sounds of the woodwind choir. The strings aren't ignored either, and they provide the main emotional framework of the score. The reason Williams hired CSO is because Lincoln was actually from Illinois, and he wanted to pay tribute to this great American figure by using the closest major orchestra.

Lincoln's soundtrack is not nearly as extravagant as E.T., Star Wars, Indiana Jones, or Harry Potter, but it contains a beauty that is so subtle that it is to be commended. The more I listen to the soundtrack, the more I appreciate what Mr. Williams has done. 5 stars, hands down.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not your typical John Williams score, November 15, 2012
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This review is from: Lincoln (Audio CD)
Sounding almost as if Williams is channeling Aaron Copland, this is one of the composer's more surprising and subdued works. I cannot say how appropriate it is to the story since I haven't seen the film yet but it certainly makes me more eager to do so. It treats the subject with appropriate respect and gravity without the typical bombast and layers of blasting brass that I associate with Williams's work, particularly when he writes for Spielberg.

Most of the tracks are somber and meditative, and when they lift above that solemn mode it is because the material seems to call for it. The track containing "Battle Cry of Freedom" is astonishing in the way it seems to capture the mood of a time when both sides of the conflict still believed there was something glorious about their cause. What is most appealing, for this listener at least, is the way in which the recorded score coheres as a complete work. Again, the experience is reminiscent of listening to Copland; I like simply putting the disk on and letting it play straight through as I would with a symphony.

If you are a fan of Williams's work, this is a must-have. I'm sure the film will create more interest in his other scores, however this is one of the rare instances when the score may have a life of its own beyond the film (much as Howard Shore's scores for the Tolkien films do--and will).

This music owes much, also, to the scores of the Burns documentaries, in particular the piano stylings of Jacqueline Schwab. It would have been nice to see some acknowledgment of that fact in the liner notes but perhaps those musical treatments have become so much a part of our culture that Williams adapts them without realizing it. Overall, this is a worthwhile purchase and repays repeated listenings as few other Williams scores do.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Respectful portrait of a great leader, November 6, 2012
By 
Jon Broxton (Thousand Oaks, CA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Lincoln (Audio CD)
In the annals of American political history, virtually no-one is as universally admired, revered and respected as Abraham Lincoln. Born into relative poverty in Kentucky in 1809, Lincoln rose from being a simple country lawyer to being elected the 16th President of the United States in 1860. During the course of his presidency Lincoln essentially re-defined the United States as we know it today, successfully defeating the Confederacy in the four-year Civil War, issuing the Emancipation Proclamation that essentially ended slavery in the country, and delivering the Gettysburg Address, one of the most famous political speeches of all time. He was re-elected in 1864 but, as we all know, was assassinated by actor John Wilkes Booth while watching a play in a Washington DC theatre in April 1865, before he could fully establish his second term. There have been many films over the years featuring Lincoln as a central figure, but director Steven Spielberg¡¯s film ¨C simply titled ¡°Lincoln¡± ¨C is a straightforward biopic of the man¡¯s life and achievements. The film stars Daniel Day Lewis in the eponymous role, and features a stellar supporting cast including Sally Field as Lincoln¡¯s wife Mary Todd, Tommy Lee Jones as republican leader Thaddeus Stevens, Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Lincoln¡¯s son Robert, David Strathairn as secretary of state William Seward, and Jackie Earle Haley, James Spader, John Hawkes, Jared Harris and Hal Holbrook in smaller roles.

Of course, where Spielberg goes, so too goes John Williams. Lincoln is their 26th collaboration as director and composer, a relationship that extends all the way back to The Sugarland Express in 1974, and encompasses some of the greatest film music ever written, from Jaws to Raiders of the Lost Ark, to E.T., Jurassic Park, Schindler¡¯s List and more. With the possible exception of Alfred Hitchcock and Bernard Herrmann, theirs is by far the most creatively successful director-composer relationship in the history of cinema. At the time of writing, Spielberg has no directorial features planned until 2014, and without wanting to sound morbid, it¡¯s possible that Lincoln may be the now-80-year-old Williams¡¯s last significant cinematic work. It¡¯s just as well that the score is a classic Williams work of beauty, elegance and restraint, a tasteful but emotionally appropriate musical tribute to one of America¡¯s greatest ever leaders.

If you boil it down to its nuts and bolts, Lincoln is a combination of the restrained patriotism of Saving Private Ryan, the emotional thematic core of War Horse, and the harmonic language and chord structure of The Patriot, filtered through the Americana sensibilities of Aaron Copland. It even goes so far as to have brief moments for period-specific instrumentation with fiddle solos and fife-and-drum Civil War marching songs, while referencing mid-19th century music from the Lutheran hymnbook which Williams researched in order to find inspiration for his thematic ideas. The vast majority of the score is written for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, and considering that they are not a traditional film score recording orchestra, they do a marvelous job capturing the expressiveness and nuance in Williams¡¯s writing. The main theme, which featured prominently in the full trailer, is a warm and inviting piece which gradually swells to encompass the entire orchestra. It¡¯s classic Williams; noble, dignified, emotionally appropriate, musically interesting, and with the beautiful harmonies that have been the hallmark of his career. Its performance in the opening ¡°The People¡¯s House¡± moves effortlessly from oboe to strings to horns in succession, illustrating the theme¡¯s adaptability to different settings, and setting up the score perfectly.

The underscore, when not dominated by the main theme, tends to be a little more restrained, presenting dramatic textures that highlight specific instrumental colors rather than a web of recurring thematic ideas, although a series of sub-themes do exist ¨C in fact, there are five of them, each representing a specific ideal, location, or concept from Lincoln¡¯s life. It¡¯s not as aimless as the presidential music Williams wrote for John Adams in Amistad, or as understated as the majority of Saving Private Ryan, but instead presents a series of cues which are tonally pleasant, instrumentally interesting, and have a richness which drives the score onward, echoing Lincoln¡¯s determination and sense of destiny. Cues such as ¡°The Purpose of the Amendment¡±, ¡°The American Process¡±, ¡°With Malice Toward None¡± and ¡°Equality Under the Law¡± have a regal sense of righteous resolve, conveyed through slightly more bass-heavy performances led by cellos and horns, noble trumpet refrains, and which are connected by variations on a theme which seems to signify the endless inner machinations of government, and Lincoln¡¯s valiant attempts to reform it.

Another theme, first heard via Randy Kerber¡¯s expressive piano performance in ¡°The Blue and the Grey¡±, seems to act as a signifier for the horror and tragedy of the Civil War, lamenting for the men and women who died in it in the cause of freedom. It¡¯s a much more downbeat and thoughtful theme than the others, and rightly so. The theme in ¡°Father and Son¡± shares compositional ideas with the Civil War theme ¨C appropriately, as Lincoln¡¯s eldest son fought in the conflict ¨C but has a warm, steadfast quality that speaks of the respectful relationship the two shared. There are moments of darkness, too, none more so than in ¡°The Southern Delegation and the Dream¡±, which is about as dissonant as the score ever gets.

The time-specific pieces include ¡°Getting Out the Vote¡± and ¡°The Race to the House¡±, where more rhythmic ideas take over, and the score becomes quite jaunty, accompanying the President on his adventures across the United States seeking votes with country fiddles, tapped percussion (including spoons!), old-fashioned banjos, and almost comedic-sounding oompah brasses. In ¡°Call to Muster and Battle Cry of Freedom¡± Williams lets loose with the all the fifes and drums he can gather, before moving into a choral performance of George Root¡¯s famous Civil War anthem, which became Lincoln¡¯s personal song during his 1864 re-election campaign against George McClellan.

¡°Freedom¡¯s Call¡± features a standout solo violin performance by Robert Chen that gradually swells into a resounding rallying cry for the American people, and when the full throated voices of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Chorus kick in during ¡°Appomattox, April 9, 1865¡å, the music simply soars. The conclusive 11-minute ¡°The Peterson House and Finale¡± provides the most satisfying performances of the score¡¯s various thematic identities, giving Lincoln an appropriate send off which is both tragic in the sense that it mourns his death, but distinguished in the way it captures the spirit of the man and his achievements.

I have heard virtually every one of Williams¡¯s scores since the mid 1960s, and his seemingly endless supply of thematic ideas, his mastery of the orchestra, and his innate ability to get to the emotional heart of any scene he scores with tasteful and appropriate music never fails to amaze me. This is the reason Williams is rightly considered to be one of the greatest film composers who ever lived. It¡¯s an absolute guarantee that Williams will receive his 48th Oscar nomination for this score next year, and with no second score to split his own vote, I wouldn¡¯t be surprised if it wins. Lincoln is a superb work, a proud and respectful musical tribute to a true American hero, and by far one of the standout works of 2012.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lincoln: another great entry in the Spielberg/Williams collaboration, November 6, 2012
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This review is from: Lincoln (Audio CD)
John Williams has been scoring Spielberg's films for 40 years, and they have one of the most successful collaborations in filmmaking... Jaws, E.T., Indiana Jones, Jurassic Park, and most recently War Horse, to name a few. Their history alone is a good enough for buying the "Lincoln" soundtrack, and fortunately it delivers.

Though "Lincoln" is not among the most memorable of Williams musical work, it is still extremely moving. One of the great things about Spielberg's use of music is that it is showy at the right moments, and is more subdued when it needs to be. "Lincoln", a film with a lot of dialogue and is also very much focused on the President's inner turmoil, requires more subdued music. As always, Williams provides exactly what is needed for the film. Normally, a score this subtle and reflective would not necessarily make for good listening out of the context of the film - but the music of "Lincoln" is just so good that it works on it's own. Therefore, I highly recommend this CD.

* I have included some links in the comments section that might be of interest to Williams/Spielberg fans.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Perhaps John Williams Best?, February 6, 2013
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This review is from: Lincoln (MP3 Music)
Unfailingly John Williams' orchestral magic, but subtle and subdued for this majestic film. A score that is perfectly fitted to the mood and dissonances in the action on the screen. A bit of fun in the music where appropriate, this score has to be one of John Williams' best ever.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lincoln's Accomplishment, January 3, 2013
By 
Bob (Spring Hill, FL USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Lincoln (Audio CD)
Every American should see this movie. All of us need to know the sacrifice that hundreds of thousands of Americans made to free all people from slavery. We also need to learn about the one man, President Lincoln, who had the courage and ability to lead the nation to do what was necessary to uphold and enforce the Constitution. It seems that learning about our country comes more from watching movies than from studying history. Bob
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Abe Lincoln and John Williams for the Ages, November 14, 2012
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John Williams, through film, has made classical music accessible to more people than any other current or previous American composer. I rate John Williams with Aaron Copland, Leonard Bernstein, Howard Hanson, Samuel Barber and those others of greatest America composers. Unfortunately, I fear that the popularity of a score (being both memorable and desirable for repeated listenings) is a strike against truly great American composers, as if the greatest of musicality cannot be appreciated by the unlearned masses but rather only by a select few with special musical knowledge and appreciation. John Williams music is that great reflection of what is substantially unique and great about the American flavor of classical music, evoking landscapes as vast and broad as America and the American imagination. I could scarcely believe there is an American alive today who has watched a film scored by John Williams whose appreciation of both film and music has not increased.

John Williams has created a subdued and yet powerful musical landscape for the Steven Spielberg film Lincoln. He has also created I think a soundtrack for the man Abraham Lincoln in the memory of Americans, whether in the pages of Doris Goodwin Kearns "A Team of Rivals" or Carl Sandburg's Lincoln, the Prairie Years and the War Years. The historical film idiom has made the best use of John Williams musical gifts before in his scores for Schindler's List, Amistad, Angela's Ashes and The Patriot as well as other period film pieces. Throughout Williams new score for Lincoln, we find the wit and humor of Lincoln the president and man, the turbulent times of American Civil War, the shadows of the brutal war to end slavery and the great American question which continues unto this day. Before I was even finished listening there were tracks I wanted to go back to and play again and savor. This is John Williams finest work in years from my perspective, the subject being dear to my heart.

BEAUTIFULLY PLAYED, BEAUTIFULLY RECORDED. 5 STARS FOR EVERY TRACK!
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Lincoln
Lincoln by John Williams (Composer) (Audio CD - 2012)
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