The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn (John Williams)
The theme for Tintin is the first to be introduced, and is also the theme that dominates the score is a series of wonderful arrangements. The album’s first cue, “The Adventures of Tintin” introduces the theme played on a harpsichord, integrated with a jazz palette of instrumentation, forming a piece that will remind many of Williams’ 2002 score for Catch Me if You Can (which, considering the similarities in the animation of the opening titles of both films, is quite appropriate when you think about it).
Next is the theme for Tintin’s canine companion Snowy, a delightful piece which does a great job of combing both jazz and orchestral elements, with the lovely scherzo’s which open the piece and the piano and woodwinds which come to prominence later in the piece.
Williams gives us two themes associated with the Unicorn, and both of these are introduced and then alternated between in “The Secret of the Scrolls”, which injects the first sense of mystery into the score. The first of them provides the mystery aspect, whilst the second has a somewhat imperial feel to it.
Next is the theme for Thompson and Thomson, two moronic detectives portrayed by Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, a comical piece played on accordion, trombone and clarinet over low piano rhythms, and one that accompanies the characters very well. “Snowy’s Chase” is basically an extension of the theme for the dog introduced earlier. The mystery theme heard earlier in “The Secret of the Scrolls” returns in “Marlinspike Hall”, accompanied by an eerie, somewhat threatening underscore.
The action music arrives in “Escape from the Karaboudjan”, where the trumpet parts in particular will bring back memories of “Escape from the Temple” from Raiders of the Lost Ark. Next is “Sir Francis and The Unicorn”, which contains the score’s only, and brief, choral element. Just past the 2 minute mark to the end of the cue is Williams’ action writing at its best, with pulsating strings and brass fanfares that will remind listeners of the sea faring music of Erich Wolfgang Korngold.
The next theme is a comical one introduced in “Captain Haddock Takes the Oars”, for the character himself, played by Andy Serkis, which in certain places is reminiscent of Williams’ famous “Hedwig’s theme” from the Harry Potter series. “Red Rackham’s Curse and The Treasure” gives the best performance of the mystery theme at its conclusion with a fully orchestral performance.
“Capturing Mr. Silk” introduces another comical theme, which resembles both The Terminal and, rather more unexpected, Williams’ theme for Jabba the Hutt. “The Flight to Bagghar” is an incredibly fast-paced piece, containing performances of both Tintin and Haddock’s themes, together with the excellent swashbuckling action music. There’s also an element of romance in the cue “The Milanese Nightingale”, with violin solos and Gallic orchestrations, and a brief appearance of the mystery theme at the end of the piece brings things back on track.
“Presenting Bianca Castafiore” features renowned soprano Renée Fleming performed excerpts from Rossini’s The Barber of Seville and Gounod’s Romeo and Juliet. Considering the scene it’s featured in culminates with breaking glass, its over the top fashion is appropriate. Even so, it will likely be an annoyance for some listeners. Fear not, however, because what comes next is arguably the best track on the album.
“The Pursuit of the Falcon”, which accompanies an absolutely hilarious chase sequence. It’s mostly action music, though all the necessary comical elements are there, with various statements of the mystery theme. “The Captain’s Counsel” puts the theme for Haddock, comical up to this point, through some more serious and subdued paces.
“Clash of the Cranes” is yet another excellent action piece, with the pounding timpani performances being particularly noteworthy. The cleverness of the music’s construction is admirable as well, with the piece jumping around to each section of the orchestra so rapidly. The final two tracks, “The Return to Marlinspike Hall and Finale” and “The Adventure Continues” essentially make a concert suite of the score’s main themes.
Three and a half years is a long time to wait for a new John Williams score, but it can easily be said that it was worth the wait. Judging by the quality of the film, I sincerely hope it results in a franchise being made, and hope even more that Williams will take the name of the final track literally and continue the adventure of scoring them. His score to War Horse, coming later this year, may yet beat this, but either way, Tintin is unquestionably amongst the five best scores of 2011.
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1 – The Adventures of Tintin
2 – Snowy’s Theme
3 – The Secret of the Scrolls
4 – Introducing the Thompsons, and Snowy’s Chase
5 – Marlinspike Hall
6 – Escape from the Karaboudjan
7 – Sir Francis and The Unicorn
8 – Captain Haddock Takes the Oars
9 – Red Rackham’s Curse and The Treasure
10 – Capturing Mr. Silk
11 – The Flight to Bagghar
12 – The Milanese Nightingale
13 – Presenting Bianca Castafiore *
14 – The Pursuit of the Falcon
15 – The Captain’s Counsel
16 – The Clash of the Cranes
17 – The Return to Marlinspike Hall and Finale
18 – The Adventure Continues
* Features excerpts from The Barber of Seville by Rossini and Romeo et Juliette by Gounod
Total Time: 65:49
Music Composed, Conducted and Produced by John Williams
Nominated for an Oscar.
The album’s liner notes contain credits and the standard note from Steven Spielberg.
All images and artwork are Copyright © Sony Classical