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Section Header
Schindler's List
Composed, Conducted, Orchestrated, and Produced by:
John Williams

Violin Solos by:
Itzhak Perlman

Performed by:
The Boston Symphony Orchestra

The Li-Ron Herzeliya Children's Choir

The Ramat Gan Chamber Choir

Labels and Dates:
MCA Records/Universal
(December 7th, 1993)

MCA Records
(August 29th, 1995)

Also See:
Jurassic Park
Seven Years in Tibet
Saving Private Ryan
Born on the Fourth of July
Memoirs of a Geisha

Audio Clips:
1. Theme from Schindler's List (0:30):
WMA (197K)  MP3 (245K)
Real Audio (152K)

5. Schindler's Workforce (0:30):
WMA (200K)  MP3 (254K)
Real Audio (179K)

4. Rememberances (0:30):
WMA (197K)  MP3 (244K)
Real Audio (152K)

9. Stolen Memories (0:30):
WMA (197K)  MP3 (243K)
Real Audio (151K)

Regular U.S. release. A remastered "gold" edition was issued in 1995 with the exact same contents, similar to the concurrent gold Apollo 13 release.

  Winner of an Academy Award, a BAFTA Award, and a Grammy Award. Nominated for a Golden Globe.

Schindler's List
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Used Price: $14.98

Sales Rank: 226870

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Buy it... if you're not afraid of being moved by an emotional, artistic masterpiece, a more subtle triumph in the career of John Williams.

Avoid it... only if the subject matter bothers you too greatly to enjoy its powerful musical accompaniment.

Schindler's List: (John Williams) Based on the novel by Thomas Keneally and a screenplay by Steven Zaillian, Schindler's List is the powerful story of factory owner Oskar Schindler and his evolving plight to save Jews during Nazi Germany, first for the purposes of the profits of his own factory, and eventually for the sake of saving as many people from extermination as possible. Shot mostly in black and white, the film's balance between audacious presence and passionate restraint is the mastery of Steven Spielberg, who maintains that Schindler's List was his most emotionally charged professional directorial project. The film swept the Academy Awards (among other ceremonies) for 1993, giving Spielberg his overdue statuette and proving that any terrible and vivid madness, no matter how horrifying, can be elegantly portrayed in a dignified fashion on film. One crucial element in the success of Schindler's List was the score by John Williams; Spielberg and Williams together had just completed Jurassic Park, a film score that had brought endless riches and popularity throughout the year. As much of a success as Jurassic Park was (and Williams was already doing the concert rounds and showing if off at the end of his shows), Schindler's List would ultimately overshadow the previous score with such an enormous memorable punch that Jurassic Park has come dangerously close to being classified as a "forgotten" or "underrated" score a dozen years later. It has been argued that Schindler's List's is Williams' greatest score in his lengthy career, and while nobody with a decent film score collection will dispute its title as Williams' best "artistic" effort, it's really difficult to compare it to the classic horror and adventure scores for which Williams had earned his previous Academy Awards. Regardless of context, though, Schindler's List is a force to be reckoned with, and its success on screen and album exists in Williams' ability to precisely mirror Spielberg's own passionate restraint in the production process.

To simply describe the technical elements of the Schindler's List score would not do justice to its effectiveness as an overall product. So much of what makes the score a gripping emotional enticement is intangible, stemming often from significant influences in its heartfelt performances. Much credit needs to be awarded to Williams, however, for keeping it simple. The complex layers of frenetic activity that collectors had begun to hear in Williams' writing in the early 1990's (including Jurassic Park fresh in memory) is completely absent from Schindler's List. Instead, like Spielberg, Williams approaches the horrors on screen with a beauty so primordial that the score is dripping with romantic heartbreak at each of its harmonic turns. Williams creates three themes to accomplish this addictive loveliness, two of which are expanded upon with enough attention to merit concert performances. The primary theme is the unparalleled success story, meandering about an octave as smoothly and gracefully as any in modern history. Each lush progression of the title theme, famous for its teasingly near-octave alterations, takes advantage of heart-wrenchingly simple harmonic progressions, ironically combining to form a theme that, despite these very basic movements, is a unique and lasting memory for many listeners. A secondary theme is introduced in "Remembrances," a piece meant to commemorate the Holocaust from a modern perspective rather than the primary theme, which was meant as more of a companion for tragedy of the events as they unfolded. The "Remembrances" theme is more robust than the primary theme because its performances muster a more complete ensemble. Structurally, the two themes contain many of the same note progressions, allowing them to interact easily in counterpoint, an ability that Williams unfortunately uses sparingly in the score despite the phenomenal beauty that results when he does so. Both of these themes receive two concert performances on the album for Schindler's List, including a lengthy back-to-back presentation at the end. A third, less heralded theme is announced in "Jewish Town," and serves as a procession piece for Schindler's factory workers. It's the working class theme, set to a churning bass rhythm and replacing the elegance of the other two themes with a mechanical sense of movement through the same lens.

As with any score for which simplistic beauty is the key, Schindler's List relies upon the careful choice of instrumentation and the performances of that ensemble. This score united Williams with famed violist Itzhak Perlman, and it was the pleasure and success of this collaboration that would lead Williams (and other prominent composers) to seek the services of similar top-flight soloists for their film scores. Many people credit Perlman's performances for making Schindler's List what it is, and while Perlman does have a dramatic impact on the score, to limit its attractiveness to his performances alone would be a disservice to the plethora of other intriguing and integral performances in the score. The air time for Perlman is actually quite low; he performs on less than half of the tracks on the album, with other soloists, a choir, or the entire ensemble replacing him in other cues. When he does perform, the sincerity of his street-corner style of lament cannot be questioned, especially when moving to the high ranges of the instrument over the Boston Symphony Orchestra musicians. While the violin is offered with sparse context at the outset, many of Schindler's List's most poignant cues include the violin as an accent to the flawless whole of the ensemble. That group flourishes with the layered strings of the "Remembrances" theme, taking the lush romanticism of the end titles of Born on the Fourth of July and slowing them to a melodramatic crawl. Equally effective is Williams' alternation of his soloists with the ensemble in counterpoint positions; Perlman rounds out "I Could Have Done More" and "Give Me Your Names" as a counterpoint agent. Another noteworthy set of solo performances is delivered by a recorder, and fans of Williams' Harry Potter scores will recall Richard Harvey's fantastic solo integration into the third entry in that franchise. In Schindler's List, the recorder performs all three themes throughout the score, carrying the title theme at the end of "Immolation" and the "Remembrances" theme in "Stolen Memories." In both these cues, Williams also employs a choral element. The former cue offers the only outward tragic horror chant by the chorus, while the latter cue offers the chorus as a background contributor in much the same fashion as the fantasy theme in Jurassic Park.

1993 Album:
Only $7.99
Despite the nobility of the title character's action, there is very little outwardly heroic touch in Schindler's List. Only in "Making the List" does Williams shift the attitude of music towards defiance, both through the use of brass and by instructing the violin and flute soloists to emphasize the title theme with more force. The darkness of the topic prevails in only a few cues, including its inherent hints in the "workforce" theme. The mechanical thematic battle between violin and woodwind in "Schindler's Workforce" plays over a percussive and ethnic rhythm of sharp, muted intensity. As the only outwardly malevolent cue on album, "Auschwitz-Birkenau" presents Perlman in his only dissonant moments, with the cue serving as the only detraction from the hypnotic flow of the album's listening experience. Two traditional Jewish songs were recorded with choirs in Tel-Aviv, Israel, and both are short enough to fit into Williams' surrounding score; "Nacht Aktion" would foreshadow much of the same faint, droning baseline and solo as heard later in Munich, one of the surprisingly few connections between the related Williams scores. Overall, even John Williams would be hard pressed to succeed on this level again. In all of his collaborations with solo artists hereafter, including Perlman's performances in Memoirs of a Geisha, the result would never again be so overwhelmingly effective. The use of the violin in Schindler's List, so symbolic in its historical prevalence to the topic, as well as the performances of Perlman and the ensemble, were a formula of perfect timing and execution. The album is arranged well, and the solo performances (and the recorder in particular) are well mixed. Unfortunately, the original pressing of the album suffered from the inclusion of studio noise, including distractingly creaking chairs at 1:35 in "Immolation" and at 2:35 in "Remembrances." The packaging of the original MCA album is also incorrect in its credit notation, as well as in its listing of track times. A 24K gold-plated version of MCA's album (with identical contents) was released in 1995, and solves some of these problems with a remastering. No matter the albums' minor flaws, however, Schindler's List is a nearly unparalleled artistic masterpiece, a more subtle triumph in the career of John Williams. ***** Price Hunt: CD or Download

Bias Check:For John Williams reviews at Filmtracks, the average editorial rating is 3.74 (in 69 reviews)
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 Track Listings: Total Time: 64:36

• 1. Theme from Schindler's List (4:14)
• 2. Jewish Town (Krakow Ghetto - Winter '41) (4:40)
• 3. Immolation (With Our Lives, We Give Life) (4:43)
• 4. Rememberances (4:20)
• 5. Schindler's Workforce (9:08)
• 6. OYF'N Pripetshok and Nacht Aktion (2:56)
• 7. I Could Have Done More (5:52)
• 8. Auschwitz-Birkenau (3:40)
• 9. Stolen Memories (4:20)
• 10. Making the List (5:10)
• 11. Give Me Your Names (4:54)
• 12. Yeroushalaim Chel Zahav (Jerusalem of Gold) (2:17)
• 13. Rememberances (with Itzhak Perlman) (5:16)
• 14. Theme from Schindler's List (Reprise) (2:59)

(most track times on the 1993 packaging are incorrect)

 Notes and Quotes:  

The packaging includes the following note from Steven Spielberg:

"With dignity and compassion, John Williams has composed original and stunningly classical music for Schindler's List in a collection of themes and orchestral remembrances that will haunt you. The antihuman events beginning with Kristallnacht (1938) to the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau (1944) posed a deliberate challenge to both John and me: how to make the unimaginable factual, and how to create not so much a motion picture but a document of those intolerable times.

The choice John Williams made was gentle simplicity. Most of our films together have required an almost operatic accompaniment, which is fitting for Indiana Jones, Close Encounters, or Jaws. Each of us had to depart from our characteristic styles and begin again. This is certainly an album to be attended with closed eyes and unsequestered hearts.

Joining John in honoring the memory of the Shoah is the world renowned violinist Itzhak Perlman. His and John's contribution to the musical literature of this project is significant. I want to thank them both for making Schindler's List the most deeply moving filmmaking experience of my life."

        -- Steven Spielberg, director.

  All artwork and sound clips from Schindler's List are Copyright © 1993, MCA Records/Universal, MCA Records. The reviews and other textual content contained on the site may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the prior written authority of Filmtracks Publications. Audio clips can be heard using RealPlayer but cannot be redistributed without the label's expressed written consent. Page created 9/24/96 and last updated 8/27/06. Review Version 5.1 (PHP). Copyright © 1996-2015, Christian Clemmensen (Filmtracks Publications). All rights reserved.