What orchestra performed Harry Potter 1st movie?

September 19, 2016 at 02:36 AM · Hi, I have several questions:

I've been looking at the CD cover arts (inside too) of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone and I couldn't find what orchestra did John Williams direct to record the soundtrack, and I also have the same problem with the 3rd film's soundtrack. So that's my first question.

The second thing I've noticed is that it's really difficult, if not impossible, to know what orchestra performed a movie score. I have plenty of CD's from movies, like Harry Potter, The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings... many of them don't even put the orchestra that performed the score, and when they do, it's in a very tiny hidden line. How is that possible?

I mean, if I belong to an orchestra and we perform a film score, I would expect our orchestra name, at least, to be present in the back cover, with big letters. In example, in Harry Potter 2's soundtrack, I would expect a big LSO icon in the back. Nevertheless, all you can see is a little line saying "Performed by London Symphony Orchestra", almost unnoticeable. Doesn't that bother the LSO?

And why Warner (and other companies) don't highlight the orchestras that perform music scores in the soundtrack albums of the films?

I even find it a little insulting. After all the work made...

My third question, also related to Harry Potter score. In the 4th movie, there's a track named "Potter Waltz". I've read in Wikipedia that Patrick Doyle used the Symphony No. 3 by Samuel Wesley to compose that piece. I've listened to both pieces and I can't link or connect any melody, they are totally different. Can anyone help me with this?

I just want to know how original is that track, and if it uses a melody or something from other piece, the name of that piece.

Thank you.

Replies (17)

September 19, 2016 at 01:50 PM · John Williams' go-to orchestra is the London Symphony Orchestra (LSO), and they did "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone."

I've often wondered at the lack of attribution to various musical organizations in film scoring as well, but don't have any answers.

I haven't compared the Wesley and Doyle pieces either, though now I sure want to!

Google, Wikipedia and sites like this are your friends, but even so, you often must do some digging. Best of luck!

September 19, 2016 at 01:56 PM · In most cases, scores are performed by studio orchestras -- basically pick-up orchestras comprised of freelancers. That's why there's not an orchestra credit, though sometimes there are credits for individual players.

September 19, 2016 at 02:17 PM · The comprehensive movie database http://www.imdb.com/ is the best source for the metadata on just about any movie you'd care to name. IMDb is owned and run by Amazon.

September 19, 2016 at 06:14 PM · I have recorded Muzak for films with different groups, usually it is as Lydia says, put together freelance orchestras. Mostly the music was trite, and I don't mind at all that my name, or the groups, was nowhere to be seen. They paid the bills at the time.

Cheers Carlo

September 19, 2016 at 06:26 PM · Well, I can understand many of you consider soundtracks to be lower quality than, let's say "real" classical music, but soundtracks are not Muzaks or elevator music, these are works that should be respected and not treated as "I just do this for the money".

Anyway, this is the Potter Waltz:


I hope someone here can tell me if it's influenced by Samuel Weasley's 3rd symphony, or if Wikipedia is wrong. I wanna know if Mr. Doyle is the composer of the whole thing or if he used parts of another piece already composed.

September 19, 2016 at 07:24 PM · To add on to what Lydia said, it wasn't for the official movie but my teacher was in the orchestra that recorded the complete Star Wars soundtrack, conducted by Williams, and it was mostly members of the SF Symphony and a bunch of freelance musicians, including my teacher. I'm not sure if that's what happens for the actual movie, but that seems typical for soundtracks sold separately for sure.

September 19, 2016 at 08:41 PM · Wow, I didn't see that coming. I would have sworn that the composer would choose a great orchestra and record the OST with it.

How that even works?

I mean, you can't create an orchestra randomly with random players, right?

Doesn't an already created and well established orchestra works better and more efficiently than picking randomly guys?

September 19, 2016 at 09:17 PM · Composers don't choose the orchestra. The film's producers do, and they are interested in keeping the budget as low as possible. In fact, many films today don't use live orchestras. You can now synthesize the sound of an orchestra, even a string section, very effectively. Most Hans Zimmer scores since 2000's "Gladiator" have been synthesized, for instance (I name him in particular since he's probably the most influential composer that started that trend).

Being a studio musician is actually a specialty that calls for very specific skills -- in particular, the ability to sightread sometimes-complex music flawlessly. Sometimes there's no rehearsal, or minimal rehearsal, when these scores are recorded.

Sure, well-established orchestras that rehearse daily together tend to play together better than, say, freeway philharmonics that meet occasionally, which in turn tend to play together better than pick-up orchestras (which you'll see pretty frequently in all kinds of local gigs, by the way). But who in the movie-going audience cares?

The reason you see the LSO doing movie score recordings is not because the LSO or its players would love to be doing them. It's because the LSO needs money, and recording scores is a reasonable way to get a little bit of extra cash for the budget, and they are conveniently located in a film-producing town.

September 19, 2016 at 10:33 PM · Wow, thank you for such an accurate answer. Shame on you, Hans Zimmer.

Do you actually mean that many movie scores we listen to are all computer made, entirely?

That'd be quite sad.

September 20, 2016 at 01:23 AM · Also, the London orchestras are legendary for their sight reading, and generally less expensive than their American counterparts. By reputation, anyway. The particulars may have changed.

September 20, 2016 at 01:39 AM · I wouldn't compare the typical freeway philharmonic with an orchestra that puts together the best freelancers in LA, or NY. You don't get hired to record soundtracks unless you are an excellent musician and first class sightreader. And I doubt that anyone in those orchestras cares about not getting their name on the album as long as their name is on the check.

September 20, 2016 at 01:56 AM · Many movie scores are recorded using a handful of live musicians rather than a full orchestra. If you hear a big instrumental solo, chances are that's a real player. Bigger-budget films may also have bigger budgets for musicians, especially if the score is integral to the director's vision.

When I was a kid, one of my violin teachers had spent decades as an LA studio musician. She had great stories -- and placed a huge emphasis on sightreading skills. (And she was a Suzuki teacher!)

September 20, 2016 at 09:02 AM · Well, since the orchestras are random, I understand why they don't appear in the back cover. There's no name to put on it, and they're not going to put all the names from every individual musician that performed the piece. So that answered my 1st and 2nd questions. About the 3rd:

Can someone listen to "Potter Waltz":


And tell me if it's somehow familiar to any Samuel Wesley's work?

September 22, 2016 at 12:40 AM · You want your name on the cheque but not necessarily on the album cover. After all, the tax man can read!

September 22, 2016 at 02:13 AM · A lot of these things are done by the London Session Orchestra at Abbey Road.

September 22, 2016 at 02:27 AM · I love doing studio work, but I love to sightread and consider it one of my greatest strengths as a musician. I was not in the Harry Potter orchestra, however. :)

September 22, 2016 at 10:00 AM · Thanks for all the replies. I now am interested in solving the third question. May be I should create a different thread...

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