John Williams: Saving Private Ryan

The story is probably very familiar, by now. Amid the carnage of the Omaha beachhead assault of 1944, the camera follows Tom Hanks and his men as they wander the beach at the start of the film, before the search begins for the sole surviving brother of three fallen soldiers – the ‘Ryan’ of the title.

Saving Private Ryan won five Oscars in 1998. Although Best Sound was one of the Oscar spoils – an odd one to major on you might think – Best Soundtrack was not. John Williams came away empty-handed this time. The job for Williams here was a tricky one. Spielberg wanted to keep much of the film silent, to concentrate on the true horrors of war and to make sure that the harsh and real sounds of death were heard (and it clearly worked, hence the Best Sound Oscar). The limits this put on Williams were considerable, but he still managed to come away with a moving theme, played over the end credits and soon becoming a stand-alone hit. The wordless chorus with a trumpet and snare-drum combination certainly tugs at the heart strings.

Recommended Recording

Tanglewood Festival Chorus; Boston Symphony Orchestra; John Williams (conductor). Dreamworks: DRMD 50046.