John Williams • The Fabelmans

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“Growing up in post-World War II era Arizona, young Sammy Fabelman aspires to become a filmmaker as he reaches adolescence, but soon discovers a shattering family secret, and explores how the power of films can help him see the truth.”

Steven Spielberg’s critically acclaimed 2022 movie The Fabelmans, loosely based on his own adolescent years, was nominated for seven Oscars, including Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures (Original Score). That score, composed by the peerless John Williams, is now available transcribed for piano solo from Hal Leonard.

Suitable for players at late intermediate to early advanced level, the sheet music folio is the subject of this review.

Soundtrack highlights

Let’s start with this short film in which Spielberg and Williams discuss their 50-year collaboration, and introduce the beautiful theme that graces The Fabelmans:

As mentioned in the clip, this will be (alongside Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny) Williams’ final movie score, having decided at the age of 90 to retire. How about that?

Sony have shared the Original Motion Picture Soundtrack recording in full on all streaming services, showcasing nine original piano/orchestra compositions by Williams and three classical piano pieces which appear in the film:

Nine of these pieces, including the three classics, appear in Hal Leonard’s solo piano folio, the remaining three incidental orchestral pieces proving unsuitable for piano arrangement. We are thus offered:

  • The Fabelmans
  • Mitzi’s Dance
  • Reverie
  • Mother and Son
  • Reflections
  • The Letter
  • Sonatina in A minor Op.88/3: III. Allegro Burlesco (Kuhlau)
  • Sonatina in C major Op.36/3: Spiritoso (Clementi)
  • Concerto in D minor BWV 974: II. Adagio (Marcello/Bach)

The first two Williams solos contain most of the musical material from which the movie score is derived, the warm melodic romanticism of the title track contrasting with the more mysteriously magical feel of Mitzi’s Dance, which somewhat channels the aesthetic of Satie’s piano music.

Reverie, Reflections and The Letter all draw on Mitzi’s Dance, each more musically evocative as they probe the etherial harmonies and colourful sonorities of that material. Meanwhile Mother and Son, beautifully arranged for classical guitar, piano and strings in the movie, develops the main title theme, and would make a brilliant performance piece in this piano arrangement.

The inclusion of the works by Kuhlau, Clementi and Marcello/Bach in the folio is most welcome. Not only do these pieces offer a wonderful musical counterpoint to the Williams originals, as he undoubtedly wanted them to, but they help the developing player balance new and old in their repertoire.

As a teacher, I am certainly looking forward to including these pieces alongside those that were newly written for the film; I have no doubt players will find them immensely rewarding, and expect many teachers will find them a refreshing bonus!

The Arrangements and Publication

The sheet music folio is a simple affair. The cover (see above) shows the movie poster, and on its rear lists the pieces. Staple-bound and comprising just 32 pages, the title and contents pages lead directly to the scores themselves, and there are no further images or stills from the film. As such, I wonder whether the retail price is rather steep.

Though printed on white paper, I found the scores themselves comfortably readable, thanks to the pristine engraving clarity, generous music font size and visually clean spacing. No fingering is included in the Williams pieces (always a pity in my view), but the three classical pieces include ample fingering, as well as editorial dynamics that reflect (if perhaps overstating) those of the soundtrack recording.

The solo piano arrangements of Williams’ pieces are effective, both in their pianism and in their faithfulness to the originals.

In several cases the hands overlap; effective pedalling and careful voicing of musical line will be required when the accompaniment figures duplicate notes simultaneously held in the melody line. I should also mention that Mother and Son requires large hands, or else the arpeggiation of chords.

Closing Thoughts

It seems faintly improbably to find myself writing a review of John Williams’ final film score, but here we are, and it’s a classic.

It is hard to predict when a movie theme will gather its own momentum to become a classic. The main theme from The Fabelmans certainly deserves wide popularity; I really hope that it gains the necessary traction, and if it does, this superb music book could deservedly prove to be one of the best-selling commercial piano collections of the year.

This is quite simply a sublime score, a masterpiece which absolutely deserved its Oscars nod. Don’t hesitate having a listen, and a play, for yourself!

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Published by

Andrew Eales

Andrew Eales is a widely respected piano educator, writer and composer based on Milton Keynes UK. His book HOW TO PRACTISE MUSIC is published by Hal Leonard.