Oh don't get me wrong -- this is a great collection and definitely value for money. Congratulations to Sony Classical for pulling it together.
In one sense it's a very satisfying purchase: even though the second of the two discs in this set goes a little bit astray in including some selections that are less compelling to the listener or even as musically interesting, it's a broadly representative sweep of Mr William's scoring career -- a little biased towards his more recent scores, perhaps, but even that's OK, 'coz that's when he's been writing with more conviction and authority. (Or, perhaps more pertinently, that's when Sony started having a market interest in films and soundtracks.)
But in another sense, this set has the paradoxical drawback of all good compilations: it leaves you wanting more.
And at the risk of disagreeing with Jason Verlinde, Amazon.com's reviewer, I did not find all the soundtrack moments I'd expect! There are so many moments of great passion and musical lyricism that have flowed from John William's pencil (or his music compositional software, for all I know) that they definitely can't all be done justice in a single two-disc collection.
Where, for instance, are the themes from his disaster-movie epics, The Towering Inferno, Earthquake and the Poseidon Adventure ? His early TV-based sci-fi stuff, like The Time Tunnel, Land of the Giants or Lost in Space ? His all-but-forgotten romanticisms, like his awesome score for Dracula, or for Sugarland Express, Cinderella Liberty, Always, and Stanley & Iris ? His westerns, among them The Cowboys, the River and The Missouri Breaks ? His other fantasy pieces, among them The Fury, The Witches of Eastwick, and Articial Intelligence: AI ?And his historical pieces, like Midway, Nixon, Amistad, Angela's Ashes or The Patriot ?
OK. My point is made, I believe. There is just so much John Williams has written that is worth hearing. And while Mr Verlinde is correct in saying that (for many of these films) full OST releases are also available on CD, for those of us who enjoy John Williams' Tchaikovsky-like ability to produce an unending supply of rich, evocative musical themes, compilations are really the best answer. His music, as so many film-makers have commented, is so dramatic and versatile that it quickly becomes like an unscripted character in most movies in which it participates, to the degree that, broadly, to separate most of his tracks from the scene in which they appear is to discard much of their power and musical value. We can only be grateful that Mr Williams has developed the habit of creating musical cues in most of his movies where his themes and motifs are clearly, powerfully stated. And it's these cues, often, that make for the best listening, outside watching the entire film itself.
So, Sony, it's over to you. There's plenty of room, plenty of material, for volumes two, three, four ... Even most of the films that have been represented in this current set have plenty more musical cues that could also appear in a compilation of this caliber.
In the meantime, this highly-recommended set is a great place to start listening to John Williams' extraordinary film music. I don't think there's a dud track in the entire collection.