Remembering David Cripps, the Horn Player who Created Princess Leia

David Cripps, the legendary British horn player, passed away last week following a battle with cancer.

Cripps served as principal horn of the London Symphony Orchestra between 1974 and 1983. During that time, he performed and recorded under such conductors as André Previn and Claudio Abbado. Perhaps he will be remembered most for his original soundtrack performances of Princess Leia‘s Theme, and other horn solos throughout John Williams’ iconic film scores for Star Wars and Superman, recorded by the London Symphony Orchestra.

Princess Leia’s Theme from Star Wars

Cripps recalled the LSO session in 1977 when Princess Leia’s Theme, introduced by the plaintive, nostalgic voice of the horn, was recorded. It came at the end of a long, grueling day. To the musicians’ dismay, John Williams returned after a break, and requested a session of overtime. He assured the orchestra’s brass players, physically exhausted after playing hours of taxing action music, that the excerpt was gentle. Then, Williams turned to Cripps and said, “David, I’ve written a little horn solo for you. I hope you enjoy it!” Filled with quiet, majestic heroism, and venturing ever higher in cautious, tentative steps, the theme gives us a feeling of the character. In terms of atmosphere, the horn solo, enveloped in lush and shimmering strings, inhabits a world similar to that of American composer Howard Hanson’s Second Symphony. The horn call, heard as a signal during the hunt and on the battlefield, is infused with ancient connotations of adventure and heroism.

The Binary Sunset Theme from Star Wars: Episode IV -A New Hope

Throughout the Star Wars scores, John Williams employed the leitmotif technique found in many of Wagner’s operas. As with the Princess Leia Theme, these melodies and motifs represent characters and ideas. Heard in all of the Star Wars films, the Binary Sunset Theme represents The Force. The theme is introduced by the horn, beginning at 2:20 in the clip below:

Han Solo and the Princess from The Empire Strikes Back

The horn, played by David Cripps, introduces the love theme of Han Solo and Princess Leia in The Empire Strikes Back:

The Flying Sequence from Superman 

Famously, John Williams’ love theme for the 1978 film, Superman, pays homage to the “transfiguration” motif from Richard Strauss’ Death and Transfiguration. In the Flying Sequence, the theme evokes a visceral sense of upward lift, and is heard against a backdrop of glittering tonal colors, reflecting the lights of the city, and adventurous soaring lines in the horns. The sequence concludes with the solo horn intoning the perfect fifth motif which opens the Superman March.

Love Theme from Superman 

David Cripps Remembers the Star Wars Recording Sessions

Recordings

  • Star Wars: A New Hope (original motion picture soundtrack) Amazon
  • Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back (original motion picture soundtrack) Amazon
  • Superman (original motion picture soundtrack) Amazon

About Timothy Judd

A native of Upstate New York, Timothy Judd has been a member of the Richmond Symphony violin section since 2001. He is a graduate of the Eastman School of Music where he earned the degrees Bachelor of Music and Master of Music, studying with world renowned Ukrainian-American violinist Oleh Krysa.

The son of public school music educators, Timothy Judd began violin lessons at the age of four through Eastman’s Community Education Division. He was a student of Anastasia Jempelis, one of the earliest champions of the Suzuki method in the United States.

A passionate teacher, Mr. Judd has maintained a private violin studio in the Richmond area since 2002 and has been active coaching chamber music and numerous youth orchestra sectionals.

In his free time, Timothy Judd enjoys working out with Richmond’s popular SEAL Team Physical Training program.

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