Hans Zimmer's previous effort scoring an animated film was The Lion King, and most will agree it was an impressive achievement (Oscar-winning, no less). Like his Lion King soundtrack, Prince of Egypt melds traditional orchestral film music style with ethnic accents, and it flaunts a wide range of moods to match the versatility of animation and the epic scope of the film.
While The Lion King incorporated tribal African sounds to match the setting, Prince of Egypt utilizes elements of Middle Eastern music in its score. "The Reprimand" includes whispy flutes, mystical chimes, slightly tribal percussion and other instrumentation with a Middle Eastern flavor in both performance and arrangement. The style works well for both serious passages and festive moments, and personally at least, it revives a fondness for the ethnic style as experienced in parts of the Panzer Dragoon scores or the Albert Odessey piece in Orchestral Game Concert 4.
In addition, the more traditional orchestral elements and well-incorporated choral accompaniment are vintage Zimmer in their ability to create drama and mood while remaining enjoyably musical and listenable. The environment pieces set the mood of the Egyptian desert fittingly, the somber moments - especially those led by violin - are moving and reminiscient of their Lion King counterparts, a few action cues are included for less inhibited intensity, and the musical accompaniment for "The Burning Bush" and other miraculous moments is soft and introspective at times, while charged with power and triumph at others.
One area in which PoE noticeably outperforms TLK is in its vocal numbers. While TLK's vocal pieces were in most cases drastically simpler and less dramatic instrumentally to the score cues, PoE's come much closer to reaching parity.
Lyrics are much more mature and dramatic than typical Disney fare. The vocal performances are Broadway in sound and accordingly capable. Plus Zimmer's orchestral arrangements play a significant role in most of them and emerge prominently in many moments, with major themes appearing frequently. "Through Heaven's Eyes" is enormously catchy and memorable with its festive, Middle-Eastern instrumentation and chanting. Meanwhile "Deliver Us" moves from stirring instrumental passages, to powerful male choir performances, to heartfelt solos by the characters of Moses's mother and child sister that incorporate the prominent lullaby theme.
A couple clear flaws mar the otherwise rosy surface. One is the presence of "Playing with the Big Boys", the standard villain's vocal number, which for the most part is sorely out of place and cliched compared to the rest of the score. Also questionable is the inclusion of several pop tracks that aren't in the main body of the film, despite the movie having two extra image albums more suited for that sort of thing. Most of the score is still included, but certain cues like the chariot race, the heiroglyphics scene, and the final few minutes are absent and are missed. (It should be noted that the chariot race and ending cues can be found in the "special edition" promo soundtrack release for the film, and are worth seeking out.)
Given Zimmer's nack for variety and drama, film score fans should find plenty to like in The Prince of Egypt, and those who in addition to the score tracks can appreciate the vocal pieces will be especially impressed.