Many soundtrack fans have anticipated the score for "Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace" about as much as Star Wars fans have anticipated the film itself. I, at least, had a few doubts as to whether John Williams could match his output from the initial trilogy. Fans can rest assured - Williams has very much recreated the musical magic from the earlier SW films.
The presence of existing SW themes is made clear from the start, as the score begins, of course, with "Star Wars Main Title". As with the initial trilogy, after beginning with the same title fanfare, the music then moves on into new territory to begin the story action (this time to accompany "The Arrival at Naboo").
Other familiar Star Wars themes include the standard main title reprise in "End Credits" (which again eventually shifts into new material). In most of the other instances where familiar themes are used, they are substantially modified to meld with the new material. The most notable example is Darth Vader's theme. The arrangement of the normally militaristic and powerful Imperial March theme into tender, innocent form for the child Anakin is quite moving and certainly interesting. Star Wars fans will be pleased to hear a couple other major SW themes appear briefly but significantly.
The new material is quite substantial and a joy to hear. Some is more along the lines of event music that probably won't appear much in the next two films. "The Flag Parade" is one example, a loud piece with prominent brass that accompanies the preparatory ceremonies for the pod speeder race, successfully building tension and excitement. "The Swim to Otoh Gunda" and "Passage Through the Planet Core" explore new territory for the series, as they augment underwater scenes with the staple choral "ah-ahh"s and spooky strings.
As mentioned, the new themes in Episode I very much emit the classic Star Wars style. "The Sith Spacecraft" is one example, in that the tone resembles the classic Imperial March in ways. However, the pacing is enormously different and it is melded with new Episode I themes, so the final product is familiar yet unique.
Lastly, there are those new themes that accompany major story events and will forever stay etched in the minds of fans. The most well-known of these is the new villain/duel theme featured in "Duel of the Fates". (This track and "Anakin's Theme" are not straight from the film, but instead are "symphonic suite" style arrangements.) Again we hear music in a new direction for the series - the familiar orchestral action is augmented by an in-your-face, blow-your-ears-out choir. One of my personal favorites is the finale music, "Augie's Great Municipal Band". This piece continues the Star Wars trend of having a unique style of finale music for each episode. In this case, we get a celebratory march with triumphant orchestral fanfare, upbeat stomp-like percussion, gleeful children's chanting, and marching band style whistles offsetting it all. It's enormously entertaining and energetic, building excitement perfectly for the onset of "End Credits".
Really, there are few flaws to speak of in this soundtrack. The performance as always is by the London Symphony Orchestra, so there's little to worry about in that regard. The largest qualm of my own is that I feel the "Duel of the Fates" theme is featured too long in the ending credits and a bit overplayed in general, but that is a rather minor point.
Anyone who enjoyed the scores for the initial Star Wars trilogy should be more than pleased with this new installment. I am not an obsessed fan of the new film, but I am an obsessed fan of this new score. It's everything a Star Wars fan could hope for.