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The Lord of the Rings Symphony:
Six Movements for Orchestra & Chorus by Howard Shore

The Lord of the Rings Symphony: Six Movements for Orchestra & Chorus

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The Lord of the Rings Symphony: Six Movements for Orchestra & Chorus (Soundtrack) by Howard Shore
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The Lord of the Rings Symphony: Six Movements for Orchestra & Chorus (Soundtrack) by Howard Shore

The Lord of the Rings Symphony:
Six Movements for Orchestra & Chorus
Composed by Howard Shore
Howe Records (2011)

Rating: 7/10

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“THE LORD OF THE RINGS SYMPHONY is no replacement for the original soundtrack releases, but is a great means of experiencing a rather complete Tolkien-Shore refresher in under two hours time. ”

Back Again
Review by Christopher Coleman

Howard Shores epic work for THE LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy easily stands as the best film music to be produced in this new millennium. It certainly has garnered more attention, discussion, and dissection than any other work composed for film since the turn of the century, and even more accurately, in the last 25 years. This has happened with good reason as HOWARD SHORE’S work contains the depth and detail worthy of attachment to director Peter Jackson’s trilogy, not to mention J.R.R. Tolkien’s encyclopedic mythos.

Thankfully, THE LORD OF THE RINGS is hardly without proper soundtrack representation. There is the single-CD, original soundtrack releases, limited edition soundtracks, the respective Complete Recordings, the Rarities CD included in Doug Adams’ book, THE MUSIC OF THE LORD OF THE RINGS, and a plethora of re-recordings and compilations sprinkled throughout retail and online music stores everywhere. All of these releases have coming in less than ten years speaks to the appreciation and value of Shore’s compositions and, of course, its continued marketability.

Now there is one more musical channel from which the Lord of the Rings music has been exhibited. Live concert performances of Shore’s scores have been held all over world. One of them was recorded as recently as February of 2011, performed by the 21st Century Symphony and Chorus, under the direction of maestro Ludwig Wicki. It was this performance that has come to comprise the latest Lord of the Rings musical venture: Howe Records release of THE LORD OF THE RINGS SYMPHONY: SIX MOVEMENTS FOR ORCHESTRA & CHORUS.

Before diving into the some of the details of this release, the most obvious question should be first posed, “Is yet another release even needed?”

Given the volume of music from the trilogy released thus far, one might immediately be inclined to answer that question with a Mumakil-sized, “No.” If that would be your answer, then I’d beg to differ on a few counts. First, if you one of those who have listened to the original and extended releases countless times, know every nuance of every note from the Shire to the Grey Havens, then a new take on those same notes may feel like grey-rain curtain washing across Shore’s score... revealing them anew with fresh appreciation. Second, if you engage in soundtrack-evangelism then how does one introduce a would-be convert to Shore’s twelve-hour thematic deluge without scaring them off? I’d suggest that THE LORD OF THE RINGS SYMPHONY is a solid representation of Shore’s music which is delivered in a very digestible, double-CD format - perfect for such evangelistic efforts.

Now, this release is by no means a replacement for the original recordings. In fact, those who are hyper-familiar with those recordings will easily pick up on the differences contained in this new recording and find them potentially irksome...at least initially. While the vast majority of the performance is strikingly faithful to the originals, with nearly all of the key themes represented, there a handful of striking differences. Most of these come in the form of vocals, in particular, the solo vocals. “Movement I” is virtually free of this issue, but “Movement II” features a fairly glaring choral diversion when it comes to the “Balin’s Tomb” and “Kazad Dhum” segments. The male chorus simply does not have the indelible punch, which added so much weight and threat to the original performances. No wonder though, as it would be unreasonable to expect Maestro Wicki to hire a team of Maori footballers to come in and add their vocal accents. So, while this particular variance can be excused to a degree, there are still others of note.

In “Movement III” and “Movement IV” the absence of Isabel Baykradian and Elizabeth Fraser’s ethereal voices are sorely missed, but even moreso that of Emiliana Torrini when it comes to the fourth movement’s concluding performance of “Gollum’s Song.” Again, we feel the comparative choral-lightness in “Movement V” during the “Lighting of the Beacons” segment. Finishing up in “Movement VI” we have one of the more jarring differences found in the performance of “Aragorn’s Coronation Song” where the baritone vocalist is clearly a more talented singer than Viggo Mortensen (Aragorn), but somehow loses all of the the personality of those few lines as sung in the film. Lastly, while of course Annie Lennox’s unmistakable voice is missed for “Into the West,” the performance here is pretty satisfying and is followed by a wonderful finale of the orchestra to close both the concert and this release.

In addition to these vocal departures, those already familiar with this music will also catch re-arrangements and edits of key segments (especially in Movement VI), but again, these changes are what help the seasoned listener “pay full attention” again to the music...not being able to anticipate what notes or rests are coming. Afterward it is quite possibl e, the listener will have an even greater overall appreciation of HOWARD SHORE’s work.  THE LORD OF THE RINGS SYMPHONY is no replacement for the original soundtrack releases, but is a great means of experiencing a rather complete Tolkien-Shore refresher in under two hours time.  It is also a bit of musical lembas-bread which may just tide us over until we are able to partake of HOWARD SHORE's music for THE HOBBIT. 

Rating: 7/10


Track

Track Title Track Time  Rating
1 Movement 1 11:25  ****
2 Movement 2 34:04  ****
3 Movement 3 18:15  ***
4 Movement 4 10:28  ***
5 Movement 5 15:26  ***
6 Movement 6 26:12  ****
  Total Running Time (approx) 116 minutes  

 

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