Lord of the Rings:  The Return of the King (Soundtrack) by Howard Shore, available at Varese Sarabande.com



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Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (Soundtrack) by Howard Shore

"Score of the Rings:  Part III"
Review by Steve Townsley


Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (Soundtrack) by Howard Shore

Lord of the Rings:
The Return of the King


The Lord of the Rings:  The Return of the King  (Soundtrack) by Howard Shore

Composer Howard Shore
Howard Shore


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Category    Score

Originality 9
Music Selection 10
Composition 10
CD Length 10
Track Order 10
Performance 10
Final Score 10/10


Real Audio Clips



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"The Return of the King is an amazing finale to some of the most impressive film music ever written.

Andreas Lindahl- Score! Reviews
Lord of the Rings: Return of the King




Composed, Orchestrated and Conducted by Howard Shore
Produced by Howard Shore
Performed by The London Philharmonic Orchestra, The London Voices
and The London Oratory School Schola;
(Solo performances) Ben del Maestro, Renée Fleming, Sir James Galway,
Annie Lennox, Billy Boyd and Viggo Mortensen
Released by Warner/Reprise on November 25, 2003

Author’s note: This aspires to be a spoiler-free review. Though I am familiar with Tolkien’s novels, I will be focusing on the music rather than the scenes the music accompanies.

Two years ago, Howard Shore’s we began a journey with Fellowship of the Rings. Some of us took off running. Others were a little hesitant, unsure of the leadership, unsure of the means by which we’d be traveling. (Howard Shore? Of all the possibilities!) But even the most skeptical among us were left in awe, swept up in its epic scope. By the time we reached The Two Towers, all of our doubt was put aside, and we looked eagerly to the future. Steadily and surely, we were infused with a sense of wonder, of terror, and adventure—and, very appropriately, all from the most unlikely of places. And all things, for good or bad must end, as we have reached the final leg of the journey, Return of the King.

For those of us who came this far have marveled in the themes so deftly woven into the film’s tapestry of images. As we must recognize that the film is a trilogy, and in truth, three parts of one whole work, we must recognize the music must be the same, carrying over thematically throughout the trilogy. We know the trumpets that signal the approach of evil, the ethereal choir that heralds the elves, and the insidious strains of the ring theme. In the opening track, “A Storm is Coming”, a deceptively sweet introduction soon turns to the frenetic Ring theme, though Shore has done his part to remind the listener of the tension in music, he wastes no time in reminding us of the heroism in the following “Hope and Memory”.

Short as the previous tracks are, both merely whet the listener’s palate for the following track, which introduces a theme that will reappear throughout score, what I take to be the Theme of Gondor. (Originally this piece can be heard in the Extended DVD version of The Fellowship of the Ring during the council scene when Boromir speaks.) The theme is initialize here in a dark moment, but erupts into a proud and fast-paces orchestral march here by the end of track. Just knowing that this is a theme is thrilling because of Shore’s noted uses of themes in the past films, one gets very excited to hear a resolved statement of it here, knowing that there is more to come.

“The White Tree” Track 4 becomes more of a swashbuckling theme by topping the statement of the Gondor theme heard in the previous track, pushing the grandness even more. The next track is a wondrous curiosity, a more pensive restatement of the theme, a militaristic moment, cued with choir, drums and flute Track 5 . However, this is abruptly silenced and we hear the singing voice of actor Billy Boyd (Pippin), with a wonderfully incorporated song here, which serves to heighten the tense and tragic elements of the battle to come.

I will take a moment here to speak of the inclusion of songs in the score. Shore has really excelled at not breaking the dramatic moment of the score with song, but rather enhancing it. He previously demonstrated this with Fellowship, incorporating vocals into the score, and Return of the King continues the masterfulness of this. Later, in the score’s crowning moment, actor Viggo Mortensen also sings. Though while this may bring trepidation for some, there is no cause for fear—Shore’s orchestration matches the music to the voice, and the result is an amazing and appropriate blend of song and score which serves the moment and never detracts from it. Indeed if such a prominent feature of singing actors in the score were announced previous to the massive undertaking of Lord of the Rings, one might be tempted to assume that it was merely a concession of ego. However, I have been convinced (and many other audience members, too, I hope) that the creative efforts of all involved (Shore included) in this trilogy are—amazingly--not about ego. There are no introductory titles, no billing of any one actor above another on the tops of theater posters.

The themes progress throughout the scores—and eventually return the cycle to where it started two years ago, the theme of Hobbits. Such a heartwarming inclusion of the theme is featured towards the end of the score, signaling the fact that it is time to return home for all of us. But there is one more closing, which sums up our departure from the magic of Middle Earth. Consistent to the form of the previous score, a beautiful performance by Annie Lennox is featured in the closing song, “Into the West”, a song part folk ballad, part lullaby.

There is so much goodness in the score that evokes such a range of emotion, that it is indeed tempting to not explore dramatic moments and possibilities, even when I have not seen the film at the time of writing this review. I am virtually wordless to describe my wonder at how skillfully and emotionally the journey was made. This score must certainly rank among the strongest of the year, and owning this CD (as well as the two that preceded it) would be a true boon to any fan of film music. The journey is complete, and with the final chapter made, we now have a musical trilogy to accompany the film trilogy, which will hopefully be among the most cherished of memories to which we can fondly return.

A closing addition: Even as we leave these shores, there are rumors in the east…perhaps soon we shall have even more to return to, as the complete scores are said to be in production. To date, we only have some three hours of a movie trilogy that nears 10 hours in total length, and there is more to be heard. So warm your hearth with this score and your thoughts of what is yet to come.


Track Listing and Ratings


Title Time


1 A Storm is Coming 2:52  ****
2 Hope and Memory 1:45  ****
3 Minas Tirith - Ben del Maestro 3:37  *****
4 The White Tree Track 4 3:25  *****
5 The Steward of Gondor - Billy Boyd Track 5 3:53  *****
6 Minas Morgul 1:58  ***
7 The Ride of the Rohirrin 2:08  *****
8 Twilight and Shadow - Renee Fleming Track 8 3:30  ***
9 Cirith Ungol 1:44  ***
10 Anduril 2:35  ****
11 Shelob's Lair 4:07  ****
12 Ash and Smoke 3:25  ***
13 The Fields of the Pelennor 3:26  *****
14 Hope Fails 2:20  ****
15 The Black Gate Opens - Sir James Galway 4:01  ****
16 The End of All Things - Renee Fleming Track 16 5:12  ****
17 The Return of the King - Sir James Galway,
Viggo Mortensen, Renee Fleming
10:14  *****
18 The Grey Havens - Sir James Galway 5:59  *****
19 Into the West - Annie Lennox 5:47  ****

Total Running Time


Lord of the Rings:  Return of the King by Howard Shore,

*The Experience-O-Meter displays the track to track listening experience of this soundtrack based on the 5-Star rating given to each track.  It provides a visual depiction of the ebbs and flows of the CD's presentation of the soundtrack.


Referenced Reviews
  Fellowship of the Ring | The Two Towers




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