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THE LORD OF THE RINGS SYMPHONY

Conducted by Alexander Mickelthwate
Featuring Hayley Westenra

Six movements for Orchestra and Chorus, composed by Howard Shore.

 

 

4 stars

July 23rd, 2004

 
    There is nothing like sitting through live music, especially when it has touched me so deeply like the music from these three movies has. We were sitting in the fourth row, near the middle, which might have been a little too close. As it was, we got to see the front of the full orchestra, and peeks at the middle and rear through legs and instruments. The choir was only visible when they were standing up, and even then, the front rows were barely so.

The music, however, was terrific. The orchestra had great music to work with, but they did an amazing job, especially considering that I've listened to the CD soundtracks for the movies countless times. This was not like listening to the soundtrack CDs, though. Those have been condensed, and the order is somewhat suspect. The most rousing themes were easily recognisable from the CD, but it was not studio-mixed music, which is to say I heard some of the different instruments that I don't get to hear most of the time, like drums in the background, and so on. I now, of course, have to go watch the movies again, in order to listen for those tones!

The first act was in two parts, both from The Fellowship of the Ring. We got the most rousing themes, as well as the amazingly happy hobbit themes. The fellowship theme was amazing, especially within Moria. The music was accompanied by visuals, the paintings and sketches done by Alan Lee and John Howe. While many of Lee's sketches do not have the contrast to show well on a large screen, they were nonetheless impressive. They also served to orient listeners to where the music was coming from. Even with my intimate knowledge of the CDs, I thought the music was coming from other periods in the movies. In the final sequence of this part, a young boy stood up and performed the closing vocals, sounding almost like the one in the movie, and as shown in the extended Fellowship extras. He didn't quite have the lung capacity of the original (which was probably mixed in studio, anyway), which means that we could hear him taking breaths! I certainly couldn't do it in one breath!

The second half of the show was what really amazed me. The soundtrack from The Two Towers has always been my favorite of the three, and the orchestra didn't disappoint. Neither did the 17 year old vocalist, who was beautiful both physically and vocally. Wow. She did all of the vocals for Arwen's themes, as well as singing Gollum's Song just like the original singer. The Celtic-sounding themes for the Rohanians have always been some of my favorites, and the visuals that accompanied them, of the Golden Hall and of Helm's Deep, were terrific. At one point in the battle music, I think every single member of the orchestra was playing frantically. It was really awesome.

The music from The Return of the King is less well known to me, as the soundtrack hasn't even been out a year, and has been in my possession for less than six months. However, there are terrific themes, which justifiably won the Academy Awards. Once again, the vocalist did a terrific job, and the visuals were best served during this part, as there were very few segments, and they were nice and long. My favorite is of course from Minas Tirith, when Gandalf and Pippin are riding through the many gates, but I also love the lighting of the watchtowers and the triumphant theme from the battles. It really ended the set on a high note. Of course, the vocalist did another terrific rendition of Into the West, sounding just like Annie Lennox, this time!

The crowd gave this concert a standing ovation, which seems to be the norm in this city -easy to please. For me, I thought they did a terrific job, but I did have a couple of complaints. One flute-type of instrument seemed to be out of tune, and it was the main one doing all of the hobbit themes. It wasn't poor by any means, but it could have been better- and more like the movie version. The choirs were also very noisy when they stood up from a sitting position. I realize that it's a lot to ask people to stand for so long, but it was annoying to hear the rustle of chairs during a quiet moment. I also thought that they could have used more visuals. Many of the sketches stayed on-screen for a very long time, while others were quickly replaced. Most were very tastefully done, but it would have been nice to see more of it, especially the Rohirrim riding into battle, or more of Minas Tirith.

While Frodo and Sam got the short shift, I don't mind that, as the music from their scenes were not as energetic or emotionally-rousing as the battle music. It was nice that they didn't stick to battle music all the time, however, because that can get tiring, as well. In all, I think they had a good balance. I could do without Treebeard's theme, and got more of the Rohanian theme, but that's a personal preference.

The conductor was very energetic, and did a great job. Knowing nothing about music except what I like and don't like, I have no idea what his function really is. But it was amazing to see every member of the orchestra keep their eyes on him at the end of each set, watching for their cues to descend in volume and finally stop!

This concert was a very pleasant experience. The music was wonderfully performed, and I was mesmerized by the musicians as they played. I think everybody who gets a chance should go see something like this, because this is one of the ways this epic music was meant to be heard. The other way, of course, is in the films themselves, where they are accompanied and accented by outstanding visuals.

 
   

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