Sunday, September 4, 2011

In review--The Lord of the Rings Returns

Howard Shore’s The Lord of the Rings Symphony
Performed by 21st Century Symphony Orchestra & Chorus
Kaitlyn Lusk, Soprano, Ludwig Wicki, Conductor
Howe Records/BR Klassik

I’m a closet fan of The Lord of the Rings series, both the movies and the books. When I saw a CD for a symphony, adapted from the film score for LOTR, I jumped at the opportunity to review the CD. I’m listening to disc 2 at the moment, and listened to the entire symphony yesterday. Memories from the movie in the form of emotions flood my brain as I listen to the score.

Similar to another fantasy classic, Star Wars, J.R.R Tolkien’s classic promotes the triumph of love over fear or good over evil. Innocent characters (Hobbits) go on a quest for a power object that had fallen into the wrong hands. This quest goes on through a series of books, or for those who just watched the movies, 12 hours of cinema with a glorious music soundtrack. And it amazes me just how powerful this score is since I’m sure it propelled the action and emotions along for those 12 hours of viewing. Like any great movie score, think Gone with the Wind, Casablanca or Star Wars, the music along with images shapes our perceptions not only of the world we watch on a large screen, but also the “real” world in which we bring back the movie’s message.

While I’m not going to get into movie music entrainment, I will say it plays a huge role in how we shape our reality. In the case of The Lord of the Rings Symphony, I’m experiencing the images of the books and movies over again. I’m pondering the theme of love’s triumph and the rebuilding of a world that was lost to war, chaos, and greed. The timing of the release of this symphony seems perfect as we contemplate the coming events of 2012 and beyond. This score is so powerful that movie images I saw over 10 years ago resurface in my thoughts. Few movie scores do this for me outside of the score for The Red Violin, a Canadian movie, I also watched over 10 years ago.

If you’re a LOTR fan, then you recall this lush score sung in fantasy dialects and English. You recall the clashing of metal during the battle scenes, the underworld voices of the trolls and elves, and the innocent romps of the hobbits. In this score you can hear hearts breaking, relationships ending, and fear of the unknown approaching. You can hear hope and despair, and the joy of old friends reuniting. The orchestra music too is unusual, in that it features pan flutes, Irish whistles, and accordion along with the usual western orchestra instruments. A boy choir brings a touch of innocence and the center pieces are songs performed by the dynamic soprano Kaitlyn Lusk, who has had a go at this symphonic work many times over the years. Just hearing her unleash “Into the West” causes the eyes to grow misty.

Imagine condensing 12 hours of music into a 2 hour symphony (not sure the exact time), and catching all the high spots. The score composer Howard Shore did a bang up job with this symphony. And conductor Ludwig Wicki and the 21st Century Symphony Orchestra (specializes in performance of movie scores), deliver a timeless and magnificent concert of a well-loved classic. Sure this CD eats up hours of my listening time, but I’m enjoying revisiting a favorite epic. Hit replay and let your mind wander to another realm. and

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