Shore brilliantly brings Tolkien to life
Lord of the Rings National Arts Centre Reviewed Thursday, July 5 Howard Shore’s ambitious, richly imagined score for Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings film trilogy has earned its place among the most beloved music in the history of cinema. The Canadian-born Shore won a brace of Oscars and Grammy Awards for his vast Lord of the Rings oeuvre. Thursday night, the NAC Orchestra presented a live performance of the complete score to Part I of the trilogy, The Fellowship of the Ring, with a projection of the film.
Shore recreated MiddleEarth and its denizens in an intricate soundscape. Powerful, memorable leitmotifs serve to illustrate the various characters and themes, and the density and detail of Tolkien’s text is matched by the astonishing array of instrumentation, styles and effects Shore unfurls in this epic composition.
Accordingly, the stage was jam-packed with an army of musicians: a massive adult chorus; a children’s chorus; both a boy and a female soprano soloist; and the NACO, impressively augmented not just with extra string, brass, woodwind and percussion players, but also guitar, mandolin, accordion, hammered dulcimer, prepared piano (a piano that has had its sound altered), Japanese drums and a host of other exotic and unusual instruments.
Erik Ochsner, who has conducted the Lord of the Rings score many times, kept everything precise and smooth, showing tremendous stamina as well as a clear, efficient and energetic style on the podium.
It’s thrilling to watch Jackson’s first Lord of the Rings film — still so captivating after more than 10 years — to a live orchestral performance. Not that there aren’t issues with this type of project. The music sometimes drowns out the dialogue, and with a DVD projected with the stage lights on, the actual screening is not of the best quality. One wanted a purer, more ethereal tone out of boy soprano Matthew Kronberg, while Nancy Allen Lundy tried to imitate Enya’s serene warble or Elizabeth Fraser’s nasally drone, none of it successfully and all off pitch.
But when the strings slide around Shore’s sinuous One Ring theme or when the women’s chorus intones the mysterious music of Lothlorien, floating along in sibilant Elvish or when the percussion pounds out the brutal, fivenote rhythm used for the Isengard scenes, the Tolkien universe comes to life in a way recorded music can’t match.