Shore bril­liantly brings Tolkien to life

Ottawa Citizen - - ARTS - NATASHA GAU­THIER The NACO presents The Lord of the Rings: The Fel­low­ship of the Ring again tonight at 7 p.m.

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.

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