Album Reviews

Various – The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King OST

(Reprise) UK release date: 24 November 2003


Various - The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King OST Howard Shore points out that whilst JRR Tolkien had 14 years in which to write The Lord Of The Rings trilogy, the music had to be done in only four. It’s some achievement for the composer, who has been working non-stop on this music, taking only Christmas and New Year for holidays, and the material is such that he is busily arranging a symphony to incorporate music from all three films, not to mention writing accompaniments for the DVD extras. All in all this makes up for a whopping seven hours’ worth of material, carefully orchestrated and expansively performed.

As you’d expect, The Return Of The King draws heavily on themes from the previous two soundtracks, with most of the characters introduced by now. New to the scene, however, is the vile arachnid monster Shelob, given appropriately discordant music as she attacks and pursues Frodo and Sam – not one for the arachnophobes in the cinema.

With the contrast between good and evil growing more vivid, there’s a savage depiction of Minas Morgul in the heart of Mordor, and a weird, disquieting sound picture of Cirith Ungol. Hope abounds in the shape of the Ride Of The Rohirrim, and the city of Minas Tirith is made to sound as majestic as it looks on screen. Twilight & Shadow contains an example of a technique Shore uses to great effect, as he often builds a piece of music with more and more orchestration and intensity until it suddenly rushes over a cliff, suspended with choral voices conveying a kind of weightlessness.

There are more vocal contributions to this final part, with Renée Fleming lending a gorgeous soprano voice to The End Of All Things, and Annie Lennox a curious but successful choice for the end credits. The crowning movement, The Return Of The King, arrives at a relative calm as the end is nigh, the battle fought, with a recap of many of the principal themes used thus far. Again these are expansively orchestrated yet are quite folksy when depicting the Shire and when the Hobbits are on the scene.

Shore’s highly dramatic soundtrack stands up as a piece in its own right, with or without the film, and the classical sensibilities, together with a real sense of drama and occasion, augur well for the projected symphony. It’s a tremendous achievement, one to put on a par with John Williams and his music for Star Wars.


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