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February 24, 2018

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Lord of the Rings: Complete Recordings

February 26, 2017

This post is a combination of three articles written for SoundtractNet for the three separate album releases from the trilogy.

 

The Fellowship of the Ring

Howard Shore's Oscar-winning, Golden Globe-nominated, and Grammy Award-winning score to The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring was just the beginning of an epic 12-hour long Lord of the Rings saga that would catapult him to the forefront of the film music world. Now, for the first time, the complete soundtrack to the extended DVD cut of the first film has been released in one very pretty package. Each film in the trilogy has a different tone, but in hindsight, The Fellowship of the Ring stands out more than its successors: it is the one that introduces and develops the majority of the key themes that would come to play massive roles in the world of Middle-Earth and our understanding of it.

 

I would imagine that most buyers of this box sets already own the original soundtrack releases. Technically, the extended cut DVDs are seen as the "definitive" version of the films, and a complete "theatrical" soundtrack will most likely never see the light of day. As this is the complete recording from the "extended version", all of the music from that release is included here - but what is interesting is that some of the cues are different, since they were edited down for the soundtrack (or even extended for the DVD). A good example of this is "Balin's Tomb", which does not exactly correlate with the edited version of "A Journey in the Dark" from the original CD release. That having been said, this is a must-have for any fan of The Lord of the Rings. It includes every note, and for some films that would be overkill, or even dull. But this is not the case for Shore's work here. The album includes some incredible cues that fans have been seeking for four years.

 

As expected, the first disc opens with "Prologue: One Ring to Rule Them All", drawn out from the cut-down form on the soundtrack to its full length. The use of the Ring Theme here gives the music a very grim, apprehensive and foreshadowing feeling. The louder portions of the cue appeared in the shortened form, and the quieter Ring Theme development was generally what was cut. Further thematic introductions are made in "The Shire", giving us both the Hobbit and Fellowship Themes. "Bag End" includes Gandalf's (Ian McKellan) little song from the extended cut as well. The first disc of this set is primarily comprised of the Hobbit music, given the amount of time the film spends there, which is nice since they weren't represented as fully on the original soundtrack. So we get all the happy, folk-ish music before the story takes a dark twist.

 

"Farewell Dear Bilbo" introduces one of my favorite themes from the trilogy - that of the Journey Theme. This cue segues into the beginning of the darker music as Gandalf begins to suspect the true nature of the ring. Another new cue is "The Passing of the Elves", which wasn't written by Shore - it was written and performed by David Donaldson, David Long, Steve Roche and Janet Roddick. At the end of "Saruman the White", a powerful new choral performance of the Isengard Theme is heard. The first disc ends with "Nazgul", a dark dramatic cue that concludes with a short vocal by Viggo Mortensen.

 

The Nazgul hunt continues right into the second disc with "Weathertop", which segues right into Gandalf's trials in the "Caverns of Isengard", and features some great brass work and the first performance by boy soprano Edward Ross. This solo is the first variation of Shore's Nature Theme, which returns in the sequels, normally when an unexpected ally arrives. Generally, the second disc is split into three parts: The first part comes to a close with the short cue, "Orthanc". The second opens with the Hobbit Theme in "Rivendell" when Frodo wakes up.

 

Finally, fans can get their hands on the official version of the first appearance of the Realm of Gondor Theme in "The Great Eye", for Boromir's entrance. This cue is longer than I had thought, and continues long after the solo French horn in the low strings. The cue closes with the first full statement of the Fellowship Theme. Another new cue is the opening of "Gilraen's Memorial", featuring a solo choir in a very sorrowful and haunting performance. This second section of the disc closes with another great statement of the Fellowship Theme.

 

The Fellowship's journey starts out with the "Pass of Caradhras", where sullen vocals by the boys choir bursts into the Orthanc Theme as Saruman is seen at the top of the tower controlling the weather. The end of this track is new, and is an uplifting cue with a rising string of brass chords over the orchestra before it rumbles to a close. We then arrive at "Moria", with the full Watcher in the Water sequence, and the deep male choir makes its first appearance as the sound of the mines.

 

In another unreleased cue, "Gollum", the Journey Theme returns briefly on a solo flute while Gandalf and Frodo talk about Bilbo's pity. The second disc closes with the battle in "Balin's Tomb", an 8-minue cue that shows of Shore at his best. As mentioned previously, part of this was "A Journey in the Dark", but is now highly extended. Around the 3-minute mark, the action kicks in with racing strings and blasting brass backed by pounding timpani. The last part of the track contains most of the new music with a quieter tone in the aftermath of the battle, and some interesting hints at the Fellowship Theme. Then comes the best statement of this theme as they charge out of the tomb and into the massive cavern crawling with orcs (formerly opening the "Bridge of Khazad-Dum" track).

 

The third disc opens on a grim note, with the male choir chanting. This cue is also extended and covers the entire race through Moria to and across the bridge. This is the one cue that I might say goes on a bit too long, but that is remedied by Mabel Faletolu's haunting solo following their exit from Moria as the lament for Gandalf. We then return to the Elves in "Caras Galadhon" in another new cue, especially since this sequence was greatly extended in the film. The Elven voices get creepier in Lothlorien, and bring the long track to an eerie close.

 

"The Mirror of Galadriel" has an interesting opening in that it introduces the Minas Tirith theme, also heard prominently in The Return of the King. This cue also contains a large amount of new material, mostly on the slow side, but is a nice intercession between the two large battle scenes with some great choral work. Additionally, a motif that was first used in "Three is Company" on the first disc (for when the Hobbits set off on their journey) is used a second time at the end of this cue. It is a drawn out chord that finishes in a slow three note pattern.

 

The action returns in "The Fighting Uruk-Hai", with their pounding theme. Some more Elven music follows and segues into a bit of folk-ish music with a flute and acoustic guitar. More choral cue continue this slower track as the music builds into the scene on the Great River when they pass the two sentinels with the powerfull brass statement of the Ring Theme. Until this point, most of this track is new. The final battle, Boromir's betrayal and last stand, and Frodo's escape are all packed into one cue, "Parth Galen", where the Ring Theme again gains prominence. The Nature Theme is hinted at when Boromir comes charging to Merry and Pippin's rescue and, ultimately, into his last fight. A great male choral cue backed by trumpets is another new part. The brass work in this pounding cue is top notch as they range from the bold Uruk-Hai theme, to the heroic motifs for the Fellowship. The choir is also used to great effect here, and brings the intense cue to an end.

 

At this point, the music winds down with "The Departure of Boromir", which features more sorrowful choral music. A serene version of the Fellowship Theme is also played on a solo horn. The order of the last three tracks is surprising because it sticks Enya's song between "The Road Goes Ever On" Parts 1 and 2, which had been one track, "The Breaking of the Fellowship", previously. The Journey Theme makes its most prominent appearance here as Frodo leaves with Sam. Enya's song does not include any score at the end as it did on the first album; that comes back in with Edward Ross' "In Dreams" song in Part 2 of "The Road Goes Ever On". This is followed by a bit of Elven music, and a final statement of the Fellowship Theme - this last cue is basically an end credits suite. Missing from the release is the "Fan Credits Suite", but as much of the music has been heard in the album it's not really necessary.

 

It is a lot of fun to give The Fellowship of the Ring a fresh listen in the wake of the two sequels, because there is a lot more to understand once all is said and done. The thematic depth of Shore's work is still astounding even after so many listens. The choral music in this score stands out more in this complete release because so much of it had to be cut to fit on the original album. Few scores require or deserve a complete release, but even this soon after the trilogy ended, this album feels long overdue. It's an extensive album that truly highlights the scale and depth of Shore's work - and remember, this is the shortest film in the trilogy!

 

The Two Towers

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, the middle film in the trilogy, has the narrowest scope of the three, given the journey of the ring in Fellowship of the Ring and the epic battles of Return of the King. Focusing on two elements - the Ring's journey toward Mordor and the battle for Rohan - The Two Towers also has a very focused score, tonally and thematically. A large number of minor themes and motifs permeate the score and the trilogy, but the major theme featured in this film is for Rohan. One of my favorite cues from this film is the opening cue, here heard in "Glamdring", which tells the story of Galdalf's battle with the Balrog. It sets a dark, grim tone that is a far cry from the bouncy Shire theme that opened The Fellowship of the Ring. Building into an epic cue with a pulsing male choir that ends the cue solo, it sets up the darker elements of the film perfectly.

 

The Two Towers title appears over a scene with Frodo and Sam descending a cliff with "Elven Rope" but Shore uses a quiet version of the Rohan theme here to foreshadow its prominence in the film. This one of the few instances in the trilogy where the themes do not coincide with the scene. The two hobbits' journey continues with the Shire theme on clarinet in "Lost in Emym Muil", which then moves into darker territory with a soft choir in an extended cue. The Shire theme itself gets a darker treatment in "Uglik's Warriors", performed on the oboe and low woodwinds for Merry and Pippin's capture. The Uruk-Hai/Isengard theme makes a brief appearance at the end with a male choir.

 

The triumphant return of the Fellowship theme arrives in "Three Hunters" after a gradual brass introduction. It is performed here by a clear, solo trumpet and is then picked up by the oboe when Aragorn finds Pippin's Lorien pendant. The biggest new element in this score is, of course, the introduction and large presence of the Rohan theme. This theme sets a noble and tragic tone for the score, revolving around the proud but sometimes pessimistic King Theoden. His story arc through the second and third films is one of my favorites, and his thematic development follows his transformation from a puppet king to a powerful leader and warrior. This score merely sets the foundation for the character. The Rohan theme makes its first true appearance at the end of "Three Hunters" when Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli arrive at the plains in their hunt for the Uruk-Hai.

 

"The Banishment of Eomer" begins with Eomer finding Theodred after the orc attack and carrying him to Edoras. This part has a varied statement of the Rohan theme. The cue ends with the three hunters back on the trail of the Uruk-Hai with a slowed Fellowship theme on the trumpet over the choir. Much of the music that did not make the original soundtrack albums is from times in the film where the score took a back seat compared to its prominence during Fellowship theme statements, as an example.  Additionally, there are numerous pieces of score that Shore wrote for the films, but were unused - and make a welcome appearance on the albums, such as in "The Dead Marshes", for instance.  The first disc ends with "Heir of Numenor" and "Ent-Draught" which are two such cues. However, the inclusion of these parts of the score do help to flesh out the soundtrack and flesh out the myriad themes Shore has for the numerous elements in the trilogy.

 

Two other important cues on the first disc that are necessary to mention include the first instances of two themes. "Night Camp" introduces the Nature Reclamation theme in its complete form, after having been hinted at in two cues from Fellowship. This track opens with it on the solo clarinet when Merry and Pippin discuss the living trees as the orcs cut them down. The theme appears again at the end of The Two Towers and then for The Return of the King, where it will take on a new role and orchestration. "Gandalf the White" introduces the Shadowfax theme at the end of the track after an extended build up with the brass and choir.

 

The second disc opens with "Edoras", which introduces the solo Hardanger fiddle statements of the Rohan theme to set the tragic tone for Theoden's character. While "The Court of Meduseld" features a great choir and Isengard theme statement, "Theoden King" follows with a triumphant brass statement of the Rohan theme. It is then picked up by the solo fiddle when Theoden grasps his sword and slowly pulls it from the scabbard. This cue continues and features Miranda Otto's vocals for Eowyn's lament at Theodred's funeral. A number of the actors, including Viggo Mortensen and Ian McKellan, provided their vocals on certain cues and it is nice to finally have them included on the soundtrack. The tragic tone of the fiddle returns again in "Exodus From Edoras".

 

The first half of this disc is dominated by the Rohan theme, which makes its last appearances in "Wolves of Isengard" and "Refuge at Helm's Deep", both featuring strong solos on the fiddle. The first cue is extended from the original soundtrack cut, "Helm's Deep" and is a great action cue based around the Rohan theme. Pounding drums underlie pulsing horn blasts that follow the chord progressions of the theme, then a bit of the fiddle comes in as an extended part of the cue before the brass line returns with a choir. The Isengard/Orc theme moves in with a darker choir and an extended low brass segment. The trumpet takes over with a new variation on the Rohan theme and a 6/8 tempo builds to a final brass climax. "Refuge at Helm's Deep" is quieter in contrast and ends with the sorrowful fiddle as opposed to its use in the former track as a tragic lead-in to the battle.

 

The cue "Evenstar" from the original soundtrack is extended to "One of the Dunedain" to include the added scenes of conversation between Aragorn and Eowyn. This cue contains a very brief statement of the Gondor theme when Aragorn reveals he is from the line of kings. Isabel Bayrakdarien's performance in "Evenstar" is one of the best vocal solos from the films, helping to define the very unique tone Shore chose for the elves and Arwen's story, much of which is told in dreams or memories. The Gondor theme makes its final appearance in this film (to be greatly developed in The Return of the King) in "Sons of the Steward", the added scenes of Faramir's memories of Boromir and his father at Osgiliath. The first statement is a triumphant fanfare, but a second one comes at the end of the scene when they show a glimpse of the Gondor flag. This statement is preceded by a hint at the Ring theme and is darker and more sorrowful, also ending with the very briefest hints at the Ring theme. These cues are part of the extended cut score that Howard Shore recorded following the film's theatrical release, also around the time he began developing the Gondor theme for The Return of the King. The second disc also ends on a quiet note with Frodo and Sam's scenes with Faramir in "Rock and Pool" and "Faramir's Good Council", the latter of which includes an choral piece for the Ring's seduction that was not used in the film.

 

The final CD is dominated by the battle at Helm's Deep. It begins with a longer version of the cue attached to the end of "Breath of Life" on the soundtrack, which is now "Arwen's Fate" from the second disc. "Aragorn's Return" is a moving cue featuring the most prominent statement of the Heroics of Aragorn theme (the booklet for this album set features highly detailed descriptions of the themes and their uses in the score, and is worth checking out for further information on less prominent themes). The versatility of the Rohan theme is showcased in the cues contained on this disc, from the slow, foreboding style in "Where is the Horse and His Rider" to the fast-paced militaristic statement on the trombones at the end of "The Battle of the Hornburg". The former can be considered the calm before the storm and accompanies the scene of King Theoden strapping on his armor, silhouetted by white light and the combination of the music and cinematography creates a very ethereal scene.

 

A secondary theme runs through these cues, which is the militarized Lothlorien theme for Haldar and his elves, introduced in "The Host of the Eldar" and repeated as an action motif in "The Breach of the Deeping Wall" which is followed by a statement of the Fellowship theme in a similar style. The track "Retreat" contains two cues, the first of which ends the Elven theme with Elizabeth Fraser's angelic "Haldir's Lament". This is followed by the heroic Fellowship theme statement when Aragorn and Gimli leap across to protect the gate. This cue ends the long run of Helm's Deep tracks.

 

"The Last March of the Ents" ends the Ent plot with the emergence of the full Nature theme performed by soprano Ben Del Maestro, which had started with a quiet statement of it in "Night Camp". The lyrics Del Maestro and the boy choir sing are in Entish and have a very interesting translation (featured in the online liner notes) that basically say that the Ents are waking and marching to war. This cue is used a second time in the film as Theoden prepares to ride out, but is not duplicated on this album again, as it is the "Complete Recordings". "The Nazgul Attack" slowly builds into the powerful, pulsating choir cue that had been tacked onto "Forth Eorlingas" on the original soundtrack, and still flows into that cue, but is from Frodo's encounter with the Nazgul at Osgiliath.

 

The two story lines of The Two Towers end in the next two tracks. One of the best pieces of score from the entire trilogy is contained in "Theoden Rides Forth", which brings together a large number of the film's thematic ideas. Opening with a heroic variation on the Rohan theme on the trumpet, it builds into a massive brass statement of the full Rohan theme before segueing into the Fellowship theme upon Gandalf's arrival. Between these two themes is a newly added choir bit, which was oddly not part of the original soundtrack cue. Ben Del Maestro's vocals return as Gandalf leads the charge toward Helm's Deep. This cue is truly impressive as it shows Shore's careful planning: he scored the largest action scene in the film with an ethereal vocal performance rather than the expected pounding percussion and brass of action sequences. To add to it, he follows this with a heroic statement of the Shadowfax theme as the horse breaks the ranks of the orcs. The end of the track is extended from the original cut of the film as the Rohirrim turn away the orcs and ride them into the waiting Ent army. The Nature theme is heard in part during this cue, hinting at the orchestral might with which the theme will be used in the final film.

The film ends on a quiet, yet dark note with Frodo and Sam following Gollum into Mordor. Taking a bit from the conclusion of Fellowship, hints of the "In Dreams" tune and the Journey theme (aka Hobbits' Understanding) appear here as Sam and Frodo set out from Osgiliath. The Shire and Fellowship themes also make their respective appearances in calm, unstrained statements. Gollum and Smeagol themes come in in subtle hints. The final track is a partial end credits suite that features Emiliana Torrini's "Gollum's Song".

 

I have heard a number of people talk about The Two Towers as being a "middle film", and is therefore difficult because it has no beginning or end. However, the film contains a set of elements that come full circle and are resolved by the end. Eomer's banishment with the Rohirrim and their subsequent return with Gandalf to Helm's Deep, and King Theoden's rise to protect his people are two such cases. We also witness the defeat of Sauruman. With the exception of Frodo and Sam's journey, little holds over to The Return of the King. Musically, the score also has elements that come full circle, such as the Rohan theme, which at the end, is fused into the Fellowship theme. Other themes are, however, further developed from Fellowship only to be built upon in The Return of the King, such as the Nature theme. Developing themes from Fellowship as a stepping stone to the epic The Return of the King, The Two Towers can also stand alone, although the Rohan story does continue in the third film. The complexity of Shore's thematic development of Middle Earth is astounding.

 

Return of the King

I hardly have to summarize the achievement that the Lord of the Rings trilogy was for Peter Jackson, Howard Shore, and team; the 2004 Oscars did that for me. Culminating in The Return of the King we find ourselves having traveled from an innocent 111th birthday party in the Shire to a full-out, end-of-all-things war. It is an interesting experience to view The Fellowship of the Ring directly after watching The Return of the King to see the stark contrast in the tone of the films. Like the films, Shore's thematic elements similarly evolved through the course of the three installments. The Shire theme is relatively simple, both in melody and orchestration; Fellowship of the Ring hinted at other themes (Gondor, Nature, Gollum, etc), but really only saw the development of the Shire, Fellowship, and Ring themes. As The Two Towers introduced and developed the Rohan theme as the primary component to that film's story, The Return of the King brings in and develops Shore's grand themes for the people of Gondor and Minas Tirith. I will not go into every theme in the film because the task is too daunting, but also because the liner notes do have in-depth discussions of the themes. Rather, this review will talk about the complete recordings, disc-by-disc, and talk about some of the thematic developments in relation to discussions I started in my reviews of The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers.

 

Even when I say something like "the Ring theme", I am in fact referring to multiple variations for particular elements of the theme's use; in this case, I refer to the "History of the Ring" theme, though Shore has a number of musical ideas for the character. All three films open with some sort of flashback that tells us some aspect of the Ring's history and fleshes out its themes. Disc 1 opens with "Roots and Beginnings" a smaller scale flashback in comparison to the other films, but no less violent. A number of variations of the Ring themes are woven in and out here as playful hobbit music segues into dark Ring and Gollum themes. This includes a statement of the Ring theme in the trombones toward the end of the cue, an unusual orchestration for the theme, which is normally played on the strings. We also hear the ring's Seduction theme, performed by the London Oratory School Schola boy's choir, which has been featured in the first films, often accompanying close-up shots of the ring. This eerie tone is an interesting contrast to Shore's other use of the boys' choir, for the Nature theme, representing good and the reclaiming of Mordor-conquered lands.

 

In "The Road to Isengard", we hear a statement of the rare Quest or setting off theme, heard when Frodo and Sam passed the boundary of the Shire. Then we get a quick succession of theme reprisals, including the Fellowship theme, a hint of the Nature theme, and then the Gondor theme. A bold horn solo backed by low strings highlights out Saruman's final scene in "The Foot of Orthanc" along with a few moments of the Isengard orc themes, which was put on the back burner for this film, and a low brass statement of the Gondor theme.

 

"Return to Edoras" brings us back to familiar territory from The Two Towers with the Rohan theme on the Hardanger fiddle and much of the remainder of Disc 1 accompanies scenes in Edoras. "The Chalice Passed" also refamiliarizes listeners with a series of themes for the Rohan cast as they remember the fallen at Helm's Deep. Beginning in The Two Towers, one of my favorite subplots to the trilogy is Theoden's rise from a puppet king as one of the tragic stories of the films, but also one of redemption. His growth as a character is also traced musically with the development of the Rohan theme throughout the second film, moving into his major role as the figurehead for Nature's Reclamation in this film. The Edoras component ends with "Flight from Edoras" when Gandalf and Pippin charge away. We hear a triumphant statement of the Shadowfax theme (or Gandalf the White) followed by the Fellowship theme on the horn. During the drinking contest scene when Howard Shore makes his one cameo, it is amusing that the brief moment he is on screen, there is not a note of his music being played.

 

Renee Fleming takes over as the voice of the elves in "The Grace of Undomiel". Her role as a soloist grows throughout this film and her clear, yet warm voice is a perfect accompaniment to both the elves and the finale of the film. This track also includes the first statement of the Minas Tirith theme, when Anduril is reforged, though for the longest time I thought it was the Gray Havens theme, which is similar. This shifts then to the first full statement of the Gondor theme as Gandalf rides into the city. Shore wrote two parts for the Gondor theme, which are often heard one after the other. The Ascension of Gondor is first heard here when the melody rises in a set of triplets. "The Eyes of the White Tower" contains an awesome low brass cue that is easily missed. It is a partially inverted Gondor theme, representing how far Denethor has fallen. Early on in "A Coronet of Silver", we are introduced to a new theme, Gondor Reborn, when Sam and Frodo see the statues of the kings of old. This theme is reminiscent of the Minas Tirith theme and returns in a more triumphant role toward the end of the film.

 

My favorite piece of music and one of the best written in the past decade ends the first disc. "The Lighting of the Beacons" tells the audience that the set up is over and the film is really about to begin. Racing string lines set a moving underscore for a bold brass theme weaving in and out as the camera flies over the mountains of Middle-earth (aka New Zealand). Jackson showed us how far Gondor had fallen in Denethor's hall and now we are seeing hope for its future rise up in the flames of the beacons. Blasted low brass underlie the rising trumpet notes, moving the lines along with staccato triplets. Finally, the building cue breaks out into a triumphant statement of the Gondor theme with a trumpet countermelody. But this lengthy track does not end here. My second favorite cue in the film follows close on its heels. As Theoden decides to ride to Gondor's aid, a purely orchestral statement of the Nature's Reclamation theme begins, formerly performed by Ben Del Maestro and the boy's choir. The quieter moments of the theme underlie Theoden's statement: "So it is before the walls of Minas Tirith the doom of our time be decided." Then as the Rohirrim ride out of Edoras, the main part of the theme is performed by the full orchestra for its strongest statement of the trilogy. Disc 1 ends with a final few notes of the Rohan theme at the end, which did not appear in the film.

 

Disc 2 opens on a dark note with "Osgiliath Invaded". While this cue is primarily dark underscore, there is some really good brass work going on in the background, including some pulsing trombone lines and interesting variations on the Gondor theme. The inverted Gondor theme enters toward the end of the cue on the trombone, signaling the fall of Osgiliath. Then Faramir and his men flee the Nazgul across the plains. A brief Shadowfax theme leads into Galdalf riding out, his staff's light driving the Nazgul away. Ben Del Maestro's solo is the sound of Gandalf's light, first heard in the charge of the Rohirrim at the end of The Two Towers. The cue ends with a final statement of the Gondor theme.

 

Further development of the Gondor themes continues in "Allegiance to Denethor". The Faramir and Denethor theme is introduced on the flute toward the end. A bold horn line segways into "The Sacrifice of Faramir" which continues the flute theme as a quiet underscore along with choir. A sad Gondor theme accompanies Faramir out of Minas Tirith. Despite the building percussion and Gondor theme, the cue dies out to be replaced by Billy Boyd's solo song. This is the second time Shore has opted to score an action sequence with a quiet vocal solo, the first being the Rohirrim charge at the Two Towers finale. It is a more powerful scoring technique than the most blood-pumping action music. A solo violin ends the cue with a brief statement of the Faramir theme.

 

A great statement of the Rohan theme with the hardanger fiddle playing a counter melody to the horns brings us back to Theoden in "Marshaling at Dunharrow". The statement has a very militaristic tone, signaling the preparations for war. Further variations of the Rohan theme comes in "Master Meriodoc, Swordthain" and "Merry's Simple Courage", the latter of which ends the disc. The Minas Tirith theme appears again when Elrond's surprising visit delivers Anduril to Aragorn and tells him to use the army of the dead in "Anduril - Flame of the West". A large amount of Disc 2 contains sequences at Cirith Ungol, the paths of the dead, and Shelob's lair, which I will not go into depth on here. A quiet Eowyn theme statement is played on a strange sounding violin in "Paths of the Dead" before Aragorn leaves. Then the Fellowship theme makes an appearance when Gimli and Legolas join him, but it is muted. A brief statement of the Minas Tirith theme plays as the trio enter the mountain.

 

A muted fanfare opens "The Siege of Gondor", the other major cue on Disc 2. Highly varied statement of Gondor themes filter through the pounding action music; war drums play an incessant rhythm through much of the cue. A strong choir comes in halfway through, adding to the epic scale of this battle. The siege continues in Disc 3, opening with "Grond - The Hammer of the Underworld". This cue has some similarities to the rhythms of the Isengard music and maintains the varied and dramatic Gondor thematic statements.

With "The Tomb of the Stewards", the siege shifts to a battle with the timely arrival of Rohan. A high trumpet plays the Gondor theme as Denethor prepares to light his son on fire. This runs into a snare drum beat with a horn statement of the Rohan theme, opening "The Battle of the Pelennor Fields". The Nature theme once again slowly begins to build as Theoden gives his speech to his men. With the words "Now ride! Ride for ruin and the world ending. Forth Eorlingas!" and three cries, Theoden leads the charge at the ranks of orcs laying siege to Minas Tirith as the main Nature theme rises above them. The hardanger fiddle comes back with the Rohan theme over the pounding percussion. Then as the volume rises, the trumpets take over the heroic theme, then a variation of it as the orcs begin to break ranks and the Rohirrim slam into them. This cue, next to "The Lighting of the Beacons", showcases the true talents of the brass players. "The Pyre of Denethor" follows with high brass chords and choir as he screams about no victory. I've found it telling that Denethor runs, burning, off the edge of Minas Tirith and plummets to his death as Jackson pulled back across the Pelennor battle, no one noticing the steward's demise.

 

I return now to the discussion of both Theoden's rise and the Nature's Reclamation theme. Somewhat of a fatalist, Theoden resigns to his death well before he reaches Minas Tirith, but it does not sway him from charging at the head of the Rohan warriors. The Nature theme is not a major thematic occurrence in the trilogy; Shore saves its use for key moments. These break down into two categories: aid from nature and aid from men. The boy soprano solos characterize the former, beginning with Gandalf's call to the eagle from the top of Isengard in The Fellowship of the Ring. The Ents' march on Isengard saw the full statement of this theme. The latter use of the theme is first hinted at when Boromir rushes to Merry and Pippin's aid with the Uruk Hai. The Last March of the Ents cue is then reprised in The Two Towers just before Theoden's charge out of Helm's Deep, though this is not on the complete recordings album. Now in The Return of the King, the theme is fully orchestrated and performed twice before Theoden's charges. His journey goes from Saruman's puppet king to the hand of Nature as it moves to reclaim Gondor from the clutches of Mordor. In each of the cases of this theme's use, Nature is reclaiming something from Sauron, be it Gandalf, Isengard, Helm's Deep, or Gondor.

 

The battle on the Pelennor fields continues with the arrival of the Mumakil. The short cue features a slow, bold statement of the Rohan theme and is followed by a more aggressive "Dernhelm in Battle" with additional Rohan statements. This cue also features the racing strings and low brass chords from the "Lighting of the Beacons" cue. The action is broken up briefly by Gandalf and Pippin's conversation about death in "A Far Green Country" with the first statement of the Gray Havens theme. Eowyn takes over for her uncle in "Shieldmaiden of Rohan", one of the most heroic scenes in the film. A grim chorus enters with the arrival of the Nazgul, followed by heroic brass chords and the Fellowship and Gondor themes. The Beacons orchestrations return again as Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli arrive and save the day. Then we have "The Passing of Theoden" where the pessimistic yet valiant king, finally redeemed and honor restored, dies. The first and last lines he speaks (as himself) in the trilogy are the same: "I know your face... Eowyn." This cue features a quiet choral dirge and horn solo for the fallen king.

 

Liv Tyler's voice is featured in "The Houses of Healing", a nice song that fits well to the scene, despite the fact that it was not written for it. I do understand why this sequence was cut, however, though it is an appropriate aftermath to the battle. The film then switches gears to the main plot of the trilogy: the Ring. A heroic statement of the Shore them sees Sam to Frodo's rescue in "The Tower of Cirith Ungol". The hobbits' struggle through Mordor continues in "The Land of Shadow", which features very dark statements of the orc themes in the low brass. Bold, angry and dramatic statements of the Ring's suite of themes begin to dominate as the Ring is no longer a thing of the past. This continues through into "The Mouth of Sauron". Fellowship and Gondor themes filter through the rhythmic underscore during Aragorn's speech to the men of the west. Following this, the tone of the score changes.

 

Introduced into the finale of the trilogy are new musical elements, including James Galway, Renee Fleming, and solo epic choir. Galway enters first playing a variance of themes on the flute, part Gray Havens, part Shire, but as Frodo cannot recall the Shire at this point, the theme is barely recognizable. When Sam bends to pick Frodo up and carry him, we get a heroic brass statement of the Gray Havens theme, finally breaking through. Disc 3 closes with the epic cue "For Frodo" which opens with a full choral statement of the Fellowship theme that still gives me chills. The chorus dominates the senses, blotting out the meek orchestra playing along beneath it. It's second entrance is even stronger with more bass voices added to the mix. The cue ends the disc with the final statement of Nature's Reclamation theme as Ben Del Maestro calls the Eagles to attack the Nazgul. A final moment features a strong and sinister Ring theme on a brassy French horn.

 

There is less to discuss with Disc 4, not just because it is the shortest disc. Jackson added very little footage to the last section of the film because he included all the endings. From the Mount Doom sequence to the end, nothing was added. Additionally, these cues comprised a large percentage of the soundtrack album, relative to the rest of the film, culminating in the lengthy "Return of the King" suite. This is not to say anything bad about Disc 4. It contains some of the best music on the album. All the set up over the course of the trilogy is done with and this final disc includes two important sections of music: the endgame of all three films and the ending summary of all the musical ideas.

 

Disc 4 moves straight into "Mount Doom". A quiet, eerie opening moves into a cue that did not make it into the extended film, where all three ring themes are played over each other, signaling a turning point in the Ring's history; these are the easily recognizable History of the Ring theme, the boy's choir Seduction theme, and the creepier Evil of the Ring theme. Then, at the moment when Frodo turns and says "The Ring is mine", the choir kicks in. The full chorus is belting in unison over pounding timpani and low brass line, a truly apocalyptic effect. Then suddenly, Renee Fleming's angelic voice is the only sound, the voice of the Ring's happiness as Gollum regains possession of it. Her solo is followed by a statement of the History of the Ring theme and the choir enters again. The absolute climax comes a little over a minute into "Crack of Doom" when the Ring is finally destroyed in the fires of Mount Doom. Choir and horns mark the triumphant destruction in a new theme, the Destruction of the Ring. The Gondor Reborn theme then makes a second appearance, this time in a full statement as Barad Dur falls and splits apart. "The Eagles" reprises Renee Fleming's haunting vocals.

 

And the final half hour is the end. "The Fellowship Reunited" features all of the major themes in a lengthy reprisal. We see the return of the Shore and Hobbit themes in their playful statements and only now see how changed the tone of the film had become since Fellowship of the Ring. The Fellowship theme starts off the sequence as each member (minus Boromir) walks in to see Frodo when he wakes. Galway plays a quiet Shire theme which moves into the last statement of the Gondor Reborn theme, truly a triumphant melody, and again the ascending Gondor theme. The best moment in this cue, however, is the breath of fresh air that is the full-orchestra statement of the Shire, the first of its kind - not rushed, not cut off, not varied - in the trilogy, as Aragorn says "You bow to no one". Galway's flute takes over as the film winds to a close and the Gray Havens theme begins to dominate with reprisals of the Shire themes. The end titles include a long suite featuring Annie Lennox's "Into the West" to the Gray Havens theme and the boys' choir's "Bilbo's Song" (written for the fan credits on the extended edition) closes the trilogy.

 

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