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More Reviews of the Phoenix Orchestra’s LOTR

May 28, 2004 at 6:29 pm by weetanya  - 

Arizona Hobbit writes:

I would also like to report on the Phoenix Symphony’s performance of Howard Shore’s score to the LOTR. Whatever the first two reports said, do not believe that they are representative of what the rest of us experienced! The performance received a thunderous, standing ovation that went on and on! It was a magical, wonderful performance. You felt surrounded by the music and through the exquisite use of Alan Lee’s and John Howe’s conceptual drawings, swept into the world of Middle Earth. The Phoenix Boy’s Choir, in particular, was outstanding, as was their young soloist. Bravo, Phoenix Sympony, Choir, and guest artists!

Earl Ferguson writes:

The first two reviews of the Phoenix LOTR Symphony performance posted on TORn were so at odds with what I experienced that it seems important to provide a different point of view. Not to say they are wrong, but opinions and perceptions will differ.

Let me start at the end. In the sold out auditorium, over 3500 are following every nuance of the performance. The pauses between movements have been pin-drop time. The last chord of the last movement swells to a final statement and then fades away with the ship into the west. Maestro Mickelthwate ends the chord. Silence. 1 … 2 … 3 … 4 …. Then 3500 stand almost as one in a thunderous ovation that goes on and on. Mr. Mickelthwate and the soloist return to the stage three times. There are big cheers acknowledging the chorus and even bigger cheers acknowledging the symphony musicians. I feel a deep sense of appreciation from the crowd for the work itself, but even more so for the performance. I personally had a deep feeling of satisfaction after a very enjoyable evening. I did not have any feeling of disappointment, nor was any evident in the group I was with, nor could I detect any in the audience as a
whole.

Regarding Mr. Mickelthwate’s direction, I did not find it to be in any way mechanical. He was all over the performers, pulling dynamics, inflections, emphasis, and subtleties from them, as well as controlling the incredibly complex rhythm and tempo patterns. I felt he did a great job and delivered a wealth of feeling from a very difficult score.

A technical area that could have been improved was the sound system for the chorus. It is true that amplification was not well balanced, and the chorus would have benefited from more volume, particularly the male parts. In spite of this, the chorus did an excellent job, and being live, the words were even more distinct. In fact, my daughter afterward asked what “Mithrandir” meant as she kept hearing the chorus singing it (obviously in Gandalf’s Lament), though she had never noted it either in the movie or on the soundtrack recording.

The other reviews mentioned a couple of missteps by the female soloist, but in all honesty they were barely perceptible. She had a beautiful voice and did great credit to both Gollum’s Song and Into the West as well as Evenstar and the other solos. Her background is music theater rather than opera, so the feeling was a little different but quite enjoyable.

I noticed at the start of Movement 6 that it started with the Battle of the Pelenor, and then moved into The End of All Things. I don’t know if this is an addition, but it was unexpected from the program description. Overall, the different pieces were tied together much better than I expected. Sure, I would have liked to have had Billy Boyd’s song included, as well as some other special musical moments, but that is but a taste of the frustration Howard Shore must have felt in having to choose less than 20% of his magnificent score to include. Best to look at what is there rather than what is not.And what is there works as a coherent symphonic piece.

Again, a hugely enjoyable evening that I would not want to have missed.

azruss writes:

In response to the reviews of the Phoenix Symphony’s performance of the LOTR symphony:

You can walk away from that performance dwelling on what went wrong, or what was spectacular. I chose to come away appreciating the magic I felt that night. As a symphony performer myself, I can usually pick up mistakes easier than most other audience members. Not that I’m smarter or a better listener, but if you’re a mechanic and you are driving a car, you’ll pick out noises that don’t sound right faster than I will, follow me?

The symphony did a fabulous job with this piece. You have to understand that this is new music which everyone had to learn from scratch, and the piece did not sound very easy to get a hold of with only a short time to practice (I’m assuming the players didn’t have music for long, we usually get our music 4-6 weeks before perfomance) Even so, I had a hard time picking out any false notes or lack of direction. Also, I think people are so used to hearing the music on a home theater, which plays music recorded in a studio with engineers following every note and adjusting volume levels to pick out melodies from the multitude of players. It was a little weird to hear certain parts I expected to rattle the roof not get real loud, but that’s a live performance for you.

Yes, the lady soloist jumped a cue, and the mikes sometimes didn’t pick up the chorus, but for 2 hours of music involving 200 people coming together to play, things will happen. I personally overlooked that and basked in the music, sometimes closing my eyes to soak it all in (loved the music for Lothlorien scenes and the beacons of Gondor). And Into the West, man, it completely brought me to the scene in the book when Frodo boards the ship.

The standing ovation was marvelous. I really felt good for the symphony members. It’s not that often that these guys get such a robust standing O, and symphony hall RARELY sells out. It was thunderous in there. I’ve been going to PSO performances for a while and I have never seen such a crowd.

So good job showing up and raising the roof, guys.

Posted in Old Special Reports on May 28, 2004 by

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