For some it may seem a little bit extreme to suggest that widely acclaimed, Oscar-winning composer Howard Shore faces the biggest challenge of his illustrious career so far. However it is difficult to see how the Canada native’s previous works, whose portfolio includes such modern-day masterpieces as Philadelphia, Se7en and Gangs of New York, bear as heavy a weight of anticipation as does the final installment of The Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Return of the King. Already setting an incredibly high standard for himself after his critically acclaimed scores for The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers, Shore faces the problem of having to surpass, or in the very least equal, his aforementioned masterpieces – yet there are very few who doubt that Shore will come through with flying colours. With only a few weeks left until The Return of the King score is released worldwide, takes a closer look at the some of the artists who will be contributing to the soundtrack.

Renée Fleming: Tracks 8, 16 & 17 – “Twilight and Shadow”, “The End of All Things” & “The Return of the King”

“America’s Beautiful Voice”, soprano Renée Fleming has a devoted international following wherever she appears, whether on the operatic stage, in concert or recital, on television, radio or on disc. 1999 brought a Grammy Award for her recording, The Beautiful Voice which follows honours from Musical America (1997 Vocalist of the Year) and L’Academie du Disque Lyrique (1996, inaugural Solti Prize). Sir Georg Solti, who conducted Renée Fleming’s first solo aria recording, described the impact of her singing; “Quite apart from the sheer lyrical beauty of voice, she has an innate musicianship which makes every performance a great joy.” Her recent releases illustrate perfectly just how varied are the roles and music that she likes to perform. The recording of one of her signature roles, Rusalka, made with Ben Heppner and the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra and conducted by Sir Charles Mackerras was released in Autumn 1998 to great international acclaim. Rusalka won awards such as two Gramophone Awards (as ‘Record of the Year’ and best ‘Opera’), the Edison Award (Netherlands) and the Caecilia Award (Belgium).

Sir James Galway: Tracks 15, 17 & 18 – “Twilight and Shadow”, “The Return of the King” & “The Grey Havens”

James Galway is regarded as both a supreme interpreter of the classical flute repertoire and a consummate entertainer whose appeal crosses all musical boundaries. Through his extensive touring, over fifty best-selling RCA Victor albums, and his frequent international television appearances, Galway has endeared himself to millions worldwide. In 1975 he launched his career as a soloist and within one year, he had played 120 concerts, including appearances with all the London orchestras. His recordings have won many prizes including the Grand Prix du Disque for his recording of the Mozart Concerti, Record of the Year awards from Billboard and Cash Box magazines in the USA and platinum and gold albums. His recording, “I Will Always Love You” includes the first recording of a piece by Elton John specially written for him, was honoured with a Grammy award. He was awarded the OBE for his services to music.

Annie Lennox: Track 19 – “Into The West”

In 1990, after winning her fourth Best British Female Artist award at the BRITS ceremony, Lennox returned backstage to tell reporters that she intended to take a two-year sabbatical, and to concentrate on her family life. Following the amicable dissolution of the Eurythmics in 1991, her debut album Diva was released in February 1992 and its number 1 status confirmed that Lennox was still the subject of considerable affection among the British public. The album included the UK Top 10 hit singles “Why” and “Walking On Broken Glass” (which also reached the US Top 20). In February 1993, Lennox reached UK number 3 with “Little Bird”/”Love Song For A Vampire”, featured on the soundtrack of Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Released two years later, Medusa offered a wide-ranging selection of cover versions, mainly of songs which had previously been aired by a male vocalist, including the UK number 2 hit “No More ‘I Love You’s'”. Since then, she reformed the Eurythmics in 1998 to record the album Peace, and released the widely anticipated album Bare in June of this year. Lennox has faired well appearing on soundtracks in the past, scoring a number 3 hit in the UK with “Little Bird”/”Love Song For A Vampire”, featured on the soundtrack of Bram Stoker’s Dracula.