Brendan Loy writes:
It was fun and enjoyable but, in all honesty, disappointing. The orchestra felt like it could have used about a half-dozen more rehearsals, the female soloist started one of her solos too early and was “pitchy” (as Paula Abdul would say) in several spots, and the song selection was questionable at best (they included the stupid “Gollum’s Song” but left out several of the most dramatic musical flourishes in the whole trilogy). As I said, enjoyable, but frustrating because it could have been so much better. [More]
God knows I want to be as encouraging as I can to young orchestras, but last night’s performance of the LOTR Symphony by the Phoenix Symphony Orchestra was an unnecessary disappointment.
First, the good. Even though I missed that spectacular choral interlude at the beginning of The Two Towers when the battle with the Balrog is recapped, as well as the entrance of the elves into Helm’s Deep, the arrangement is just about everything I hoped it would be. Miles and miles of the Isengard/Black Rider stuff from FOTR has been cut and the balance is much more toward Hobbiton and Rivendell which, given the contrast required to the darkness in most of the rest of the film, is necessary. There is also quite a bit of “new” Rivendell music (I say “new” because if might be on the complete score, but it’s not on the CD). There are also a number of spectacular climaxes on the CDs that don’t go anywhere (the exceptions being The White Tree and Forth Eorlingas). This is all taken care of
through some very clever devices, making the movements internally “seamless”.
However, the timidity and hesitation on the part of everyone involved drove me nuts. The conductor, who either has no experience working with large groups of people (and this is a LARGE group of people), or is what we used to call a “dead fish”, conducted everything but the most lyrical passages in a metronomic military march mode (forgive the alliteration). There was noticeable lack of emotional content, which was glaringly apparent during The End Of All Things. Add to this a terrible miking job which made the chorus nearly impossible to hear unless the orchestra was practically silent, and most of the best moments wound up just lying there.
Did I enjoy it anyway? You bet I did, and I’m even more eager to hear the Shore recording due out next year. But I should caution readers that not every orchestra is up to this, and if you’re lucky enough to get a good conductor, you’re lucky indeed.
This is a phenomenal work, though I continue to believe that the ending is too long. Musically, I’d cut most of The Return Of The King (the track, not the movie) and get into The Grey Havens as quickly as possible. With the recap of nearly all the themes during the ROTK track (17), one wonders if they are going to start the whole thing over.
One thing is sure. When the CD comes out, it will be getting a lot of play at my house.