Review Summary: Shore dismisses any doubt once held in his writing with his score for the first chapter of the Lord of the Rings Trilogy
Honestly I was never totally convinced that Howard Shore was going to be the right composer for this trilogy. Mostly because the scores I have heard by the composer generally have been very complex, subtle, non melodic and dissonant, which doesn't rhyme well with the kind of scores I felt suited the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Luckily, in the end Howard Shore turned out to be the right composer - the music for The Fellowship of the Ring is one of the best scores of the decade albeit its main competition ended up being Shore’s other scores for these marvellous movies.
To me, strong themes are one of the most important ingredients in a score. And The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring has plenty of strong themes. The hobbits, or Hobbiton, have been given a playfull and jaunty little jig inspired theme, heard in full in the second track, "Concerning Hobbits", performed by staccato strings, fiddle, dulcimer, accordion and other instruments. It's really a great little tune that has a tendency to occupy your mind for hours, refusing to leave.
Frodo Baggins and the Shire are represented by one of the scores' nicest and most memorable themes. It's lush, sweeping and very noble, presented for the first time in the very end of "The Prophecy" where fragments of it are performed by brass. Parts of it return in "Concerning Hobbits", performed by whistle and strings, but the entire theme is heard for the first time in the wonderful "Many Meetings", performed by the entire 106 piece orchestra, making it one of the scores' very finest and emotional moments. The theme also closes the score in "The Breaking of the Fellowship", where it, turned into a hymn, is sung with lyrics by a boy soprano backed up by a soft choir and strings, creating a very sad and desolate sound.
The theme for the Fellowship is a heroic, but also a little restrained and serious, fanfare inspired little ditty, often performed by brass and percussion. It never gets to upbeat or heroic, thankfully, since the Fellowship really isn't a bunch of merry heroes running around doing heroic stuff - these guys aren't exactly thrilled to do what they have to do. The theme evolves throughout the entire score and is heard in full for the first time in "The Council of Elrond". Grand statements of it return in "The Ring Goes South" and "The Bridge of Khazad Dum" and a couple of other cues.
The score for The Fellowship of the Ring is dark. Often incredibly dark, with low brass, pounding percussion and uneasy strings, with occasional choral outbursts. Tracks such as "At the Sign of the Prancing Pony" and "The Bridge of Khazad Dum" are perfect examples of this kind of writing. Great stuff and exactly the kind of music I hoped that Shore would write for this film. But the score and story have room for more upbeat, problem free music, as well, highlights being the already mentioned "Concerning Hobbits" and the first part of "The Black Rider" with its flute and string rendition of the hobbit theme, followed by some lively scherzo sounding music dominated by string. Even the beautiful "The Breaking of the Fellowship" cue hosts some light-hearted and optimistic music.
Voices play a large role in this score. Shore uses the sound of a dark, chanting choir to represent the nine Ringwraiths, in many cues, such as "The Shadow of the Past", "A Knife in the Dark" and "A Journey in the Dark". The lyrics are in languages constructed by Tolkien and the result is music that sounds incredibly evil and very dramatic as well as huge, performed by almost 200 musicians. Then there's the use of female vocals in "Lothlorien", creating a very ancient, ethnic and almost religious sound that represents the elves really well, and the soft sound of a boys choir in "The Breaking of the Fellowship" and "The Flight to the Ford". And let's not forget about Enya, her music, in the score heard in the "Council of Elrond" track and as a standalone song, "May it Be", at the very end of the disc, works really well together with Shore's score, without sticking out like a sore thumb. I suppose that two of the largest reasons it actually works is that Howard Shore orchestrated and arranged these parts himself and that Shores' score already has a very strong vocal sound.
Howard Shore has really hit the nail on the head with this magnificent score. He has not put a foot wrong and dismissed any doubt I once had about his writing in any previous works.
- "The Breaking of the Fellowship"
- "The Bridge of Khazad Dum"
- "Corncerning Hobbits"