The Music of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
When I heard that Peter Jackson had finally agreed to direct The Hobbit, I was in my glory. I loved what he had done with J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, a trilogy that I had read many times in my life, and I believed that only Jackson could do The Hobbit justice in movie form. I couldn't wait to see the movie in theaters, but, alas, events conspired against me and I am now forced to wait until it comes out on DVD. But that doesn't mean I have to go without the music. Over the past couple of months, I received two albums featuring music from The Hobbit, so I thought I'd review them both in one article. Here goes:
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Music By: Howard Shore
Performed By: London Philharmonic Orchestra
Produced By: WaterTower Music
The Hobbit is the tale of Bilbo Baggins, a young hobbit who, counter to his home-loving nature, agrees to embark upon a journey to rescue a group of dwarves' gold from the clutches of a dragon named Smaug. Along the way, they are aided by the wizard, Gandalf, elves, a man who can assume the form of a bear and an archer. They come across various creatures, big and small, good and evil. It is in this journey that Bilbo meets Gollum and finds the One Ring, the fate of which The Lord of the Rings trilogy centers upon.
In December 2012, WaterTower Music released The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Special Edition Soundtrack, featuring music from the first installment of The Hobbit movie trilogy. As is fitting, Canadian composer Howard Shore returns to create this film's musical score. Howard Shore began composing music for television and film in the 1970s and has since created the musical scores of over eighty films, such as The Fly, Philadelphia, The Client, Seven, The Aviator, A History of Violence, Doubt, A Dangerous Method, Hugo and The Lord of the Rings Trilogy for which he won three Academy Awards.
Having seen The Lord of the Rings and listened to the music Shore composed for the trilogy a number of times, I found the music of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey to be somewhat familiar, yet not too familiar. The score has similar Celtic influences and of course, the same epic orchestral style, but that is where the similarities end. Frodo and Bilbo are two different hobbits and thus, require two different themes, as do the dwarves who are a tad different than the one we encounter in LOTR.
There is another major difference to this soundtrack than the Lord of the Rings Soundtrack, something I was very pleased to discover: there are songs. In The Hobbit, the dwarves tell the tale of their gold and the Misty Mountains through song. They also party heartily in the same manner. I was quite excited to note that Peter Jackson had decided to keep so closely to the book by including the songs in the movie. The party song, Blunt the Knives, was just as I had envisioned it would sound as was the sorrowful tale of the Misty Mountains.
The rest of the soundtrack featured dramatic orchestral music marking the incredible first portion of the journey to recover the dwarves' gold. As in the previous films, The Hobbit's darker moments are expressed through music played in lower registries. Horns are used most often when the characters find themselves in certain peril. A choir is used to heighten the fear factor in particularly dark and dangerous moments. Lighter moments include Celtic undertones, often featuring strings and horns in lighter tones with a few Celtic woodwinds thrown in for good measure.
The Special Edition Soundtrack features extended versions of the tracks Old Friends, An Unexpected Party, Radagast the Brown, Roast Mutton, Moon Runes, The White Council and Song of the Lonely Mountain. There are also bonus tracks, including Blunt the Knives, The Trollshaws, A Very Respectable Hobbit, Erebor, The Dwarf Lords and The Edge of the Wild. With 32 songs and over two hours of music, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Special Edition Soundtrack is the quintessential soundtrack for fans of the film and Howard Shore's musical composition. Shore's score perfectly describes the action and adventure taking place in the film, so much so that I am even more excited than ever to see the movie.
Composed By: Howard Shore
Produced By: Silva Screen Records
In February 2013, Silva Screen Records released a new compilation record to celebrate the movie adaptations of J.R.R. Tolkien's fantasy novels, The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. Featuring fifteen songs and over an hour's worth of music, Music from The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings is a collection of music from each of the four films to date in the series. The music was composed by Howard Shore and is performed by The City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra, featuring the Crouch End Festival Chorus.
Music from The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings features a bit more of the dramatic music used in the films with one or two of the lighter tracks. While The City of Prague Philharmonic does a valiant job in their interpretation of Howard Shore's score, I found that they just couldn't compete with the original music of the films. Dreaming of Bag End and Concerning Hobbits fell short without the Celtic woodwinds and the more dramatic tracks lost a little something in the interpretation.
If you are a completist, looking to get your hands on every ounce of Hobbit and LOTR music you can, then this album may be worth the $9 - 14.00 US price tag (depending on whether you want the music in mp3 or CD format). Otherwise, I would stick to the original musical scores out there. The re-interpretations are nice, but sometimes, there's nothing like the original.