The Lord of the Rings Symphony at the Sydney Opera House

Howard Shore has taken his very popular compositions for the movie version of The Lord of the Rings and put them together as a concert symphony. Beatrice and I attended the Sydney Symphony Orchestra’s performance, conducted by the composer, of the symphony at the Sydney Opera House on Friday night. The performance included the talents of the Sydney Philharmonia Choirs and the Sydney Children’s Choir, along with the vocal soloists David Bruce and Katie Noonan, a classically trained singer best known as the lead singer of the band George.

The symphony, in six movements, featured most of the major themes from the film and was accompanied by projections of Alan Lee’s and John Howe’s artwork, which proved handy for tracking how the relationship of the music to the story. The music itself was simply wonderful, encompassing the argicultural simplicity of the Hobbits, the mystery of the Elves, grandeur of Minas Tirith and thrill of the many battles, plus so much more. Surprisingly, the sound produced by the orchestra was very close to that heard on the compact disk recordings, only with the much greater clarity and excitement of a live performance. Unlike a previous performance of Tan Dun’s Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, it appeared as if many of the "ethnic" instruments were included in orchestra, such as the duduk for Gollum.

There were a few minor niggles, the fiddle player seemed to miss the notes at times and the young soloist David Bruce seemed to miss a couple of acciaccaturas. The sound balance for Katie Noonan, who sung many of Renee Fleming and Annie Lennox’s parts was also wrong, leaving her virtually inaudible during some passages. When her voice did rise above the orchestra, during the choruses, it was sweet and her rendition of Into the West was superior to that of Annie Lennox (and certainly a much better sight to see than Lennox’s lethargic arm movements of the Academy Awards ceremony, for which the song won an OscarTM).

Beatrice felt that some passages became a touch boring and Howard Shore could perhaps have reduced the Lothlorien passages in the second movement and allowed more development (perhaps the Uruk Hai themes) in the movements for The Two Towers and The Return of the King, both of which felt a little underdeveloped. I personally would have liked to have heard the scene where Sam carries Frodo up Mount Doom included. However, these are minor quibbles and I do not recall ever having as much sustained enjoyment at listening to live music. I would also like to attest to its healing powers. Although I hd quite a severe cold, I was so transfixed by the symphony that all else retreated and felt much better afterwards than when the performance started!

Film music fans should definitely take the opportunity to hear The Lord of the Rings Symphony played live if they have an opportunity to do so. It was an excellent performance and a wonderful night.

Music Listing

(Note that not all cues are played in full as heard on the CD soundtrack)

The Fellowship of the Ring

Movement 1

  • The Prophecy
  • Concerning Hobbits
  • The Shadow of the Past
  • A Short Cut to Mushrooms
  • The Old Forest
  • A Knife in the Dark

Movement 2

  • Many Meetings
  • The Ring Goes South
  • A Journey in the Dark
  • The Bridge of Khazad-Dum
  • Lothlorien
  • Gandalf’s Lament
  • Farewell to Lorien
  • The Great River
  • The Breaking of the Fellowship

The Two Towers

Movement 3

  • Foundations of Stone
  • The Taming of Smeagol
  • The Riders of Rohan
  • The Black Gate is Closed
  • Evenstar – The White Rider
  • Treebead
  • The Forbidden Pool

Movement 4

  • The Hornburg
  • Forth Eorlingas
  • Isengard Unleashed
  • Gollum’s Song

The Return of the King

Movement 5

  • Hope and Memory
  • The White Tree
  • The Steward of Gondor
  • Cirith Ungol
  • Anduril

Movement 6

  • The End of All Things
  • The Return of the King
  • The Grey Havens
  • Into the West
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5 responses to “The Lord of the Rings Symphony at the Sydney Opera House”

  1. Ron Tristram Avatar
    Ron Tristram

    I am tired of reading of the Howard Shore Symphony and of how splendid it is…what I want to know is…**when** will it be published on DVD and **when** I can buy it.
    Ron Tristram

  2. allrite Avatar

    I have no idea about a DVD and am personally not particularly interested in one. I don’t think the Symphony was significantly better than the individual CD soundtracks music wise. It was having the opportunity to listen to the music live that so excited me. I can’t afford a sound system (or the soundproofing!) that would replicate the feeling of live symphonic music, if such a system even exists.

    I do know of a CD of the symphony – I think it is the Czech Orchestra conducted by Nic Raine – that is available.

  3. Patrick breakall Avatar
    Patrick breakall

    Know the Cd, Is it all combined like the Orchrastra, Or is it just like regular cds and the songs by themselves?


  4. Patrick Breakall Avatar
    Patrick Breakall

    Now the Cd, Is it all combined like the Orchrastra, Or is it just like regular cds and the songs on Tracks by themselves?


  5. allrite Avatar

    Hi Patrick,

    The symphony is made up of discrete movements. You might enjoy reading the review at Soundtrack Express.