- Audio CD (1 Jan 1997)
- Number of Discs: 1
- Label: Classico
- ASIN: B0000267TK
- Other Editions: Audio CD
- Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars See all reviews (1 customer review)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 172,764 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)
The elven songs are beautiful and the Hobbitsong are merry. The ensemble is inspired by irish folk and classical music. It feels like being in Middle-Earth.
This is the first in a series of recordings by Danish group The Tolkien Ensemble in their quest (as quoted on their website) "to make the worlds first complete musical interpretation of the poems and songs from The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien". And a magnificent collection of settings it is.
The Tolkien Ensemble is a chamber ensemble composed of conservatory-trained musicians anchored by guitarists Caspar Reiff and Peter Hall, who have also composed the musical realizations of Tolkien's poems. The settings lay within the "classical" and "folk" traditions: that is, only acoustic instruments are used, and the songs are sung in these traditional rather than popular styles. The result is one of great beauty and respect for the texts that inspired the music, but may present difficulties for listeners not accustomed to these styles.
The music itself is first-rate. Reiff and Hall vary the mood of each song in relation to the text as well as with sensitivity to the character that sings the song. Styles range from the traditional "folk" style used for songs sung by the hobbits to the more lyrical and serious (romantic and post-romantic) styles used for songs sung by men and elves. A variety of instrumentation is used to great and sometimes unusual effect: for example, the opening recitation of the "Verse of the Rings" combines oboe, vibraphone & marimba, guitar, and double-bass with an unsettling dissonance; Galadriel's songs (sung by Mezzo-soprano Signe Asmussen) combine a very plaintive solo violin with marimba, harp, guitar, and double-bass in front of a string quartet and a wordless male choir with an otherworldliness evocative of Tolkien's Elves. Folk-band Polkageist makes guest appearances on "Tom Bombadil's Song", the positively boisterous "There is an inn, a merry old inn...", and "Sam's Rhyme of the Troll" (all sung with humor and warmth by Peter Hall).
Conceptions for the musical settings seem to vary in focus: in some cases, one may easily imagine the singer and accompaniment as representative of the character and the song almost springing out of the book; the use of a different singer for each character helps sustain this kind of identification. In other cases, the focus is from a greater distance: the listener is more aware of the artists presenting an interpretation. This is most apparent in the songs with piano accompaniment (which are particularly beautiful settings); somehow songs sung this way cannot help but evoke the nineteenth-century Lieder tradition.
The recording itself is excellently produced, and is accompanied by a booklet featuring the lyrics of each song with an excerpt indicating its context within the book, beautiful line-drawings by the Queen of Denmark (!), and photographs of the musicians.
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