Howard Shore's music for the massively successful first film chapter of Tolkien's saga won him the Oscar for Best Original Score, something of a surprise given the music's ambitious scale and determinedly dark overtones. Its sequel, Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers takes the same, often Wagnerian-scaled dramatic tack, following the film's story line into even more brooding and ominous dark corners. The previous film's Hobbit-inspired pastoralism is supplanted here by rich ethnic textures that expand the musical scope of Middle-earth and the World of Men; the hardanger, a Norwegian fiddle, represents the Rohan and the North African rhaita colours the Mordor theme, while log drums, dilruba, wood xylophone and cimbalon add intriguing textures elsewhere. The score's looming orchestral clouds are brightened by Shore's masterful choral writing, which infuses ancient liturgical influences with various solo turns by Isabel Bayrakdarian, indie-pop star Sheila Chandra, Ben Del Maestro and Elizabeth Fraser. "Gollum's Song", the composer's concluding collaboration with lyricist Fran Walsh, is delivered with Björkish, postmodern angst by Emiliana Torrini, and helps punctuate the story's modern sense of allegory. --Jerry McCulley
Enhanced CD includes trailer for Lord of The Rings - The Two Towers, a link to behind the scenes and making of the score, buddy Icons, screen savers and five two-sided alternate insert covers.
Howard Shore won an Oscar for scoring the first part of The Lord of the Rings trilogy. In 'The Two Towers', the difficult middle part of the Middle-earth saga, he further develops his weird aural landscape. As before, he has created a full-blown orchestral score of Wagnerian proportions, each character and realm with its own musical identity.
With the fellowship now splintered into three, the score of the second part becomes more complex than the first, weaving between the plot strands with different musical themes. Leitmotifs are picked up from the first soundtrack, for example, the perky Hobbit anthem in "Samwise the Brave", and new ones developed as the groups diverge.
The music is mercifully far from airy-fairy. It begins with the fulminant "Foundations of Stone", all serried choirs and pounding percussion. The dark elements invoked in the earlier score now dominate as the struggle of Frodo and friends becomes more intense. But the endless succession of unresolved crescendos and the ever-escalating sense of doom get a bit much.
Elizabeth Fraser (of Cocteau Twins fame), Sheila Chandra and Isabel Bayrakdarian provide banshee accompaniment so high that it approaches ultrasound. The closing track, "Gollum's Song", is an instant winner.Performed by Iceland's latest singing elf Emiliana Torrini (and originally intended for Björk), this elegy is tormented, twisty, infinitely strange. An Icelander singing in English sounds far more otherworldly than the choirs singing in Old English and Tolkiens made-up Sindarin.
Fine qualities aside, the soundtrack is ultimately marred by the partial nature of its form. Driven by the visuals, not its own logic, it is a series of musical vignettes rather than an organic whole. And since Shore has conceived the score for all three films as a single orchestral whole, the music of the middle section by definition lacks resolution.
Die-hard fans of Tolkien (are there any other kind?) will cherish this album as a painstaking musical description of the Middle-earth mythology. The rest may admire its ambition and the haunting set pieces, but without a deep knowledge of the film or books they will inevitably find it... middling. --Morag Reavley
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