The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

Howard Shore

 
" The Best Score of the Year, and what does it get? Not even a nomination. Thank you Academy! "

Written by Thomas Glorieux - Review of the collector's edition

The story continues. The music that enriched us these past few years saw Howard Shore rise from a dark composer to the greatest storyteller of Middle Earth time. So rich was his music that his vision would expand on 3 CD's, 10 in total for that was and is what supported the vision of Peter Jackson and the fellowship through 9 hours of cinema magic. Now, after the first deluxe edition of The Fellowship of the Ring comes what probably is the best of the trilogy, his masterful The Two Towers. It came literally as a blow to the face to hear this astounding piece after he amazed us so easily with his Fellowship of the Ring. This score enriched us so much more through a vast array of spectacular themes, colorful emotions and strong choral powerplay that could blow Isengard alone of its foundations.

The one CD was a feast from start to finish, but again like the first and third there was so much missing. And now we receive his music in the same masterful production design that deserves every penny of its costly value. However what still matters is the music and Shore started the movie with his highest formidable choral key note, the one moment that truly blew me away since I never saw him compose anything like it. Now it is expanded even bigger and more powerful in "Glamdring", so that it unleashes the virtues of 3 hours upon us in style.

What's surprising is the brief Rohan statement already in "Elven Rope" but it's played much more low key before variations of both Gollum and the Hobbit's theme are noticed. "Lost in Emyn Muil" has the hard attacking music with Gollum's theme. What I like so much about everything here are the track titles. They insert the names of the places (these sound so fantasy like and spiritual), it is a feast to hear the music surround these places.

"My Precious" covers the ring theme played an octave lower and a percussive Gollum's theme. These are followed by some 30 seconds of new music. "Ugluk's Warriors" and "The Three Hunters" are great. Or it inserts the Uruk-Hai music or the Fellowship theme in variations while other themes roll aplenty from one another. The horn for Rohan, Sauron's powerful statement, it is all present here.

However the new track "The Banishment of Eomer" is super. It is gloomy before the Uruk-Hai percussion starts to battle the choral rise of majestic heroism with the Fellowship theme. This in brilliant contrast, making the Uruk-Hai percussion sound so much more heroic, making us believe that Pippin and Merry will be saved. "Night Camp" is new as well. The butterfly theme on gentle horns is spotted but the real treat is the Goldenthal frenzy unleashing the Khazad Dum music in parts, it's Shore going powerfully atonal through the battle.

"Fangorn" and "The Dead Marshes" is all about gloom. The strings do create a new action sound when Pippin and Merry run into the forest, making sure Treebeard's theme is stated for the first time. Yet it are the eerie vocals and thicker brass that bring the Dead marshes scarily to live. "Wraiths on Wings" is another new treat and the pounding suspense lets the Nazgul theme return in splendid form, all the while "Gandalf the White" still holds that beauty of Shadowfax and its majestic rise. The last tracks aren't really necessary yet underscore more versions of Sauron and Treebeard's themes.

The second CD makes sure we are on Rohan territory and the versions here are aplenty to behold. "Edoras" doesn't unleash it in full but "The Court of Meduseld" (brassy action music and choral delight) and "Théoden King" do hold more than just that. "Théoden King" especially holds the first majestic rise of the Rohan theme, on both hardinger fiddle as full orchestra. The added touch comes from Miranda Otto's singing (ala Pippin in Return of the King). Of course it is pointless to mention this is another winner due to Shore's amazing underscore.

The fanfare theme in "The King's Decision" and the hardinger fiddle playing Rohan's theme in "Exodus from Edoras" show more new music. In fact it is striking that most of the new music will be coming from this second CD. "The Forests of Ithilien" has a playful Treebeard's statement but a lot of boring underscore. But the real treat is finding the details surrounding "One of the Dùnedain". We have a brief Hobbit theme, Elvish music from both Rivendell and Lothlorien and even a Minas Tirith rise is noticed all through this wonderful track.

Yet every few minutes your imagination sparks new delights with a fantastic action moment and "The Wolves of Isengard" is no different. It is full of brass, percussion and choir, making it amazing to hear the Uruk-Hai music and the heroic choral human music battling each other once again. "Refuge at Helm's Deep" by then holds the brief Fellowship theme and a Rohan statement.

The Elvish singing is both for tracks 11 and 12, yet "Sons of the Steward" comes around again as the new moment of clever detailed scoring. Witness the song melody of Gollum first, while a spectacular never before heard Minas Tirith statement and a ring theme are heard. It is just amazing how Shore keeps on brewing his themes through one another. With the somber lurking "Faramir's Good Council" we reach the end of the second disc. And here we notice a boy's choral version of the Lothlorien theme, as the white witch knew Boromir would break the fellowship apart. Astounding is it to discover that Shore even breaks new twists in the story just by his music.

With the rapid heroic tempo of "Aragon's Return" we gear into Helm's Deep action, because CD 3 does present us action from start to finish. And it is staggering alone to discover that one hour of exhilarating orchestral music and emotional resonance can give you the shivers.

"Where is the Horse and the Rider" has actually a theme I never noticed before, namely Eowyn's theme and that starts this cue, followed by the Rohan theme and the choral build up for King Théoden's speech. A more heroic Lothlorien's statement is present alongside the Fellowship theme, this all during "The Host of the Eldar". This is easily explainable considering now Elves and Men are forming a new fellowship.

With "The Battle of the Hornburg" we kick into gear for good with the Lothlorien theme battling against the Uruk-Hai's pounding adrenaline percussion. This is truly breathtaking stuff. The suspense is much more felt in "The Breach of the Deeping Wall", another new track reaching for the highest brassy note of suspense. The heroics of both Gimli and Legolas reach high notes, with a faster Fellowship theme version. Relief is discovered with the Hobbit theme in "The Entmoot Decides", and luckily so because the breath will be necessary for round 2.

"Retreat" by then hits the emotional note again firmly with first the solo vocal of the Lothlorien's theme for Haldir's demise, bringing back steam with the Fellowship's rise and the Uruk-hai's percussion. We discover briefly the notes of Gollum's song in "Master Peregrin's Plan" while Ben Del Maestro and the boys choir do enlighten "The Last March of the Ents" so easily.

"The Nazgul Attack" has other plans however. The on edge brass makes you believe it is a battle they can not win. But the heavenly choir decides differently at the end. It should seamlessly spring into "Théoden Rides Forth" (it doesn't however) and here we discover the best that The Two Towers can give us. Namely the truly spine tingling singing of Ben Dell Maestro. The rest of the track is for the full choral climax of Isengard's finish, breathtaking as ever.

The mammoth "The Tales that Really Matter" is the climatic emotional version with the in dreams song music, the Hobbit tune and the never before heard musical motifs in the remainding 8 minutes. We encounter a very interesting playful Hobbit tune, a Treebeard's descending version and many motifs passing by (Fellowship, in dreams and Gollum's). With Gollum's sad song in "Long Ways to Go Yet" and various themes ending the 2nd movie we come to the same conclusion of the original disc.

The mammoth 3 CD's are perhaps a bit too much to fully listen to them. But from a collector's point of view, 3 CD's still gives you a glimpse of the mastery that Howard Shore unleashed through sheer firepower in this movie alone. The abundance of themes, the many spectacular emotional and powerful finales, the trickery and deviousness of the characters involved, The Two Towers is a musical legacy that will be hard to equal. This is Howard Shore's legacy, this is what film music is all about.

Tracklisting

Disk One: 63.10
1. Glamdring (3.50) Excellent track
2. Elven Rope (2.19)
3. Lost in Emyn Muil (4.14)
4. My Precious (2.56)
5. Ugluk's Warriors (1.41) Excellent track
6. The Three Hunters (6.12) Excellent track
7. The Banishment of Eomer (3.54) Excellent track
8. Night Camp (2.50)
9. The Plains of Rohan (4.14)
10. Fangorn (5.13)
11. The Dead Marshes (5.07)
12. "Wraiths on Wings" (2.06) Excellent track
13. Gandalf the White (6.47) Excellent track
14. The Dreams of Trees (1.54)
15. The Heir of Numenor (6.50)
16. Ent-Draught (2.53)

Disk Two: 64.07
1. Edoras (4.34)
2. The Court of Meduseld (3.10) Excellent track
3. Théoden King * (6.12) Excellent track
4. The King's Decision (2.07)
5. Exodus from Edoras (5.42)
6. The Forests of Ithilien (6.37)
7. One of the Dùnedain ** (7.13)
8. The Wolves of Isengard (4.22) Excellent track
9. Refuge at Helm's Deep (3.59)
10. The Voice of Saruman (1.11)
11. Arwen's Fate *** (3.58)
12. The Story Foretold (3.58)
13. Sons of the Steward (6.02)
14. Rock and Pool (2.54)
15. Faramir's Good Council (2.20)

Disk Three: 61.19
1. Aragon's Return (2.11) Excellent track
2. War is Upon Us (3.35)
3. Where is the Horse and the Rider (6.15)
4. The Host of the Eldar (2.50)
5. The Battle of the Hornburg (2.52) Excellent track
6. The Breach of the Deeping Wall (3.03) Excellent track
7. The Entmoot Decides (2.06)
8. Retreat + (4.40) Excellent track
9. Master Peregrin's Plan (2.31)
10. The Last March of the Ents ++ (2.31) Excellent track
11. The Nazgul Attack (2.45) Excellent track
12. Théoden Rides Forth ++ (5.47) Excellent track
13. The Tales That Really Matter (12.01)
14. Long Ways To Go Yet +++ (8.05) Excellent track

* featuring "The Funeral of Théodred", performed by Miranda Otto
** featuring "Evenstar" performed by Isabel Bayrakdarian
*** featuring "The Grace of the Valar", performed by Sheila Chandra
+ featuring "Haldir's Lament" performed by Elisabeth Fraser
++ featuring Ben Del Maestro
+++ featuring "Gollum's Song" performed by Emiliana Torrini
(click to rate this score)  
 
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(total of 43 votes - average 4.58/5)

Released by

Reprise Records 44376-2 (regular release 2006)

Conducted & Orchestrated by

Howard Shore

Performed by

The London Philharmonic Orchestra, The London Voices & The London Oratory School Schola