Howard Shore


The Hobbit: AnUnexpected Journey Water Tower Music/ Decca Records ****

Over the course of three decades, a subversive intelligence and a rare expressiveness has shaped composer Howard Shore’s film music. Again and again he has demonstrated his singular and playful approach to form and his exquisite instinct for colour, from the aleatory piano of David Finchers The Game to the jaunty strings of Martin Scorsese’s Hugo to the pulsing electronica of David Cronenberg’s Cosmopolis.

Shore’s Oscar-winning collaboration with director Peter Jackson on The Lord of the Rings trilogy resulted in some of the Canadian scorer’s best film music. At times more operatic than cinematic, the three scores present a unique music world that is crammed with action and drama in the best heroic tradition. But they also include an Tolkien-esque array of musical idioms (from the folkloric and the canonical to the academic), incorporating nearly 100 themes/ leitmotifs over some 11 hours of music. Only Richard Wagner’s The Ring Cycle comes close in terms of originality, ambition and scale.

Although Shore and Jackson fell out on King Kong over “creative differences”, they’ve reunited again for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, which builds on the extraordinary success of their Rings collaboration. Shore’s masterful new score revisits original themes from previous scores while creating vibrant and dynamic new ones. Exuberant and confident, Shore deftly mixes sturm und drang action cues with playful folk and surging symphonic motifs. He combines spare melodic lines with driving rhythms and lush orchestration (shimmering strings and staccato brass) to extraordinary dramatic effect – the Wagnerian chorales on An Ancient Enemy and Brass Buttons are standout.

This is a majestic and lyrical score, epic and big-hearted in the best way.

Download: Over Hill, An Ancient Enemy, Brass Buttons, Dreaming of Bag End