Sunday, October 10, 2010

A Musical Trip to Middle Earth

The New York Times
October 9, 2010, 11:24 am

Hiroyuki Ito for The New York Times

A live performance of Howard Shore’s score from “The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers” at Radio City Music Hall. The low brasses growled as a hideous legion of Orcs marched through the dim light. Noble trumpet lines soared to accompany the heroes galloping across the countryside. Ethereal choral vowels floated by as men and at least one elf died slow-motion deaths in battle.

Some particularly vivid movie music filled Radio City Music Hall on Friday night. “The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers” showed on a large screen as an orchestra and chorus performed the film score by Howard Shore live on the stage below.

The performance, which was to be repeated on Saturday night, followed on a live-music version of the first installment of the movie trilogy, “The Fellowship of the Ring,” last year.[1]

The affair was put on by CAMI Music, the production arm of Columbia Artists Management Inc. CAMI rented Radio City and hired the musicians: the 21st Century Orchestra (based in Lucerne, Switzerland), the Dessoff Symphonic Choir and the Brooklyn Youth Chorus. Ludwig Wicki, a founder of the 21st Century Orchestra, conducted. Ticket prices ranged from $59 to $150.

In all, about 300 musicians were on stage. The audience, with a smattering of fans wearing elf ears and Gandalf beards, applauded at the appearances of the main characters, or after battle victories by the good guys of Middle Earth, or after a particularly exciting orchestral passage. There were a few of those, amid long stretches of mood-setting chords and what sounded like background music.

Mr. Shore said in an interview during rehearsal that the idea was to make the movie more vivid by providing live music, and to enhance the musical performance by simultaneously showing the movie. The lighting of the musicians caused some obscuring of the screen, but that was intentional, to emphasize the importance of the live-performance aspect of the event.

For a classical music lover, it was an odd experience. A listener could easily forget that the performance was happening when action on the screen grabbed attention. The orchestra and chorus jerked back into the foreground during calmer moments or when there was no dialogue.

The orchestra was amplified, and the dialogue and sound effects were delivered on separate tracks, so the three elements could be mixed properly. The producers added subtitles because the live music sometimes surged over the dialogue.



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