`Rings' concert is full of sweep and rich texture

BSO deftly distills the best of the fantasy's soundtrack


December 08, 2004|By Tim Smith | Tim Smith,SUN MUSIC CRITIC

Not unlike the way the Reduced Shakespeare Company distilled a billion words by the Bard into a single evening's entertainment, composer Howard Shore condensed a zillion notes from 11 hours-worth of soundtracks to create the 125-minute The Lord of the Rings Symphony.

Devotees of Peter Jackson's cinematic trilogy based on the J.R.R. Tolkien fantasies can easily relive reel upon reel just by hearing the musical highlights Shore pieced together from the film scores with help from John Mauceri. Mauceri conducted the local premiere last night with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, Baltimore Choral Arts Society, Maryland State Boychoir and guest soloists before a large crowd at Meyerhoff Symphony Hall. (The concert repeats tonight.)

As an example of contemporary film scoring, Shore's music for the Rings certainly ranks high. His clear-cut themes are attractive and atmospheric; his assured orchestration overflows with colorful touches. But, compared to, say, Bernard Herrmann, the results aren't as impressive.

Shore writes mostly in a chordal fashion, focusing on single melodic lines that stay largely within constricted parameters.

As for developing those melodies - a traditional benchmark of symphonic composition - Shore offers little, relying on a quick change of instrumentation or one more full-throttle crescendo to provide interest and a sense of dramatic flow.

Still, there's no denying the sweep and rich texture of the work, with its Celtic-like tunes, moody pop songs, and effective use of choral voices (think Carmina Burana, only darker). And Shore's nod to Richard Wagner's Ring Cycle at the very end, with the orchestra reveling in the healing power of a major chord, makes a satisfying coda.

Mauceri coaxed a strong performance from his 200-plus personnel. The BSO summoned great sonic waves and gentle murmurs with equal skill.

The two finely honed choruses made the texts, taken from Tolkien's invented Elvish, Dwarvish and other languages, sound remarkably expressive. The solo singers - Susan Egan (her account of "Into the West" glowed), Tammy Tyburczy and boy soprano Matthew Konrad - filled in the aural tapestry nicely.

When the last notes dissipated, it sounded as if the demonstrative audience would keep the ovation going until long after all signs of Elvish had left the building.

Lord of the Rings Symphony

Where: Meyerhoff Symphony Hall, 1212 Cathedral St.

When: 7:30 tonight

Tickets: $25 to $59.50

Call: 410-547-7328 or visit www.ticketmaster.com

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