Working from the original 12 hours of music he wrote for The Lord of the Rings trilogy, composer Howard Shore created this roughly two hour, six movement symphony. Conducted by Swiss Maestro Ludwig Wicki, who in 1999 founded the 21st Century Orchestra (the performers here) specifically to specialize in film scores. For those that originally fell in love with Shore’s compositional work during the Lord of the Rings films, and later on the various versions of the score albums, this is a beautiful reinterpretation of some of the most familiar and memorable moments from all three films. Soloist Kaitlyn Lusk has performed this symphony with over 30 orchestras since 2004 and delicately carries the various Tolkien dialogue through song over the course of the show, with the occasional help of a boy’s choir. Unlike most studio recorded score music, the music on this album has a gentle freedom to it – the strings feel richer and the percussion section feels more purposeful (perhaps because the bass isn’t turned up as loud as it usually is on studio recorded music).

Broken into six movements – with the bulk of the work falling to “Movement Two” (34 minutes) and “Movement Six” (26 minutes) this is a continuously engaging 115 minutes of live music (listen for the applause at the end of Movements Two and Six, which also serve as the end of the first and second disc, respectively). Recorded live in Lucerne, Switzerland at the start of this year, this album is a triumph of Shore’s work and is equally accessible to superfans and newbies alike. The thrills are just as thrilling (listen to the march-like opening notes of “Movement Four” for a brief taste of this) while the thoughtful pensiveness and character development remains (the flutes in “Movement One” get me every time). Regardless of whether you have other collections of The Lord of the Rings score music (and if you’re reading this you probably do) this album is worth picking up.

Overall Rating: A

To purchase The Lord of the Rings Symphony, visit Amazon

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