Fans rejoice! Lord of the Rings: Two Towers, the second spectacle in the J.R.R. Tolkien trilogy, comes to Radio City Music Hall Oct. 8-9. Beneath a 60-foot screen, the music of Middle Earth soars in the art deco palace with majestic grandeur, thanks to the 21st Century Symphony Orchestra, a 300-musician ensemble based in Lucerne, Switzerland, that specializes in film music. Last year, the first part of the saga, The Fellowship of the Ring, was screened -- and it was an extraordinary multimedia experience.
An added bonus: the audience includes those dressed as their favorite elves or wizards. This is fellowship of a wholly different order -- a mesmerizing venture, both visual and musical. The Oscar-winning Howard Shore score is performed live in careful synchronization with the motion picture. Ludwig Wicki masterfully conducts the orchestra, the Dessoff Symphonic Choir, soloist Kaitlyn Lusk and the Grammy-winning Brooklyn Youth Chorus, one of the country's leading children's choruses.
Shore has said the multimedia presentation brought a fresh approach to LORT: "I was seeing the music with more clarity and hearing the image in an entirely new way."
Wicki, after a nine-year tenure with the Lucerne Symphony and Opera Orchestra, became music director at the Palace Chapel of Lucerne, leading the choir in Gregorian chants, as well as performances of Bach and Handel cantatas. In addition, the eclectic musician conducted the orchestra with programs by Mozart, Beethoven, Mendelssohn and many 20th-century composers. Now he lends his artistry to the sweeping Two Towers. A quick recap as the film opens: The Fellowship has fallen, the shadow of Mordor is advancing and the threat of the evil One Ring is omnipresent.
Maestro Wicki shares his thoughts on the power of LOTR's score:
What's the artistic attraction of conducting film music?
It's a combination of different things; the score, but also the movie itself, which presents a variety of moods. I enjoy the variations of styles encompassed by film music, especially, the colorful and intense scores.
What makes Lord of the Rings so compelling?
It is universally loved; no matter what city or continent, the music brings people together and inspires emotion and awe. The score has been performed everywhere from Dubai to Tokyo, London to New York City. The music, along with the iconic films, is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for musicians and the audience. It is the richest film score I've ever heard: monumental and intimate at the same time.
Which themes will we see advanced in Two Towers and how are they rendered musically?
There are many new ideas. The "Rohan Theme" is further developed as you hear the Norwegian Hardanger fiddle. Then, there is the "Ents Theme," created by wooden sounds played with bass marimba and log drums. There is a funny moment when Sam is cooking a rabbit which Gollum doesn't like, and the mood is musically spun with the contrabass clarinet.
Are symphonies playing film scores a trend, or is your orchestra unique?
When we started 10 years ago, it was unique, especially in Europe. We knew that film scores were excellent music -- and a fantastic way to connect to young audiences. For many people, a film is their first exposure to a full symphonic orchestra. And they fall in love with the music. It's the reason I founded the 21st Century Orchestra; I was sure film music would be an important part of the concert music in the future.
Will you conduct LOTR: Return of the King?
The Return of the King will come to New York in 2011, and we are looking forward to completing the trilogy.
This year also mark the release of the long-expected book The Music of the Lord of the Rings Films and its companion CD The Lord of the Rings: The Rarities Archive. The book and CD will be released Oct. 5, and will be available for purchase at the Radio City concerts on Oct. 8- 9. Howard Shore and author Doug Adams will also be appearing for a discussion and book signing at Barnes and Noble (1972 Broadway, New York, NY) Oct. 7.
LORT: The Two Towers; Radio City Music Hall, Oct 8-9, 7:30 p.m.