May 2003 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Gary S. Dalkin
Managing Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster Len Mullenger

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At Dawn In Rivendell: Selected Songs and Poems from "The Lord of the Rings" by J.R.R. Tokien  
Music composed by Casper Reiff & Peter Hall
Performed by the Tolkien Ensemble
Christopher Lee
error-file:tidyout.log  The Copenhagen Young Strings and The Copenhagen Chamber Choir
error-file:tidyout.log  Available on Camerata DECCA 400 067 303-2  
Running time: 53.09
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dawn in rivendell

Recently, I wrote in my "The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers" soundtrack review that "Music provides a certain quality to storytelling, particularly in Tolkien's literature. On the surface, his lyrical texts provide a degree of realism..." but also, "Positive themes, plot points, and attitudes are all specifically introduced in verse."

Delighting in "At Dawn in Rivendell", a collection of song and poetry from J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Lord of the Rings", it comes to mind that their very rhythm and rhyme provides connections. The 'Verse of the Rings', delivered sagely by basso profundo Christopher Lee, opens the disc in a dramatic mood, with the low tones reserved primarily for the spoken texts. Listening to the patterns, one may detect an Eastern influence. The 'Song of Gondor', performed by the Tolkien Ensemble, has a Nordic flavour. 'A Walking Song (I)' has the feel of an English folk dance. And so it goes. Usually composers Casper Reiff and Peter Hall accentuate the stylistic differences, sometimes it sounds as though they were oblivious to them, yet the Middle-earth cultures are obvious just by picking up on the meter.

Lee headlines amongst the various performers. His narration is solid, avoiding of the histrionics that epic words tend to bring, and his performance as Treebeard in 'The Long List of the Ents' and 'Treebeard's Song" raises the question, Why didn't Lee serve double duty on Peter Jackson’s films rather than John Rhys-Davies? The Tolkien Ensemble from Denmark acts much like a theatre troupe, dividing the six musicians into roles faithful to the author's work.

I do wish the 'dark' music were less generic. Only 'Malbeth the Seer's Words', performed by the Copenhagen Young Strings with recitation by Christopher Lee, provides incidental music beyond a dreary drone, and it, too, is merely fair. It is for the songs, not the poems, that the composers seem most inspired. 'A Drinking Song' offers earthy humour, the nearly seven-minute 'Elven Hymn To Elbereth Gilthoniel' that completes the [listed] tracks is beautifully serious (and seriously beautiful), and the aforementioned 'Long List of the Ents' strikes a balance with wit and wisdom.

Consider the album's reprints of the verses, the evocative illustrations by Her Majesty Queen Margrethe II of Denmark, and "At Dawn in Rivendell" has worthwhile packaging, as well.

Some people say good albums can to turn their imaginations to other worlds. If you count yourself among them, this is evidence of how right you are.

Jeffrey Wheeler

**** 4

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