This is the second of three films corresponding (approximately) to the second book in The Lord of the Rings trilogy by J. R. R. Tolkien. A sceptic accustomed to Hollywood style sequels and their law of diminishing returns might approach this second film with some trepidation. But this middle film of Middle Earth is no afterthought merely to cash in on the success of its predecessor. The entire trilogy has been planned from the beginning, and the painstaking effort that has gone into the creation of these films is stunningly visible on screen. The story arc extends into new lands, introducing new characters while truly developing the original characters in ways that few sequels can match.
Likewise the composer Howard Shore has avoided meaningless repetition in favour of new landscapes and thematic development. Yes, there are references to familiar themes introduced in the Oscar-winning soundtrack to The Fellowship of the Ring, reminding us musically of the distant Shire and the loyalty of the original Fellowship, as well as the evil forces and their servants the Orcs. These themes serve solely to anchor us in that familiar element of this world and its people. Beyond this there are similarities in style (the musical equivalent of continuity), but virtually all of the music is completely new material. And everything seems to have moved up a notch in terms of both plot and soundtrack, with the latter almost symphonic in its conception. There are additional themes for new characters and locations, and there is much development and interplay between these many themes.
The London Philharmonic Orchestra are joined by "The Voices of London" and the "Oratory School Schola Boys' Choir". Shore also uses some unusual instruments from different parts of the world to give a variety of other-worldly effects in various sections of the score, and several solo singers and the choirs sing lyrics translated into Tolkien's Elvish languages and Old English. Among the soloists special mention must go to Emiliana Torrini who sings "Gollum's Song" as the end credits roll. The character of Gollum is wonderfully realised on screen, but Torrini's vocal rendition of the sad story of Gollum is truly astounding and will raise the hairs on the back of your neck as she sings those sad but creepy lyrics by Fran Walsh. Among the sleeve notes you will find the lyrics including English translations, and a now almost obligatory photograph of four men (the middle two looking like Howard Shore and a bare-footed Peter Jackson) striding across the zebra crossing in Abbey Road, whose studios were used for some of the recording sessions.
The piano Sheet Music for "Gollum's Song" is available from Sheet Music Plus and also from The Music Room. Like the first CD, this one is also dual format with a variety of features. Among other locations it will help you to navigate to some interesting related locations in cyberspace, like the web-site of Emiliana Torrini. You can get it with a number of different covers depending on your favourite character, and if you got the leather-bound of the first film then your collection can have a similar one to match but in blue. The soundtrack can be found at: Amazon.co.uk in the UK, or Amazon.com in the US. Note that Amazon currently has the Gollum's Song track for free download allowing you to try before you buy.