July 2004: Henry Doktorski performed with an ensemble of 200 musicians and singers: the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, the Mendelssohn Choir, the Pittsburgh Children's Festival Chorus, and soprano Sissel, in three performances of Howard Shore's The Lord of the Rings Symphony on July 29-31 at Heinz Hall in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
The symphony is a six-movement tour de force which presents the soundtrack music from Peter Jackson's nine-hour film trilogy The Lord of the Rings in a two-hour opera-like distillation. The symphony captures not only the sweeping emotion, thrilling vistas, and grand journeys of J.R.R. Tolkien's literary masterpiece, but also echoes the very construction of Tolkien's Middle-earth.
Styles, instruments, and performers were collected from around the world to provide each of Tolkien's cultures with a unique musical imprint. The mystical Elves touch upon ethereal Eastern colors. The Dwarves, Tolkien's abrasive stonecutters, receive columns of parallel harmonies and a rough, guttural male chorus. The industrialized hordes of Orcs are depicted by violent and percussive sounds, including enormous Japanese taiko drums, metal bell plates, and chains beaten on piano strings. The world of Men, those flawed yet noble heirs of Middle-earth, is represented by stern and searching brass figures.
The accordion appears in movements one and six, along with the bodhran, hammered dulcimer, nylon-string guitar, Irish whistle, harp, fiddle, and string orchestra, to help create the simple and rural atmosphere of the Shire, the peaceful and quaint home of the Hobbits, by presenting a dulcet weave of Celtic-sounding melodies.
In operatic fashion, these diverse musical worlds and their themes commingle, sometimes combining forces for a culminated power, at other times clashing. Each group of two consecutive movements corresponds to one book within Tolkien's trilogy. Doktorski said, "Howard Shore's symphony is a sometimes powerful and sometimes intimate musical portrait of Tolkien's trilogy. The wet-tuned accordion (a Musette accordion is called for in the score) helps create an ancient Celtic-sounding harmonic accompaniment to a beautiful fiddle melody of the Hobbits, those charming halfling creatures of Middle-earth, who are the actual heroes of the epic masterpiece."
These performances mark Doktorski's 38th through 40th appearances with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra.