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Old 08-12-2011, 02:41 PM   #1
Estelyn Telcontar
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Silmaril LotR Symphony - Johan de Meij

We've shared inspirational and interesting links to various musicians and composers of Middle-earth related music, and I'd like to introduce one of my favourites. Johan de Meij, of the Netherlands, wrote his LotR Symphony for concert band back in the 1980s. That means the music predates Howard Shore's LotR movie soundtrack by quite a few years.

It consists of five movements:
1. Gandalf
2. Lothlórien
3. Gollum
4. Journey in the Dark
5. Hobbits

I really enjoy the mood and characterization the composer has put into this music. It is open to interpretation; each movement has a different feel to it, and I find it very beautiful.

I've found several links on YouTube. This one leads from the first movement to the subsequent ones, so may provide the best introduction:

LotR Symphony

I hope you enjoy as much as I do!
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Old 08-13-2011, 10:39 AM   #2
almiel
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De Meij's Symphony is one of the most gorgeous things. I've played the Hobbits movement many a time, and it's just an exquisite piece of music. It's also wild how similar some of the music is to Howard Shore's - not sure if it was intentional on Shore's part, or if the books just inspired both composers in a similar way.
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Old 08-13-2011, 04:07 PM   #3
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This symphony is really amazing!

And seems there are two versions of it. Here's the link to a brief explanation about the symphony and his movements:
http://www.johandemeij.com/cd_profil...hp?id=12&cat=9
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Old 06-29-2013, 12:37 PM   #4
Estelyn Telcontar
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Oh, this is funny! I'm researching the net for reviews and infos about the symphony and this Downs thread came up on Google! Guess I'll have to post more when I've finished the lecture I'll be giving soon...
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Old 06-29-2013, 08:46 PM   #5
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Spent some quiet, rejuvenating time this afternoon listening to this. lovely how each movement still seems to have some relationship to an overall tone, despite their uniqueness.
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Old 07-12-2013, 10:40 PM   #6
What_about_Bilbo?
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Oh this truly is a wonderful piece of music! The symphonic band at my undergrad did an entire concert devoted to de Meij's work and he came to work with the band. I got to watch him rehearse the first movement with them; it was very cool to see a composer in action.

I always feel drawn to the second movement. I really like how he makes the winds imitate bird calls, it reminds me of the opening passages in Stravinsky's Rite of Spring. The return of Gandalf's theme as Frodo peers into Galadriel's mirror is very haunting.

This music will always hold a special place in my heart as it is not wedded to visual imagery.

-WaB?
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Old 07-17-2013, 08:59 AM   #7
Estelyn Telcontar
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What a great experience, WaB? ! I'd love to watch him direct his work!

How about a movement by movement discussion of this work for those who are interested in it? I can post some of the thoughts that I collected for a lecture this past weekend, and you can join in with your impressions!

I'll start with the first movement: 'Gandalf'. It begins with a fanfare, a musical element that is usually heard when royalty or other VIPs make an appearance, or for special occasions (like the Olympic games). It reminds us that Gandalf is a very important person, a divine angelic being, even though his arrival in Middle-earth is not noticed by its people.

Then we hear Gandalf's theme, a motif which is repeated throughout the symphony when his presence is felt. It wanders through several keys, expressing his wanderings in M-e. Then comes a fast passage which characterizes Shadowfax and the Wizard's swift rides on the Meara. That is followed by a dignified hymn, an Expression of his personality, his origin and high standing as a Maia, and the loftiness of his task in the War of the Ring.

I remember reading an interesting detail somewhere, though I can no longer trace the source: Gandalf's theme uses those musical notes which are included in his name - G, A, D, F. (N and L aren't in the musical scale, of course.) I haven't had an opportunity to see the actual score, so I can't confirm that firsthand. Perhaps someone who has played it knows?

The first movement ends as it began, with a fanfare.

How does this music make you feel? Do you think it characterizes Gandalf well? I like it very much and find it uplifting. De Meij originally intended to use this movement as the third, but decided that since Gandalf's theme shows up in other movements, it needed to be at the beginning. It's fun to locate it later on!
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Old 07-17-2013, 01:53 PM   #8
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A movement by movement discussion sounds fun!

I had never thought about applying the fanfare directly to Gandalf! But seeing how this is the opening of his movement that makes sense. I like to think of the fanfare as the opening of a theater curtain which offers us a brief glimpse into Middle-Earth. I have thought of it this way because the fanfare returns at the end of the fifth movement to round off the symphony (a closing of the curtain), or is it Gandalf visiting the hobbits in the Shire? I suppose both are a possibility!

I find that the first movement presents a great summation of Gandalf's character. I find the theme that follows the opening fanfare to have a very noble character to it. The beginnings of the theme are very humble (in the low winds, then it is passed to upper winds) but after a crescendo it is presented in the brass and eventually the full ensemble. For me this is the reveal of Gandalf's character; he appears to be a humble old man, but beneath the human shell is a noble maiar. The sweeping melodic lines also help to conjure the fantastical landscape of Middle-Earth for me (I like to view Middle-Earth in a similar way that the Hilderbrandt brothers portrayed it). The key-area wanderings of the theme is an interesting observation!

The Shadowfax section is a lot of fun. It reminds me that Gandalf is not only wise and noble, but he is also an exciting character with an urgent and important mission!

The chorale/hymn is my favorite part of this movement. For me it elicits the same emotional response I have to the brass chorale Brahms uses in the final movement of his first symphony. The chorale appears at the end of the fourth movement in full glorious Brahmsian orchestration, I would recommend listening to the entire movement to hear it in context. Although I can't say that de Meij was directly influenced by Brahms in this moment, however I can say that both composers use chorales to create very powerful moments in these two pieces of music.

I just realized that the final, grand presentation of the chorale in the Brahms is immediately preceded by a fast section that uses repeating rhythmic figures (it begins in the video I posted above around the 15:35 minute mark), this is a similar fashion to how de Meij approaches the reveal of the hymn tune by leading into it with the fast paced Shadowfax section which uses a repeating rhythmic figure in the xylophone. So there are a few more similarities there!

Oh I had never heard that about the G, A, D, F notes! That would be very cool if it were hidden in the score somewhere. There is a study score available for $25 US that I am considering purchasing for my sheet music library. If I buy it I will definitely take a look and see if I can find GADF in there somewhere!

Overall this movement makes me feel like I could go on an adventure! It's amazing how de Meij is able to encapsulate Gandalf's character in only six minutes of music. And I can't imagine this movement being anywhere other than at the beginning of the symphony.
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