program notes by composition > S > Symphony No. 1 "The Lord of the Rings"

Symphony No. 1 “The Lord of the Rings”

Johan de Meij

Symphony No. 1 “The Lord of the Rings” Premiering in 1988, this composition for concert band was inspired by the classic high fantasy literary series by English author J.R.R. Tolkien, consisting of The Hobbit (1937), The Fellowship of the Ring (1954), The Two Towers (1954) and The Return of the King (1955). This symphony is based on the books and predates the movie trilogy.

Composer Johan de Meij (b. 1953) studied at the Royal Conservatory of Music at The Hague, Netherlands. He has performed on trombone and euphonium with major ensembles in The Netherlands. He is the principal guest conductor of the New York Wind Symphony and the Kyushu Wind Orchestra in Fukuoka, Japan and a regular guest conductor of the Simón Bolívar Youth Wind Orchestra in Caracas, Venezuela.

(Also inspired by the books, three LOTR films were produced from 2001–2003, with music by Howard Shore: The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King. Set in Tolkien’s Middle-earth, the movies follow young Hobbit Frodo Baggins as he and the Fellowship embark from the Shire on a quest to destroy the One Ring, to ensure destruction of the Dark Lord Sauron. When the Fellowship breaks, Frodo continues the quest together with his loyal companion Sam and the treacherous Gollum. Meanwhile the Wizard Gandalf and Aragorn, heir in exile to the throne of Gondor, unite and rally the Free Peoples of Middle-earth in several battles culminating in the War of the Ring.)

Each movement in the symphony illustrates a personage or episode from the books:

1. Gandalf (The Wizard) a.k.a. Mithrandir, Tharkûn, Olórin, is the last of the wizards to appear in Middle-earth. He is "the least, less tall than the others, and in looks more aged, grey-haired and grey-clad, and leaning on a staff," yet "the greatest spirit and the wisest." Enemy of Sauron.

2. Lothlórien (The Elvenwood) is the fairest realm of the Elves remaining in Middle-earth during the Third Age. Center of resistance against Sauron

3. Gollum (Sméagol) is a small, slimy Stoor Hobbit. He is corrupted by the all-powerful One Ring ("my precious") which he got by strangling his cousin who had found it. The Ring’s malignant influence extended his life and twisted his body, conflicting him between lust for it and desire to be free of it.

4. Journey in the Dark: a. The Mines of Moria and b. The Bridge of Khazad-Dûm. The fellowship treks through underground passages and a dammed stream, braving a tentacled water creature, treacherous fissures and chasms, resting little and eating less.

5. Hobbits Carefree and optimistic, in a happy folk dance. Their hymn emanates determination and noblesse. The symphony is concluded peacefully and resigned as Frodo and Gandalf sail away beyond the horizon.

Last updated on March 6, 2020 by Palatine Concert Band