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Organizations and website reviews

REVIEWS from various organizations and websites

I received my copy of your CD of Symphony No 1 in this morning’s post. I am thrilled with your music and its links with the Tolkien characters and events. Thank you so much for bringing so many JRRT fans so much pleasure in your beautiful an descriptive major work.

- Roger (a member of the Tolkien Society in the UK)

Probably the best Tolkien-inspired music I have heard recently is “The Journey of the Ring” Symphony by Jonathan Peters.  I was pleasantly surprised.  It made me wonder what Howard Shore could have done if he was unconstrained by the requirements of a movie score.

- Mike Williams,

Peters has a film composer's sensibility; even his scene-painting movements are episodic story-telling pieces…I think I'd enjoy the film that would go with Peters' score more than I did the films that went with Shore's score. It's much less pretentious for one thing. Peters has a prodigal thematic imagination, orchestrates thinly and cleanly, and above all he is succinct. He doesn't repeat himself, jack up tension through cheap sequencing, or continue after he has failed of invention. There is no exhaustion here as is found in the latter parts of Shore's work. The action scenes are sometimes challenging: Peters' Moria and Pelennor Fields churn a bit, but his Helm's Deep and Mount Doom are well balanced between contemplation and activity. Peters' Rivendell is a placid pastoral over a gently rocking rhythm akin to Philip Glass. Otherwise for the Elves and other ethereal beauty, Peters is partial to harps and other plucked strings that avoid the steaminess that many composers associate with Lothlòrien. Peters' versatility is shown by his ability to make the same pizzicato strings in Shelob's Lair sound appropriately creepy. In general I enjoyed my visit to Jonathan Peters' sound-world of the Lord of the Rings, and I encourage you to share the experience.

- David Bratman, Mythprint bulletin, Mythopoeic Society.

This is not the first symphony to have been based on  The Lord of the Rings; nor, I’m sure, will it be the last. Journey of the Ring’s distinction lies rather in its being the first orchestral score to emerge in the shadow of Howard Shore. The ubiquity of Shore’s film score makes it inevitable that a listener of Tolkien-inspired music in its wake – irrespective of a composer’s intent – will draw comparisons between the two works. In the case of Jonathan Peters, a perceptive listener may also ask to what degree his new symphony is engaged in a dialogue with (or counterpoint to) Shore’s opus. There are moments in Journey that sound unmistakably “Shorean.” I’m not alleging imitation here; but the structure of Peters’ symphony seems to betray some influence of the films. For example, his tripartite division of the movements follows Peter Jackson’s sequence rather than Tolkien’s. A more apt comparison is Bill Brown and Jamie Christopherson’s orchestral score for the EA video game, The Battle for Middle-earth, which takes a few recognizable Shorean motifs and then weaves them into its own, independent composition. As orchestral Tolkienian works go, Journey is much closer in spirit to Craig Russell’s Middle Earth suite than to de Meij, in that it presents a series of sound portraits rather than a traditional, four-part, symphonic progression. However, unlike Russell, who is almost exclusively character-centered, Peters opts for an event or scene-based narrative, following the well-trodden cursus of the books from the Shire to the Grey Havens. Peters recorded his symphony without the luxury of live musicians, making judicious use instead of orchestral samples from the Vienna Symphonic Library. The result is generally quite pleasant. Sampling tends to sound more artificial the louder its source. Peters manages to overcome this handicap by and large, especially in his avoidance of bombastic overkill (a temptation Shore does not always resist). The result is a full, warm sound with depth and texture. You still have to suspend disbelief at times, but hey, that’s what fantasy is all about folks! It is difficult to gage whether a Lord of the Rings virgin would be able to fully appreciate the development of each scene, since making sense of some of the tempo changes and shifts requires some knowledge of the books (or the movies). I myself preferred Peters’ more thematic pieces like Lothlórien which allow the listener more time to enjoy the moment than some of the action sequences. During the latter, I often found myself trying to keep up with the plot. Much more work for the listener, but a tribute to Peters’ musical storytelling. The Battle of the Pelennor Fields is articularly intricate in structure, capturing each moment of that prolonged combat, the fair and the foul. Overall, Journey is worth a listen; or more likely several listens. says check it out.

- Chris Seeman

When I received the 11-movement, 131 page score of Jonathan Peters' Symphony "Journey of the Ring", I mentally compared the dozens of symphonies I know, quite mindful of the traditional 4-movement structure with the usual formal features which have become earmarks of a normal symphony.  I knew then that I would have to once again expand my definition of the symphony, as this form has been stretching itself into countless shapes and sizes from the times of Haydn and Beethoven, through Berlioz, and into the present day. Let us be content now to say that a symphony represents a composer's deepest thoughts and broadest ideas, uttering philosophical and artistic statements which would not be adequately addressed in works that are smaller in scope (of instrumentation as well as duration) than a symphony.  Within the 57 minute duration of "Journey of the Ring", Peters touches upon the simple nature of Hobbits, expressed in the folk-like opening tunes.  But there are already hints of greater rhythmic complexities hidden within the 4/4 meter.  These unfold largely in the darker music, the first of which appears in the third movement.  Along with the evil, which this music depicts, nobler statements of heroism and love are carried here, each by characteristic musical and orchestrational gestures.  During the course of the symphony, it becomes clear that the composer's assured technique and imagination evident in his orchestration (one movement features a thundersheet bowed with a violin bow!) and compositional craftsmanship are equally at home in tonal/modal languages as in atonal writing.  Importantly, each approach is chosen for its own artistic and dramatic reasons, making for a listening experience that is at once both accessible (even the atonal parts) and emotionally satisfying. A final note to conductors--if you can't solve the problems of hiring two harpists and an off-stage ensemble, both of which are needed to mount a full production, do consider excerpting one or more of these movements in your concerts.  There are some great fanfares among the eleven movements here.

- Ron Anderson, Music Teachers' Association of California, Composers Today State Contest Chair

One can imagine the whole Lord of the Rings story in the music of Jonathan Peters even if you hadn’t read the books of J.R.R.Tolkien, nor seen the screen version of it by P.Jackson. This symphony is worth buying and is not at all inferior to the film music of Howard Shore.

- Hedwig Valkiers, Editor Lothelanor