Soundtrack Review: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Original Motion Picture Soundtrack Special Edition

Hobbit AUJ OMPS spec ed cover artOriginal Score Composed, Orchestrated and Conducted by: Howard Shore

Performed by: London Philharmonic Orchestra

Release Date: December 11, 2012

Format: Audio CD and digital download

Number of Discs: 2 (32 tracks, approx. 2.1 hours)

Label: WaterTower Music

Summary: WaterTower Music has announced the release of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Original Motion Picture Soundtrack at all retailers on December 11th.  The soundtrack will be available both digitally and as a 2 CD set.  A Special Edition of the soundtrack featuring six exclusive bonus tracks, seven extended score cues, and deluxe liner notes will also be available December 11. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey features original score by Academy Award® winner Howard Shore recorded at famed Abbey Road studios by the London Philharmonic Orchestra. Additionally it includes an original song entitled “Song of the Lonely Mountain,” written and performed by Neil Finn (Crowded House).  The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, the first of a trilogy of films from Oscar-winning filmmaker Peter Jackson (The Lord of the Rings Trilogy), will be released in the U.S. on December 14, 2012.

Shore’s music for The Lord of the Rings Trilogy has been performed in concerts throughout the world.  In 2003, Shore conducted the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra and Chorus in the world premiere of The Lord of the Rings Symphony in Wellington, New Zealand.  Since then, the work has had over 140 performances by the world’s most prestigious orchestras, and has even been the subject of a book, Music of The Lord of the Rings Films.

One of today’s most respected, honored, and active composers and music conductors, Howard Shore previously worked with director Peter Jackson on The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, which stands as his most towering achievement to date.  He won three Academy Awards for his music for those films, two for Best Original Score, and one for Best Original Song.  Shore has also won numerous other honors for his film work, including four Grammys and three Golden Globe Awards.

Howard Shore

This is dreamy music, and like always, is much better appreciated with headphones, earbuds, or an excellent sound system. This is particularly true with symphonic soundtracks like this; too many of the subtleties are lost without direct delivery. And you do not want to miss any of this. It is gorgeous; everything you would hope for in such a soundtrack, particularly if you get this Special Edition. I don’t know if it’s a happy coincidence, but my favorite tracks are those only available on the expanded package. More about that in a moment.

Both the special edition and the standard edition contain booklets that include the credits, list of tracks, and some lovely screenshots (several more in the Special Edition booklet than in the standard), as well as a very scholarly deconstruction of the themes and storylines by Doug Adams. Here’s an excerpt of that to give you an idea:

Long ago, under the leadership of Thrór, King Under the Mountain and grandfather to Thorin Oakenshield, Erebor was a place of great wealth and power depicted by a proud, compact figure rising in three horn-calls, but remaining stubbornly affixed to its root (A–C; A–D; A–E). Most cherished among Thrór’s treasures was the Arkenstone, a luminous white gem matched to a glowing choral cluster and a stately string line in B minor.

Right. If you’re a more casual listener, as I am, what you need to know is that this beautiful work is quintessential Middle Earth, that starts out as pastoral and playful and becomes increasingly dark as the the tracks progress. If you’re familiar with the LOTR movie trilogy, you’ll happily recognize some familiar themes. It’s wonderful to have them incorporated. There are some great uses of voices, from the dwarves singing songs in English to choruses singing in one of the Middle Earth languages – sorry, I don’t know which – and throughout, masterful orchestration.

A few notes on individual tracks – I admit I usually detest the obligatory original song that seems designed to hook “the kids” and the Academy Awards voting membership. It’s some ballad with soaring vocals that leave me cold and my eyes rolling. This one, “Song of the Lonely Mountain,” written and sung by Neil Finn of Crowded House, is GREAT. Perfectly in keeping with the movie, and definitely one I will have on my regular playlist. The extended version is only available on the Special Edition.

Whether by design or not, three more of my favorite tracks are only available with the Special Edition: “A Very Respectable Hobbit” and “Erebor”, which feature the most “native”-type orchestration, very Shire-like to my ears, and the two songs sung by the dwarves, “Blunt the Knives” and “Misty Mountain.” The booklet for the Special Edition includes the lyrics to all of the songs, which is a really lovely bonus. You know that while you’re standing in line for the movie and singing the songs quietly to yourself, you will be singing the correct lyrics.

If you haven’t seen the movie yet – as I write this it premieres at midnight tonight – I highly recommend getting the Special Edition right now so that you can be listening to it in line, and happily ever after. It is glorious and pastoral and bombastic and contemplative and perfect. It’s a masterwork, and you will treasure it.

I give The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Original Motion Picture Soundtrack Special Edition, Five Out of Five Stars.



The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Original Motion Picture Soundtrack Special Edition is available to order from Amazon now. Here’s the link:

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (Audio CD)

List Price: $24.98 USD
New From: $17.20 USD In Stock
Used from: $4.28 USD In Stock

Erin Willard
Written by Erin Willard

Erin is the Editor In Chief and West Coast Correspondent for