Op. 8 - The Hobbit

The vocal score of The Hobbit was originally commenced during the spring of 1970 but the sketches had only proceeded as far as Act Three Scene Two when I broke off composition to begin work on my setting of Diarmuid and Gráinne. After the latter was completed in the summer of 1971 (when the suite from Over Hill and Under Hill was performed in London, using the material as it existed at that time) I returned to my original sketches and recommenced work on the last three Acts, subsequently returning to the beginning and reworking and completing the whole of the first three Acts. The opera was designed to be performed over two complete evenings, with three Acts being given on each evening, to form part of my projected cycle of operas based on The Lord of the Rings. But it immediately became clear that the completion of such a cycle was extremely problematical, not least because of the extreme state of confusion about the rights in the texts which had been sold at the time to United Artists and were during the 1970s the subject of dispute regarding projected films. Rayner Unwin expressed little hope that I would be able to proceed further, and there the work rested for some twenty-five years. During that period the only composition which took place was the extraction of the two purely orchestral suites which were published separately.

The vocal score was bound into two volumes, one for each evening, and at that time the two volumes were given the independent titles Over Hill and Under Hill and Fire and Water. During the autumn of 1974 I again returned to the scores, and at the recommendation of Alan Bush made substantial cuts intended to bring the whole within the scope of one evening. This cut score was then used as the basis for the full orchestral score, of which only the first two scenes were fully completed (although a number of later passages were also fully scored). The final section of the score, a setting of the poem Roads go ever ever on, was extracted for independent performance as one of the Seven Tolkien Songs.

However, during the period 1982-83 the vocal score of Fire and Water was lost, and the only passages preserved were those which had been incorporated into the orchestral suites, those which had already been orchestrated in the complete full score, and one passage from Act One Scene Four which had been photocopied. Some of the thematic material from those sketches inevitably also found their way into the sketches and fragments for The Lord of the Rings and even into The Silmarillion - as can be seen in the music associated with the enchantments of Sauron in Beren and Lúthien, which originated in the finding of the Ring during Over Hill and Under Hill, or the motif for Smaug, which re-appeared in association with Ancalagon the ancestor of flying dragons at the climax of the battle in The War of Wrath.

During the period 1998-99 I returned to the now incomplete score and concluded work on the full orchestration of the first three Acts, restoring the previously cut passages where necessary from the vocal score. I also reproduced the fragments of Fire and Water which still existed and reconstructed some of the incomplete sections.

But the score as it at present exists remains in a fragmentary state, and the issue of the rights in the text which prevented further progress in the 1970s remains as unresolved as ever.