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Op. 5a - The Black Gate Is Closed, Suites 1-3

Scored for full orchestra (

The Black Gate is closed has many faults of dramatic pacing and orchestral balance; but some parts of the score were always too good to be lost, and one section (the Prelude to the Third Act, which opens the third of these Suites), found its way substantially unchanged into The Children of Húrin.  In these suites, too, there may be seen the original germs for themes that were afterwards developed in a different manner and subsequently incorporated into later work.

The original version of the motif of the Ring had already been rhythmically and melodically altered, whilst retaining its original harmonic outline, some three years later when it found its way into The Hobbit and from there, later again, into the Akallabêth and Beren and Lúthien.  Gollum’s theme also found its way, melodically changed, into The Hobbit; but the ‘hobbit’ theme itself was not changed at all. Although the ‘Sauron’ motif used in The Hobbit and Beren and Lúthien also derived from work in The Black Gate is closed, it only figures briefly in the Suites, and in both cases in a slightly changed rhythmic form. There is also a hint of the Shelob theme which later (in a rhythmically changed version) became the theme for Ungoliant in Fëanor.

At the original time of writing the instrumentation of the Suites was reduced for a normal-sized orchestra. The passages chosen for inclusion were largely the orchestral interludes between scenes, and as such do not give a completely rounded impression of the opera as a whole; but each of the suites does present, in chronological order, sections from each of the individual Acts. As such they may be fairly said to give an overview of that section of the complete work. There are some brief extracts from the vocal sections (the Fisherman’s song is one; another is the Oliphaunt chorus), where the vocal parts have been rescored into the orchestra. 


The full orchestration of the original suites was never completed, having the same lacunae as the full score from which they derived; this was rectified when they were extracted for publication in 1998. At the same time some alterations were made to the barring of the original, and some minor amendments were made to the orchestration. The temptation to alter various of the themes to what might be regarded as their more ‘familiar’ later guises was, however, resisted.

Op. 8c - The Hobbit, Suites 1& 2

Scored for full orchestra (

The habit of extracting orchestral suites from larger-scale works has tended to fall into disuse, at any rate in the operatic field, during the twentieth century.  In the days of Rimsky-Korsakov, for example, it was the standard procedure for composers themselves regularly to publish an orchestral suite of music from each of their operas, often composing additional linking material in order to do so.  In the twentieth century suites have been adapted from operas by Britten, Walton and Tippett among others, but these have more usually been the work of other hands; only Vaughan Williams in this country regularly made a habit of producing a suite from each of his larger operas.  These suites (and others from my operas) are in part an attempt to revive the custom, and in each case some considerable adaptation of the original material has been made in order to create a unified whole.


Over Hill and Under Hill


These two suites contain extracts from both the operas, Over Hill and Under Hill and Fire and Water, but intermingle them; thus the movement entitled The banners of lake and wood comes in fact from Fire and Water, where it forms an interlude following the death of Smaug.  The two suites are however unified by the theme of the Shire, stated at the beginning of the first movement of the first suite (after the opening chords) by the cellos and restated with variations in both suites, finally appearing at the very end of Fire and Water as Bilbo returns to his home.  The first movement is a combination of the prelude to Act One of Over Hill and Under Hill with the first interlude (which follows the initial meeting of Bilbo and Gandalf) and presents the Shire theme itself followed by three variations of increasing elaboration. The second movement consists of the second interlude from Act One, as the company set out into the Wilderlands, continues into a brief interlude from Act Two describing the valley of Rivendell, and concludes with the extended interlude which describes The finding of the Ring. This begins with the music which accompanies Bilbo’s actual discovery of the Ring and then continues into a dark and sombre passage which portrays the grim significance of this discovery, in a passage which subsequently found employment in Beren and Lúthien; finally this dissolves into a slow dripping figure on the vibraphone, as the scene changes to the cave of Gollum and prepares for his appearance.

The last movement of the first suite, The banners of lake and wood, begins with the themes associated with Bard and the Master of Esgaroth; it then reprises the melody first heard in Act One of Fire and Water and sung to the words “The King beneath the Mountain” (although the actual setting of the words is lost).  The whole is then repeated with variations before the theme of the Elvenking heralds the arrival of Thranduil’s army at Esgaroth.


Fire and Water


The second Hobbit suite draws entirely from the final Act of Fire and Water.  It opens with the massive funeral march for Thorin Oakenshield, continues with the music associated with the return of Bilbo and Gandalf to Rivendell, and concludes with Bilbo’s song as he reaches his home.  In between there is a flashback to the interlude before the Battle of the Five Armies; this opens with Bard’s theme and then gives another variation on the Shire theme, reduced to a series of slow-moving chords, as Bilbo stands on watch and hears the drumbeats and trumpet-calls sounding in the early morning light.  Bilbo’s song brings a final citation of the Shire theme:

Eyes that fire and sword have seen

and horror in the halls of stone

look at last on meadows green

and hills and trees they long have known.

Op. 15 - Symphony No. 1 The Mists of Time

Scored for full orchestra (

The symphony opens with a prologue in which a drifting theme is immediately stated:





This is followed shortly by a motto theme which will permeate the work:





An acceleration in tempo leads to the first subject:




and this is restated before the return of the motto theme leads to the second subject, stated first by the harp:






A development section combines the existing material before a slow liturgical statement of the entire first subject, and the second subject then returns in a wild dance eventually counterpointed by a statement of the first subject on the trombones. There is then a slow episode which depicts the crowning of King Edgar in 973, climaxed by a setting the Anglo-Saxon salutation Waes du, Edgar, hal!:




This is succeeded by a final statement of the second subject before the opening material returns, finally dying away in a final statement of the drifting theme.

Here is the description of the work from the orchestral score:

The composer looks back through the opaque mists of time.  Slowly these dissolve and an ancient procession is discerned, proceeding on its way to a solemn ceremony.  The lord seats himself and a harpist plays and sings for him.  The lord is anointed to the accompaniment of gentle organ tones; and after the priests have withdrawn the harpist’s melodies are taken up and turned into a dance of increasing wildness.  But eventually the mists of time veil the scene once more, until they too die away into the darkness.


Op. 16a - The Death of Óisin

Scored for full orchestra (

This short movement consists of the prelude and final Nocturnal from the chamber opera for church performance The Dialogues of Óisin and Saint Patric . The whole work is rescored, to eliminate the organ and vocal parts; but other than this there are no alterations to the substance of the score. 


The piece describes the death of the Irish pagan hero Óisin.

Op. 21a - The Cold Crystal Stars

Scored for full orchestra (

This suite is extracted from Paul's one-act opera based on The Nightingale and the Rose - the short story by Oscar Wilde. It was originally prepared for chamber ensemble, and in that form was performed in London in 1976; but this version restores the original orchestration (the chamber version remains unpublished). It opens with the interlude as night falls across the garden, and then links into a passage from later in the score as the nightingale sings of the birth of passion in the soul of a man and a maid. There then follows a transcription of a passage, originally for unaccompanied voices, as the cold crystal stars lean down and listen.

The final section begins with a funeral march for the dead nightingale, where the middle section quotes the melody associated with “the love that is perfected by death, the lover that dies not in the tomb”. This melody returns at the very end of the opera, but the final chords are the discordant ones associated with the words of the student: What a silly thing love is!…I shall go back to Philosophy and study Metaphysics.

Op. 36 - Symphony No. 3 Ainulindalë

Scored for full orchestra (

   The symphony follows the programme of Tolkien’s opening chapter of The Silmarillion, and the original manuscript quoted the whole of the chapter over the music; but these superscriptions are not included in the work as published.

The score opens Adagio molto with two extended chords for divided strings, one centred on C and one on D (but both chords comprising all the twelve tones of the chromatic scale: a representation of chaos, indeed).  Then, in E appears the first main theme, stated by the trombones:





This is successively taken up by bass clarinet, violas, horns and finally trumpets before the another theme crashes in:




building to a full orchestral climax.  Abruptly all is still and a number of individual strands emerge in various parts of the orchestra. First we hear a theme on clarinets:





and this is followed almost immediately by another, very quietly introduced by trumpet, harp and oboes:




Two further themes appear, the first on cor anglais:





and another, a long sinuous melody rising from the depths:





After a further climax over a pulsing series of rhythms generated by this theme, one final theme is heard:






before a thunderous recurrence of the opening theme 1 brings to an end the exposition of the symphony.

   A second movement Più mosso opens with a restatement of 4 which is then developed in a rather quicker tempo—the symphony accelerates progressively throughout its length. It is now accompanied by a rushing figure in the strings: :



Another jerkily accented theme appears, first in the trumpets and then in the horns:




and then it is followed by distorted versions of 3, 5 and 6, the last in the highest sarcastic register of the clarinet. 9 returns and leads to restatements of 7 and 8 before a solo timpani returns the music to 1 in an accelerating crescendo.

   A new movement Lento moderato begins with a fff chord from the organ and a restatement of 1 by harp and piano, followed by a more grandiose repeat on trombones. A new theme now appears:



which leads immediately into a long-flowing melody:






before 10 returns on a solo violin, counterpointed ominously by 4 before an eruption Molto vivace by strings and xylophone.

   The pace quickens further in a Con molto fuoco development section as a distorted version of 11 is hustled along by rushing string figures based on 10 and is then overlaid with a woodwind statement of 6. The long-limbed melody is interrupted by whispering flutes and then by violent rhythmic figures in the brass before the insinuation of 4 leads to a violently climactic statement of 2.  Over a thudding accompaniment of timpani the violins rip into a restatement of 3—this is effectively a developed recapitulation of the earlier material, which reaches a massively climactic statement of 7 and then 1 played on amplified tubular bells.

   The final Presto section of the score opens again with a fff chord on the organ, and a new rondo theme appears:




At first this lengthy melody is stated in isolation, but after it has been completed stated material from earlier sections returns to interrupt it. Firstly 9 emerges on the bass clarinet, counterpointed by 8 chattering on the oboes; then 3 is stated by the muted trumpets; then 1 by the trombones below a slithering descending scale on the bassoons; then 4 rising up in the woodwind. The rondo melody 12 returns but it is now reduced to a skeletal form on the piano as a counterpoint to a final statement of 11. The two melodies proceed in harmony with each other, but there is increasing uproar from the rest of the orchestra, who threaten to overwhelm both of them; and this culminates in a frenetic series of restatements of 4 Prestissimo on the trumpets. Finally the whole returns to the key of D and the opening discord, now reinforced by a ffff organ chord, which suddenly cuts off leaving a roll on two timpani which would seem to anticipate a final chord on the home key of C; but this too suddenly cuts off leaving the music in a sense of hanging suspense.

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Op. 41a - Arcturus Scenes and Visions

Scored for full orchestra (

This suite rescores the preludes and interludes from the chamber opera Arcturus (based on David Lindsay’s novel so much admired by Tolkien and Lewis) for a full symphony orchestra.

Op. 42a - Akallabêth

Scored for full orchestra (

Although the Akallabêth uses a number of musical themes already composed for other works in my ‘Tolkien cycle,’ it was always designed as a totally independent and original work. It was commissioned in 1982 by James Meaker both as a display piece and as a symphonic poem in rondo form based on one of the concluding chapters in J R R Tolkien’s The Silmarillion. As such some of the material later found its way into other parts of the cycle.


After a brief introduction based on the theme of Ilúvatar, the main rondo theme depicts the fleets of the Edain setting sail to Númenor, and after a second theme (in The Silmarillion associated with the Valar) the main rondo theme returns majestically. This leads to Sauron’s theme, and then to that of his enchantments (chiefly the Ring); both of these latter themes recur in Beren and Lúthien. 


This in turn leads to the return of the sea music, now turbulent and accompanying a more triumphal version of the earlier pastoral theme as the venturers of Númenor return as conquerors to Middle-Earth.  Finally the rondo theme returns, now corrupted by Sauron’s theme in the bass line, and his music now assumes an ascendancy.  A brief and sad reflection of the theme of the Valar depicts the sailing of the Númenoreans through the unnatural calm of the ocean towards the Blessed Realm; and then a violent eruption depicts the downfall of Númenor into the sea, and Sauron’s theme dissipates like a breath of wind.  The final section is a funeral lament, in which the rondo theme makes a final appearance; expanded for orchestra and chorus, this also appears at the end of The Fall of Gondolin. Here the music ends differently, however, with a heavy chord containing all the notes of the opening theme of Ilúvatar played simultaneously.

A recording of the more extended piano version of this work is commercially available on the album Akallabêth and other Tolkien works.

Op. 46a - Fëanor Suite

Scored for full orchestra (

The suite consists of five extracts from the complete work. 


The first movement, The haven of the Swans, forms the prelude to the Seventh Scene and describes the  harbour of Alqualondë with its sea-wrought arch and many lamps; the rocking rhythm of the sea is heard in every bar.


The second movement forms part of the First Scene and describes The awakening of the Elves.  The long-limbed melody which arises out of the opening material will recur many times in the work as the theme associated with the Hidden Kingdom of Doriath.


The next movement, also from the First Scene, describes The waters of Cuiviénen by which the Elves awake, and takes up the Doriath theme developing it further in conjunction with other themes associated with the Elves.  


The fourth movement forms the end of the​ Second Scene and describes The two Trees which give light to the land of the Valar, alternately opening and closing.  The single theme is developed in two alternate strands, and then dies down as the choir describes the ‘noontide of the Blessed Realm’. 


The last movement, The three Jewels, forms the end of the Third Scene and describes the Silmarils that Fëanor forms from the light of the Trees. The main theme of the Silmarils is surrounded by other themes associated with the Blessed Realm and the Elves, and ends as the Jewels are hallowed by Elbereth and Mandos.

Op. 47a - Beren and Lúthien Suite

Scored for full orchestra (

The suite consists of five extracts from the completed work.

The first movement, The Thousand Caves, is the prelude to the Fourth Scene and depicts the Halls of Menegroth in Doriath, with changing vistas on every side.  The music here is the main Doriath theme, with the flute of Daeron the minstrel prominent. 


The flute also dominates the second movement, The woodland glade, which forms the opening of the Third Scene and leads into a chorus with words drawn from The Lord of the Rings: “The leaves were green.”  


The third movement, Lúthien’s dance, takes material from the Third Scene and expands it in the Seventh Scene as she dances before Morgoth: a dance to raise nameless passions and desires. 


The fourth movement returns to the Third Scene and forms the end of the Love scene.  Daeron’s flute theme is mingled with the themes of Beren and Lúthien themselves, and these latter continue to weave around the chorus as they sing further lines from The Lord of the Rings: “As Beren looked into her eyes…” 


The final section of the suite, The halls of Mandos, describes Lúthien’s journey beyond death in search of Beren, and her song before the Lord of Death who grants her request to rejoin her beloved.  At the end the chorus sing the final lines from Aragorn’s lay in The Lord of the Rings.

Op. 48a - The Children of Húrin Suite

Scored for full orchestra (

The three movements of this suite are all drawn from the Third Triptych.


The first, The forest of Brethil at dawn, is the prelude to the Seventh Scene; the main theme will become the melody of the love duet.


The second movement, Turambar, is a transcription of Túrin’s words as he resolves to take a new name and so “put my shadow behind me”.


The final movement consists of the whole of the Epilogue of the work.  It begins with a Funeral march for Túrin, and the main theme of this march then surrounds the dialogue between his grieving parents which leads to the Death of Morwen.  The end of the work softly breathes the theme of mortality which will assume greater importance in the last part of the cycle.

Op. 49a - The Fall of Gondolin Suite

Scored for full orchestra (

This suite consists of three movements.

After a Wedding March which opens Scene Seven, the theme of mortality is taken up and developed to form an extended Love duet for Tuor and Idril; the words are drawn from Tolkien’s poem Aeflwine’s Hymn to Eärendil.   In the middle section the theme of the Valar is heard twice; it has occurred many times before in the course of the cycle, and in the suites it has already been heard in the final section of Beren and Lúthien

The second movement consists of the long narration given to Tuor at the beginning of Scene Five, The horns of Ulmo.  This sets the poem of the same name and consists of two main themes which intertwine with one another, then taking up in turn the opening of the Wedding March and the theme of the Valar before the original material returns. 


The final movement, The passage to Valinor, is the Epilogue to the whole cycle and again contrasts a number of themes, some of which have previously been heard (but not in these Suites).  At the climax the theme of the Two Trees from Fëanor returns, sung by a distant chorus from over the water.

Op. 49b - The Fall of Gondolin Wedding March

Scored for full orchestra (

The wedding march from scene seven of The Fall of Gondolin separated out for concert performance.

Op. 65 - Symphony No. 4 The Four Elements

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Paul's fourth symphony The Four Elements was the first substantial piece of absolute music that he had written for some time, being composed in a sudden and rapid burst of inspiration during January and February 2008. But of course, as the subtitle implies, it is not entirely absolute music. The programme is directly inspired by the four elements of pagan mythology and philosophy, and the order of the movements is that adopted generally in modern pagan practice—which fortunately also happens to be the standard order of a normal four-movement symphony with scherzo second and slow movement following.

The first movement is a meditation on the element of Air, opening with upsweeping harps which lift the music on to a high and almost featureless level. Violins in their highest register hold a long sustained B (released by a single note on the glockenspiel) while far below woodwind outline a series of rising fourths:





This series of open fourths is of course one of the original elemental terms of harmonic language, and it deliberately echoes the opening theme of my Third Symphony where it was also employed as a description of the creative spirit. In this movement it leads immediately into a statement of one of the basic melodic elements in many pagan chants, delivered in its highest register by the piccolo:





These two themes form the whole subject matter of the first movement, but underpinning the two themes there is a third element. This is the phrase BEDC which was first used by myself in Territory. But where in Territory the use of the phrase was in the foreground, making up the major substance of the music, here it is a harmonic underpinning which forms a background to the whole course of the movement but which is not consciously recognisable to the listener. The long held B in the violins moves to E, then to D and finally to C (each time with a lift from the harps and glockenspiel); but there remains throughout no bass line, no foundation upon which the air is rooted. There are slight movements in the upper strings, like a breeze playing across the mind; but all is delicate, still and calm as versions of 2 are passed around between the woodwind, finally coming to a rest with the violins alone.

The calm is finally interrupted by a sudden flickering burst of sparks in the woodwind and a pounding rhythm on the drums as the scherzo depicting the element of Fire begins. The main theme is a twelve-tone one, wayward and fickle as the element itself:





but this is immediately underpinned (by harshly muted horns) playing the outline of 2; fire, after all, is by its very nature the element which exists in air. The opening material is underpinned by a rushing series of chromatic scales as the fire gathers strength, and then 2 is stated harshly by the brass over the original rhythm of pounding drums and cymbals culminating in a blaze from the trumpets before the original material returns. It then bursts out into a prominent statement of the Territory theme (in a whole series of new and different keys) which lies at the heart of the fire:









This is repeated twice and then taken up and subsumed into the chromatic wreathings of the fire itself. The opening material returns once more, but this time the drum rhythms are overlaid with a further burst of flame from the woodwind before 2 is once more wreathed in chromatic scales.  And then suddenly the music dies down to a whisper, as the woodwind turn 3 from a fast dance into a slowly sustained and slightly eerie melodic line. This is fire as the element of the hearth and home; the chromatic rushings in the strings are quieted beneath a feeling of contentment. And then a final sudden and even more explosive eruption of the opening scherzo material leads directly into the third movement. Water is initially introduced as a sudden downpour as of rain, teeming downwards in woodwind, strings and harps over a sustained whole-tone chord in the brass:






Against this, as it rapidly dies down, there rises a slower rising whole-tone scale like the water evaporating back into the air again:





and finally (over rippling whole-tone scales in celesta and dripping molecules of water in the harp) a complete pagan chant is hinted at by the brass:





This is the chant that is familiar to the words:

We all come from the Goddess,

and to her we will return

like a drop of rain

flowing to the Ocean.

It is at first underpinned by freely flowing rhythmic figures, running over and through each other; but then the oboe introduces a new theme which runs in counterpoint with the chant itself:










This is taken up by the violins before the opening pattern of the rain 5 returns. 6 is taken up by the clarinets over a repeat of the chant 7 and yet further ripplings of themes like ever more complex patterns of running water. As the waters gather pace, like a river going to the sea, the second phrase of 7 becomes the focus for an ever-grander series of statements, all anchored over a slow-drawn foundation of the BECD theme 4. The music becomes increasingly dramatic and pained; the passage back to the Goddess is through the waters of Death. Finally, as the waters are all gathered to the Ocean, 8 returns in a radiant statement on the strings, and then on the horns in counterpoint with 5. Now finally the original pagan theme 2 appears, taken up and elevated by the brass to ever greater heights. As the movement comes to an end, it is hoisted by 6 on the flutes back to the clouds—whence it descends as a slow misting drizzle of 5 while the oboe delivers a drifting and extended statement of 8.

The final movement, Earth, opens with an entirely new theme which will act as a bedrock throughout the movement:









This is delivered in full splendour by the whole orchestra and then repeated more gently by the strings. The woodwind give out a fully harmonised statement of 2 and then the strings an even richer version of 9. The themes from the earlier movements are passed in review; the rising fourths of 1 lead to the theme of fire (3) and then the cycle of water is outlined as 5 and 6 surround a restatement of 7; finally the Ocean of Life itself is proclaimed in a grandiose restatement of 8.  Between each of these restatements the theme of the Earth as the Mother 9 is given out in ever-increasing richness of harmony. Finally 4, the heart of the fire that refuses to be extinguished, rises in ever-increasing heat from the bass and joins in a massive counterpoint with the outline of the pagan chant 2 that represented air in the first movement. It now needs only the addition of the opening phrase of the water melody 8 to unify all four of the elements in a firmly-rooted restatement which brings unity to the whole. 

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