Hans Zimmer: The Lion King Orchestra Suite

Context

This epic orchestral suite comprised of the music from The Lion King is currently a part of The World of Hans Zimmer – A Symphonic Celebration concert tour. This groundbreaking tour is on its way around the world and is full of incredible new orchestral suites taken from some of Zimmer’s most popular films. The tour also features lifetime friends and colleagues of Zimmer including singer Lisa Gerrard, cellist Tina Guo, flautist Pedro Eustache and percussionist Luis Ribeiro. Released by Sony Classical, the official album of the tour was recorded live whilst in the Wiener Konzerthaus. Conducted by Martin Gellner, the album was recorded by the renowned Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra and the Neue Wiener Stimmen choir. The album includes brand new orchestral suites from films such as King Arthur, Mission Impossible, The Da Vinci Code, Gladiator, Pirates of the Caribbean and The Lion King.  

The Music

The orchestra suite for The Lion King is taken from various underscores from the original film, but some surprises along the way. Opening with the underscore named This Land, the music is representative of the Simba encountering his father’s ghost in the sky. Featuring the original Lion King flautist, Pedro Eustache, this atmospheric opening sets the scene. The intensity builds as the orchestra swell together with the choir before the flute takes another solo, which is then passed to a solo violin. The music builds as if it will go into the upbeat African song ‘Basa’ as it does in the film and show, however the music holds that little bit long and the start of the underscore …To Die For begins. This music represents the wildebeest stampede which leads to the untimely death of Mufasa. The shrill string opening descends into the intense pandemonium that ensues. Supported by loud and boisterous percussion and epic brass this section is one of the most exciting. Strong basslines, choir interludes and brash brass collide in this section creating a truly epic scene of music. The intensity builds even further as Mufasa’s impending death draws closer. As soon as the climax is reached the music fades away quickly. A lone upper string line emerges with an emotional melody. The choir join in, with this scene representing Simba finding Mufasa after the stampede. The music morphs into the underscore King of Pride Rock. The first half of this section acts as a reprise to the opening of the suite. The second represents the powerful movement of Simba as he takes to his pride. The dull thuds from the bass drums represent the walk/climb up to the top of Pride Rock. There is an added vocal line which adds to the sheer intensity of this section. The music seamlessly transitions into the African song ‘Basa’, which is heard when Simba realises he needs to go back to his pride after seeing the ghost of Mufasa. The last 30 seconds makes a sudden change to the end of Circle of Life. The choir and the orchestra move together, accompanied by an extensive percussion. The climax comes as the choir sings the final line ‘It’s the circle, the circle of life’. The suite comes to a thrilling close as the dynamic suddenly drops and everybody grows into the final flourish.  

Final Thoughts

This epic new orchestral suite from The Lion King highlights Zimmer’s iconic underscoring for the original 1994 film. From Mufasa’s death to Simba taking over the pride and more, this new suite has it all. The exciting twists and turns, the added vocal lines and the extensive percussion section add to the sheer drama of the work.


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