PAUL McCARTNEY: Ocean’s Kingdom ballet – The London Classical Orchestra/John Wilson – Concord Music Group (no #), 56.5 min. ****:
Sir Paul has tried his hand at some choral and choral-orchestral works before— Standing Stone, and Ecce Cor Meum—but this is his first original all-orchestral score and first music for dance. He was working on a piece having to do with an oceanic subject when the Chief of the New York City Ballet, Peter Martins, convinced him to create the world premiere of a new ballet for the current season. McCartney took part in most aspects of the premiere, including story, sets, costumes, even some of the dance.
It’s an old-fashioned plot, using a tonal and tuneful work for orchestra in four movements: “Ocean’s Kingdom, Hall of Dance, Imprisonment,” and “Moonrise.” The story concerns the daughter of the King of the Ocean, and two royal guys on land who desire her: King Terra and his brother Prince Stone.
The New York Times thought the ballet part was pretty bland, tedious and clichéd, and the costumes rather silly. But this CD is just the music, and if you don’t mind scores that lift generously from other composers (think John Williams) you’ll enjoy this colorful neo-Romantic piece with hints of Ravel, Barber and Borodin. It has an overall optimistic feeling and often interesting rhythmic figurations. Whether you focus on the underwater love story of the ballet or just listen to the pleasing orchestral score, you’ll probably enjoy it but not be bowled over by it. The recording is excellent for a standard CD, made in Henry Wood Hall in London.
Haydn Quartets, spanning two decades