Ex­or­cist re­quired for classical Tubu­lar Bells

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Music -

ON his first com­pletely classical out­ing, Mike Old­field fal­ters by lean­ing too heav­ily on his past. The crit­i­cism that Old­field has never moved be­yond his 1973 hit Tubu­lar Bells is gen­er­ally made by those who have never heard works such as the mas­ter­ful Om­madawn ( 1975), the in­com­pa­ra­ble In­can­ta­tions ( 1978), the chaot­i­cally bril­liant 60- minute track Amarok ( 1990) and the epi­cally space age The Songs of Dis­tant Earth ( 1994). Each of th­ese was so in­tri­cately con­structed, so full of lay­ered melodies, mo­tifs and in­stru­men­tal cli­maxes that, even af­ter count­less plays, they con­tinue to re­veal new facets. Mu­sic of the Spheres , on the other hand, will play right into the hands of Old­field de­trac­tors who main­tain that he had only one idea, which he con­stantly re­it­er­ates. I’m not sure who Mu­sic of the Spheres will ap­peal to. Its 14 tracks are far too episodic to mean very much to classical purists and its oned­i­men­sional struc­ture is likely to alien­ate fans of his nor­mally more com­plex fare. At least three of the tracks ( Har­bin­ger , The Tem­pest and Har­bin­ger Reprise ) are re­state­ments of the open­ing theme of Tubu­lar Bells , ad­mit­tedly with some fine vari­a­tions, per­haps cour­tesy of a solid help­ing hand from con­duc­tor Karl Jenk­ins. Only the gor­geous Sil­hou­ette , which harks back to the kind of thump­ing short- form in­stru­men­tal Old­field was toss­ing out in the 1980s like con­fetti, will cause a swoon. Also ex­cel­lent is On My Heart , which fea­tures Hay­ley Westenra. But far too much of Mu­sic of the Spheres is pleas­antly or­ches­trated sound­track fare, with a cou­ple of lovely themes, zil­lions of scales on the pi­ano cour­tesy of noted but un­der- used pi­anist Lang Lang, and al­to­gether too much Tubu­lar Bells .

Ian Cuth­bert­son

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