Release Date: Oct 4, 2011
Record label: Concord
Genre(s): Classical, Pop/Rock, Ballet
Paul McCartney’s Ocean’s Kingdom shot to the top of the classical charts when it was released in early October, and anyone with half a brain knows why. Even Peter Martin, the New York City Ballet’s Master in Chief who commissioned the work, admits that the program’s big draw was hearing what a ballet score composed by an ex-Beatle sounds like. This isn’t a new concern.
Ocean's Kingdom, Paul McCartney's fifth full-length classical album in 20 years, is his first ballet, its story concerning a star-crossed romance between an earthly prince and a water princess. McCartney's music is appropriately romantic, sometimes to the extent that the moments intended to convey creeping tension or sadness bounce with a joyous gait. Joy isn’t a bad characteristic for a piece of music, and if Ocean's Kingdom is decidedly less ambitious than Liverpool Oratorio or Standing Stone, whatever charm it has lies in its simplicity, McCartney's good cheer evident in the clean lines of his melodies and their counterpoints, the lack of melancholy in his ballads, and the triumphant brass that closes the proceedings.
McCartney is out of his depth on this four-movement piece for the New York City Ballet. Charlotte Gardner 2011 Was there ever so much hype about a new ballet as there has been about Sir Paul McCartney's Ocean's Kingdom? Not in recent years at any rate, and no doubt that's exactly what the New York City Ballet were banking on when they asked the former Beatle to write them a new stage work. However, the resultant musical product should be viewed as a salutary lesson in what happens when you commission above a composer's skill-set.