Recorded live in Israel 1 November 2002.
Composer: Paul McCartney
Lawrence Foster, conducting the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra
Re-released on 7 September 2009.
Review by Tony Copple,
Proprietor , Ottawa Beatles Site, beatles.ncf.ca
For the annual concert in memory of Yitzhak Rabin in Israel on 1 November 2002, the organizers bravely chose Standing Stone as the main item in the program, following a performance of Rabin's favourite music, Alexander Argov's Hare'ut (Friendship).
It was a brave choice because Standing Stone was only Paul McCartney's second full-length release of original classical music. The CD recording by the London Symphony Orchestra was made at Abbey Road Studios and released in September 1997. The world premiere performance was held at London's Royal Albert Hall on 14 October 1997, and this was broadcast on TV in many countries, and has been released on DVD but is no longer available. All these performances to date have been conducted by Lawrence Foster. One of the reasons why we have not seen more performances is that it calls for a large orchestra (featuring an exotic percussion line-up) and a large chorus whose contribution is considerable.
Five years later comes this only other recording, originally released in 2007 by am@do DVD-classics.
First I should declare my influences. I love all Paul's classical-style music, particularly Standing Stone and Ecce Cor Meum which followed it in 2006. As I write this listening to Standing Stone again on a tiny Dynex player, the sheer power of McCartney melodies that flow through every few minutes captivate my pleasure sensors, while the more subtle parts in between suck me in to their grip a little more each time I listen. All of these emotions are accessible through this recording. I listen to a lot of classical music, and a lot of popular music. McCartney is a truly accomplished classical-style composer, and may hold his head high in the genre. I'll say no more here about the music itself as written.
The fact that Standing Stone has been performed and recorded again within five years of its premier may not sound very startling, but in the world of classics, it is unusual. The decisions and resources needed to mount such an event are in short supply. Those of us who would like to see Paul's reputation reach its rightful place in the world of classics should be thrilled that it happened, and that a DVD was produced, albeit with little fanfare. That it should have happened in Israel is indeed remarkable. The music shows a variety of influences, but they do not to my ears include Jewish music or the Beatles. It is well known that the Beatles were fended off by Israel and have only recently been officially rediscovered, culminating with the concert that Paul performed in Tel Aviv 25 September 2008. Maybe the Rabin committee was making up for lost time, or maybe he was a secret Beatles fan. I live in hope that more recordings and performances will come; from Russia would seem an obvious choice.
This orchestra and choir, though smaller than for the previous recordings, well demonstrate McCartney's special flair in this genre. The members of the orchestra don't seem to have a particularly good time doing it; they are rather staid - though that is a quibble, not a criticism. The audience also seems rather subdued, other than between movements when they respond to Lawrence Foster's obvious passion for this music. These matters may be merely a cultural thing. The smaller orchestra does not reduce the piece to any obvious degree (it's still far from being a small orchestra!). My main and really only criticism is in the sound quality: a rather muddy bass tone, and a lack of high frequencies in the audio tracks will not thrill users of top end equipment (but it sounds great on my Dynex). Stereo, not surround. So this should not put off anyone who would like to have this major work at their fingertips on DVD. Its low price should also be a good incentive.
The Region 0 DVD offers four languages: German, English, French and Spanish and is rounded out with text bios of Lawrence Foster, Paul McCartney and the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, but not Paul's poem on which this work is based.
For further information please contact: Claire Thornton, Press & PR,
Wienerworld, Unit 7 Freetrade House, Lowther Road, Stanmore
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Standing Stone available from Wienerworld.com (free P & P).
It is also available on Amazon.