The 16 page booklet enclosed with the C.D. features some wonderful pictures of Linda's artwork and very complete
information of the music accompanying it.
Working with instruments commonly associated with classical music has been a hallmark of Sir Paul McCartney's work since his
early days with the Beatles. The memorable use of a string quartet in Yesterday, the chamber group in
Eleanor Rigby and the orchestra in She's Leaving Home; a French horn in For No One, a piccolo trumpet
in Penny Lane - all these added more than just a touch of textural colour. The resulting sonorities became a vital
part of the music's emotional fabric. Thirty years on and the extraordinary success of the
Liverpool Oratorio (1991) and Standing Stone (1997) have established
McCartney as an important new voice in the classical field. Working Classical takes this process one stage further
with it's enterprising blend of orchestral and chamber music.
McCartney remains refreshingly candid about the creative processes involved in bringing his music to fruition. Having
developed the ideas for the three orchestral pieces on this album, he worked alongside his regular classical producer,
John Fraser, to find a satisfactory way of shaping them into a coherent overall form. Two internationally renowned
musicians, Sir Richard Rodney Bennett and Jonathan Tunick, were then invited to work on the orchestrations. All three works
employ a full symphony orchestra and are presented as integrated suites of striking ideas in an arch-like structure.
A Leaf and Spiral share a common origin inasmuch as both began as solo piano pieces, but there the resemblance
ends. The main waltz-time idea of A Leaf (written shortly after the Liverpool Oratorio) has a reflective wistfulness
about it that instantly draws the listener in. This is then contrasted with a section that in it's rhythmic propulsion and
use of muted trumpet in the orchestral mix has an unmistakably American vitality about it. Twinned clarinets, pungent horns
and cellos, and the striking use of a solo piano show McCartney's exuberant imagination working at full stretch, leading to
a magical return of the opening material.
In comparison, Spiral is more impressionistic, much of it (despite some imposing climaxes along the way) heard as
though through a heat haze. The haunting opening, featuring a solo flute memorably underpinned by a sustained chord in the
strings, gradually fills out until the announcement of a little descending motif (B-A-G-E), which becomes increasingly
important. The emergence of a string quartet from the orchestral texture momentarily threatens to destabilise the tonality,
until the solo flute gently soothes the music's troubled surface.
The last of the orchestral pieces originated as the theme for an animated film based on an American children's book entitled
Tuesday. Paul explains: "I liked the idea of extending it, so we've used a similar kind of orchestration to
A Leaf, making it into more of an extended suite-like structure with several contrasting episodes. The main theme is
dissected and then I work in a number of new ideas".
The string quartet pieces came about as the result of memorial services held in America and England for Linda. McCartney
wanted to mark the occasion with some of his own music and decided to collect together some of the songs he had written
specifically with Linda in mind, the one exception being Junk. (This simple waltz with a descending bass line dates
back to the Beatles era; it's a song that suits the quartet medium especially well). The Brodsky Quartet premiered the
resulting arrangements in London, the Loma Mar Quartet (who made the present recording) in New York. It was during the
studio sessions that McCartney surprised the members of the Loma Mar Quartet with two new and completely original
compositions - Haymakers and Midwife - as a kind of "thank you". The latter is particularly effective, with
it's laid back, almost bluesy violin melody set against a steady 4/4 pizzicato accompaniment.
The nine song arrangements open with a pair of heart-warming love songs. The Victorian romanticism of
Warm And Beautiful feels particularly close to McCartney at the moment: "That one really does get to me. It captures
some of my innermost feelings for Linda". Of My Love McCartney recalls; "Linda and I were going through such a
wonderful period and she was fulfilling so many of my needs that it was really nice to put it down in song".
Maybe I'm Amazed, the first song that McCartney intended for Linda, also sounds particularly effective here:
"I felt good when I wrote it. It's always difficult to talk about your own work but I felt the tune and lyrics all seemed to
come together. I remember Liza Minelli once saying she thought it was my best song, so I was particularly pleased to have
written that one for Linda".
Calico Skies is a piece for acoustic guitar that McCartney wrote in America. The unmistakable suggestion of early
music is quite deliberate: when he was composing it, McCartney recalled the image of a medieval musician banging away on a
tabor. In complete contrast comes Golden Earth Girl, a vision of Linda as a blonde, gently tanned nature girl,
totally at one with her surroundings. McCartney fondly imagines her contentedly curled up in a huge moss-lined nest.
Somedays is one of the finest tracks on McCartney's solo album, Flaming Pie. Remarkably,
it was written in just two hours after he had accompanied Linda to a photo session and found himself with some spare time on
She's My Baby was written for Linda at the piano late one night in London during the couple's early years together
following the break-up of the Beatles. "It was a very liberating time for both of us", remembers McCartney. "The song is
essentially a series of little enigmatic statements, snatches from a diary that seemed to sum up our relationship at that
time". The Lovely Linda was the opening track on McCartney's very first solo album, McCartney.
Written one day in the halcyon early 70's, it's an engagingly simple piece that once heard is very difficult to get out of
Written by Julian Haylock
(Julian Haylock is currently Editor of International Piano Quarterly, following spells as Editor of CD Review magazine (UK)
and Reviews Editor of CD Classics. Julian is the author of books on Rachmaninov and Mahler, co-author of a series of annual
pocket record guides to classical music on CD, and continues to contribute reviews, features and interviews to a wide range
of publications. He was the producer of a series of recordings that included the piano concertos of Alexander Tcherepnin
(with Murray McLachlan), and has at other times been on-air reviewer for LBC radio and a freelance violinist-violist.)