Friday, July 22, 2011

Mike Oldfield’s Orchestral Tubular Bells

Mike Oldfield’s first and most popular record Tubular Bells was also great success of Virgin Records – new label started with this recording its beautiful growth and multidirectional development. After premiere of second Oldfield’s album Hergest Ridge it became clear that commercial potential of popular composer’s suites is almost unlimited. Pressure of managers for publishing next tittles was fully understandable. One of popular ideas of seventies was to create projects joining rock and orchestral music in both directions – by playing symphonic classics in arrangements with electric instruments and typical drum set and by arranging popular tunes in symphonic manner. Creating the symphonic version of Tubular Bells was only a question of a time. And in early autumn of 1974 it became real challenge for David Bedford who rearranged whole composition and recorded symphonic version of this composition with The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. Published by Virgin Records Orchestral Tubular Bells was first unsuccessful Oldfield’s recording.

Mike Oldfield’s Orchestral Tubular Bells (1975)

Orchestral versions of Tubular Bells and Hergest Ridge were subject of well sold shows but Oldfield himself was not contented with it. Both arrangements were made David Bedford, well known composer and master of orchestration, but his attitude was too academic and conservative. Classical style of orchestration was not adequate to music by Mike Oldfield. Recording of Tubular Bells made for Virgin in September 1974 was in many parts just imperfect. The wind section was able to carry best parts of arrangements where it was only part of orchestral sound, but fault in episodes where winds led melodic and harmonic narration. Articulation was exaggerated thus Oldfield's phrases in Bedford's rendition sound sometimes too emphatic and in consequence just grotesque.
Maybe most disappointing part of orchestration is coda. In Oldfield’s original recording it’s only kind of alternative culminating point, light and witty end of the whole composition. In orchestral version this finishing episode matches more Popeye dance than joyous exploring the range of folk modes. What is exalted and affirmative in Oldfield’s suite, in Bedford’s orchestration sounds forced and stilted. And here comes the real value of this orchestration. It’s inadequate and conservative, it is not connected to the original Oldfield’s style, so we can clearly see no other version of recording may compete with the very first Tubular Bells rendition. And this is really comforting, there’s no way to falsify music. In music always sounds the truth about our thoughts and values.

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