I am proud to say after I had a discussion with the composer, who I know through my involvement in the past with Coleridge’s cottage in somerset, we agreed that I broadcast this great piece online so here it is!
I have always been attracted to the Kubla Khan story and am a great fan of the Coleridge poem, here spoken in chilling tones by Ben Kingsley. It is the score to a ballet and has a very ethereal quality evoking both Debussy and Rimsky-Korsakov and hence to the halcyon days of the Ballet Russe. The piece is divided into four movements each one refering to lines in the classic poem. It is a ballet of haunting music with Oriental nuances – then suddenly you listen to Ben Kingsley’s ocean deep narration of the poem. A wonderful experience. The beautiful language merges and swims in the music. I think of Scheherazade when I listen to this disc. The poetry of Kubla Khan is so luxuriously opulent it invades your bones; the music matches the narration wonderfully. The Romantic poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge may be well-known for just a couple of poems — but what an influence they’ve had! This is far from the only musical interpretation of the immortal “Kubla Khan,” but it’s certainly one of the best. While using an entire orchestra, composer Richard Hill wisely avoids bombast, preferring something a bit more subtle: the music swells with a sort of quiet, dreamlike grandeur that conveys wonder & beauty, without ever becoming overblown & obvious. There’s a touch of the languid, transporting opium haze to it, which seems fitting for Coleridge. When there is a bit of pomp, it has a certain fantastic joy to it, rather than too much self-importance. And Ben Kingsley’s narration of the poem itself at certain intervals hits just the right note — dramatic, but never pretentious. Not for every taste, of course; but the Romantic & the dreamer will find much to savor here!