The Most Incredible Thing (album)

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The Most Incredible Thing
The Most Incredible Thing album cover.png
Soundtrack album by Tennant/Lowe
Released 14 March 2011 (2011-03-14)
Recorded 2009–10
Genre Electronic, classical
Length 83:33
Label Parlophone
Producer Pet Shop Boys, Sven Helbig
Pet Shop Boys chronology
Ultimate
(2010)
The Most Incredible Thing
(2011)
Format
(2012)
Tennant/Lowe soundtrack album chronology
Battleship Potemkin
(2005)
The Most Incredible Thing
(2011)

The Most Incredible Thing is the score for the 2011 ballet of the same name, based on the eponymous 1870 fairy tale by Danish author Hans Christian Andersen. It contains music written and performed by Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe of English synthpop duo Pet Shop Boys. The album was released in the United Kingdom on 14 March 2011 by Parlophone.[1]

Background[edit]

Tennant and Lowe proposed Andersen's story (about a competition in a mythical kingdom where the King announces that whoever invents the most incredible thing will win the hand of the Princess in marriage and half of the Kingdom) as the basis for a new ballet to Sadler's Wells Theatre in London in 2007 after a friend, the then-Royal Ballet principal, Ivan Putrov, asked Tennant if Pet Shop Boys would consider writing a piece of music for him to dance to at Sadler's Wells. Coincidentally a couple of days later, Lowe suggested to Tennant that "The Most Incredible Thing" would make an excellent narrative for a ballet and, inspired by this synchronicity, they approached Sadler's Wells with the project. The following year Javier de Frutos was chosen as the choreographer and Matthew Dunster wrote a scenario for ballet ("a map for music"). Tennant and Lowe composed most of Act One in autumn 2008 and the rest of the score in 2010. They approached Sven Helbig to write the orchestrations. These were recorded in the end of 2010 in the Concert Hall of Polish Radio with the Wrocław Score Orchestra conducted by Dominic Wheeler.[2]

Tennant and Lowe said: "This is a very exciting project to be part of. In the past we have written dance music so to write music for a ballet seems like a logical development. Also we have always been fascinated by giving our music a theatrical context."[3]

Touring[edit]

After four public preview performances, "The Most Incredible Thing" had its official opening on 21 March 2011 at Sadler's Wells in London. Performances continued until 26 March, and all tickets were sold out.[4] "The Most Incredible Thing" will return to Sadler's Wells in 2012 for two weeks prior to going on tour.[5] The entire production was filmed by the BBC and broadcast on BBC Four on 1 July 2011.[6]

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
Source Rating
Metacritic 66/100[7]
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 3/5 stars[8]
The A.V. Club C+[9]
BBC Music positive[10]
The Independent 4/5 stars[11]
The Irish Times 3/5 stars[12]
musicOMH 3/5 stars[13]
The Observer mixed[14]
PopMatters 7/10[15]
Rave 3.5/5 stars[16]
Virgin Media 8/10[17]

The Most Incredible Thing received mixed to positive reviews from music critics. At Metacritic, which assigns a normalised rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the album received an average score of 66, based on 7 reviews, which indicates "generally favorable reviews".[7] The Independent‍ '​s Andy Gill called the album "stylistically wide-ranging" and stated that "this second foray into theatrical composition [...] is vastly more adept [than Closer to Heaven], involving the deft interweaving of electropop and orchestral elements within a series of impressionistic tableaux sketching out the theme of conflict between creativity and destruction."[11] PopMatters' John Garratt opined that "somewhere between Tennant and Lowe's writing and Helbig's arrangements, there are some subtlety interesting things going on here." He continued, "It's doubtful that anyone will be humming the themes of The Most Incredible Thing in the future the way people can hum The Nutcracker today. But Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe sure do know their stuff."[15] Lauren Murphy of The Irish Times noted that the score contains "numerous formal classical interludes, but it's the iconic duo's own distinctive disco/electropop sound that's branded most heavily on this score", adding that "[i]t's off-putting to hear such distinct worlds colliding, but also startling, oddly compelling, and undeniably ambitious."[12] BBC Music critic Tom Hocknell commented that the album's "minimal orchestration never drowns the listener; strings sweep and chords portend, without any track outstaying its welcome." Hocknell also believed that it "doubtlessly works better as a full performance, but as a stand-alone soundtrack has wonderful moments nonetheless."[10]

Alasdair Duncan of Australian music magazine Rave described the album as "well-constructed and enjoyable, suffused with the kind of wit and sophistication you'd expect from Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe, even if the lack of context means that it sometimes just drifts by in an agreeable haze."[16] Matthew Laidlow of Virgin Media expressed that "[p]eople might be disappointed with the lack of vocals from Neil Tennant, but you have to remember that this isn't a Pet Shop Boys album, instead a successful collaboration that is on par with material they've previously released."[17] Allmusic's David Jeffries viewed that "any fans who found the duo's Battleship Potemkin soundtrack compelling will find this a welcome, lighter alternative, seeing as how the sound is another mashing of Russian classical music and synth pop", concluding that the album is "[o]f limited appeal, but appealing nonetheless."[8] Ben Hogwood of musicOMH remarked, "For sure there are plot signposts, when themes transfer unexpectedly from floated euro trance to orchestral swing, but without a synopsis or a visual guide these transfers can prove unsettling and sometimes clunky." Hogwood did, however, state that "there is some music of great beauty here."[13] In a review for The A.V. Club, Marc Hawthorne felt that "while there are some synth surges and gay-disco thumps over the course of this predominantly instrumental 82-minute orchestral score [...] it doesn't really line up with what's expected of Tennant and Lowe." He also critiqued, "Even more problematic is that the music, while ambitious and appropriately dramatic, hardly approaches standalone greatness."[9] The Observer‍ '​s Hermione Hoby was unimpressed, writing, "The ballet that Tennant and Chris Lowe have scored [...] is based on a story by Hans Christian Andersen rather than George Lucas, but ominous melodrama prevails nonetheless, even when it comes via disco rather than dense orchestration. It's hard not to wonder what the dancers might be doing to all this and, as with Tennant's voice (which makes only a brief appearance), their absence is frustrating."[14]

Track listing[edit]

All songs are written and composed by Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe.

Limited edition[edit]

An exclusive, limited art edition, with only 500 copies available worldwide, each hand-numbered and signed by the Pet Shop Boys was released in May 2011.[18] Designed by Mark Farrow, who also collaborated with the duo on the much sought-after collector's edition of their 2009 album Yes, this release features music and artwork exclusive to The Vinyl Factory edition.

A silk cloth bound hard board slipcase contains a hardback book with seven record sleeves. Six of these house heavyweight 180-gram vinyl records pressed on the EMI 1400. The records feature the Pet Shop Boys' music for the ballet as well as the original demo versions of each of the compositions, only available in this release. The seventh sleeve contains an oversized foldout sheet music print, signed by Tennant and Lowe. The ballet's synopsis is printed onto the record sleeves so that each has an accompanying narrative that reads like a storybook.

Personnel[edit]

Credits for The Most Incredible Thing adapted from album liner notes.[19]

  • Pet Shop Boys – performers, producers
  • Chris Lowe – programming
  • Bartek Bober – concertmaster
  • Joris Bartsch Buhle – contractor
  • Pete Gleadall – programming
  • Andreas Gundlach – piano (1.04)
  • Sven Helbig – producer, orchestrations
  • Jan-Peter Klöpfel – copyist
  • Bob Kraushaar – mixing
  • Tobias Lehmann – sound engineer and editing
  • Tom Russbüldt – Pro Tools engineer
  • Dominic Wheeler – Wrocław Score Orchestra conductor
  • Dietrich Zöllner – copyist
  • Orchestra recorded by Teldex Studio Berlin in the Concert Hall of Polish Radio, Wrocław, Poland

Charts[edit]

Chart (2011) Peak
position
Croatian International Albums Chart[20] 29
Dutch Albums Chart[21] 61
German Albums Chart[22] 36
Spanish Albums Chart[23] 69
Swedish Albums Chart[24] 45
UK Albums Chart[25] 57

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Pet Shop Boys: Most Incredible Thing: 2cd". HMV. Retrieved 30 March 2011. 
  2. ^ The Most Incredible Thing (CD booklet). Pet Shop Boys. Parlophone. 2011. pp. 7–8. 0716922. 
  3. ^ Murray, Robin (1 February 2011). "Pet Shop Boys Release Ballet Soundtrack". Clash. Retrieved 30 March 2011. 
  4. ^ "Ballet opens tonight". petshopboys.co.uk. 22 March 2011. Retrieved 27 March 2011. 
  5. ^ "2012 ballet tickets on sale". petshopboys.co.uk. 12 July 2011. Retrieved 12 August 2011. 
  6. ^ "Ballet on BBC TV". petshopboys.co.uk. 25 June 2011. Retrieved 11 August 2011. 
  7. ^ a b "The Most Incredible Thing – Pet Shop Boys". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved 17 December 2012. 
  8. ^ a b "The Most Incredible Thing – Pet Shop Boys". Allmusic. Rovi Corporation. Retrieved 17 December 2012. 
  9. ^ a b Hawthorne, Marc (22 March 2011). "Tennant/Lowe: The Most Incredible Thing". The A.V. Club. Onion, Inc. Retrieved 30 March 2011. 
  10. ^ a b Hocknell, Tom (24 March 2011). "Review of Pet Shop Boys – The Most Incredible Thing". BBC Music. BBC Online. Retrieved 30 March 2011. 
  11. ^ a b Gill, Andy (11 March 2011). "Album: Pet Shop Boys, The Most Incredible Thing (EMI)". The Independent. Independent Print Limited. Retrieved 30 March 2011. 
  12. ^ a b Murphy, Lauren (11 March 2011). "Pet Shop Boys". The Irish Times. Irish Times Trust. Retrieved 30 March 2011. 
  13. ^ a b Hogwood, Ben. "Pet Shop Boys – The Most Incredible Thing". musicOMH. Retrieved 30 March 2011. 
  14. ^ a b Hoby, Hermione (13 March 2011). "Pet Shop Boys: The Most Incredible Thing – review". The Observer. guardian.co.uk. Retrieved 30 March 2011. 
  15. ^ a b Garratt, John (2 May 2011). "Pet Shop Boys: The Most Incredible Thing". PopMatters. Retrieved 17 December 2012. 
  16. ^ a b Duncan, Alasdair (22 February 2011). "PET SHOP BOYS – The Most Incredible Thing". Rave. Retrieved 30 March 2011. 
  17. ^ a b Laidlow, Matthew (16 March 2011). "Pet Shop Boys go ballet? It's the most incredible thing". Virgin Media. Retrieved 30 March 2011. 
  18. ^ "Limited edition". petshopboys.co.uk. 17 March 2011. Retrieved 27 March 2011. 
  19. ^ The Most Incredible Thing (CD liner notes). Pet Shop Boys. Parlophone. 2011. 0716922. 
  20. ^ "Top Stranih – Tjedan 12. 2011." (in Croatian). Hrvatska Diskografska Udruga. Retrieved 2 April 2011. 
  21. ^ "Tennant / Lowe – The Most Incredible Thing" (in Dutch). dutchcharts.nl. Hung Medien. Retrieved 30 March 2011. 
  22. ^ "Tennant / Lowe, The Most Incredible Thing" (in German). charts.de. Media Control. Retrieved 17 September 2012. 
  23. ^ "Tennant / Lowe – The Most Incredible Thing". spanishcharts.com. Hung Medien. Retrieved 30 March 2011. 
  24. ^ "Tennant / Lowe – The Most Incredible Thing". swedishcharts.com. Hung Medien. Retrieved 30 March 2011. 
  25. ^ "The Official Charts Company – The Most Incredible Thing by Pet Shop Boys Search". The Official Charts Company. 6 May 2013. 

External links[edit]