Timothy Salter is
known in equal measure for his work as composer, conductor,
teacher and pianist. He has been on the staff of the Royal College
of Music for some years where he teaches both composition and
performance studies. He is also well known as the Musical Director
of the Ionian Singers and as a pianist he has accompanied numerous
individual singers and choirs.
Usk Recordings is
Salter’s own label, dedicated to the recording of new and neglected
repertoire. Their disc count now tallies around a dozen or so.
Not surprisingly Salter’s own music has figured prominently
although composers such as John Casken, Philip Cashian, Simon
Bainbridge, Thea Musgrave and Gabriel Jackson to name but a
few, have all benefited from having works recorded for the label.
A glance through the catalogue also reveals a number of rare
works by the likes of Coleridge-Taylor, Stanford and several
English Renaissance composers.
This CD “single”
of twenty minutes duration, focuses on one work, Salter’s After
the Sun, for baritone, oboe (doubling cor anglais)
and piano. The piece explores differing aspects of and attitudes
towards death through the words of Henry Vaughan, Rainer Maria
Rilke and Edward Lowbury. It is Lowbury’s intensely personal
Departure III that Salter sets as the fulcrum and emotional
centre-piece, framed by Vaughan and Rilke respectively.
It is from this
ordering of the poetry that Salter draws his musical structure,
a structure that is clearly audible and gives the cycle a sense
of both proportion and architectural symmetry. Vaughan’s vision
of an ecstatic entry into a world of dazzling white light sets
the voice against shimmering piano oscillations before the brightness
decays to leave the solo oboe sustained and alone in the transition
into Rilke’s twilit world of dark sobriety. Here the character
of the music takes on a more expressionistic language, the initially
sparse, jagged piano entries texturally filling out. Oboe and
piano often shadow each other whilst the baritone’s vocal line
also grows from the angular opening to take on a more declamatory
nature. The transition for piano alone leading into Departure
III or Traveller sets the stillness of atmosphere
for Salter’s austerely beautiful setting of Lowbury’s evocative
yet quietly powerful words. From this the solo cor anglais line
grows naturally into the renewed brighter textures of Vaughan’s
He that hath found some fledg’d birds nest with its fleeting
references to the shimmering piano accompaniment of the opening
Vaughan setting. The extract from Rilke’s Duineser Elegien
that concludes the work descends once again into darkness although
shot through with occasional flashes of light. There is a final
flourish that leaves the resonance of the piano to decay into
As one would expect
with the composer at the piano, the performance has a feel of
authority with oboist Rebecca Kozam - a former pupil of the
Royal College and therefore presumably well known to Salter
- and baritone Matthew Brook both acquitting themselves admirably.
The sound, whilst somewhat closely recorded, comes across with
clarity and presence.
For more information about Salter see www.timothysalter.com