This is an oddity.
A pleasant one – but an oddity. The
CD in the catalogue and on the shelves
has the title, ‘Medieval
Dances for Flute and Harp’.
Don’t buy it if you’re really looking
for mediaeval dances for flute and harp,
though: the oldest music on this CD
is from Joseph Lauber, who was born
in 1864. Indeed the bulk of the short
and sonorous pieces on ‘Medieval Dances
for Flute and Harp’ is from the late
nineteenth century with a suite by George
Frederik McKay, who was born in 1899,
as well as a sonata by the film music
composer - best known, perhaps, for
his music for ‘The Godfather’) Nino
(mispellt ‘Nina’ in the track-listing
- Rota, who died as recently as 1979.
Other recent composers
represented on the disc are Joseph Jongen
and Henry Cowell. There’s a chance that
the inspiration for some of the music
here is early dance forms, though little
of that is really evident. Debussy,
Franck, Ravel and even Roussel are stronger
influences. Indeed the Sonatine
by Désiré-Emile Ingelbrecht
is a bit of a find, having great delicacy
and poise. Cowell is always interesting.
Aside from his unusually eventful life
- he was imprisoned in San Quentin,
for instance - his music is experimental
and accessibly quirky: the ‘Triple Rondo’
here has a very demanding harp part,
to which Jolles more than lives up.
Not that this is in
any way a virtuoso collection, or even
a showcase for the instruments – certainly
not ‘showy’. The music is played with
sensitivity and passion. McKay’s ‘Suite’
is nicely constructed and contains some
balanced and attention-catching ideas.
is actually entitled ‘Four Medieval
Danses’ [sic], though the pavane and
gaillarde which are the names of two
of the four movements actually date
from the Renaissance, of course. Cheerful
enough and – again – executed with wit
and restraint, yet exposing the tuneful
creativity to just the right degree,
this can be enjoyed alongside Jongen’s
‘Danse Lente’, which is fresh and light.
The emphasis here,
then, is on a relatively unexplored
corner of the American instrumental
repertoire from the past century and
a quarter. The tradition in which these
composers are working is squarely American
as influenced by European impressionism.
There is inventive, delicate and energetic
music making and Zucker and Jolles make
persuasive advocates for the composers
they perform. But do forget the title!
Notes on the music
on this CD are virtually non-existent:
there are a few sentences about each
composer represented as part of the
cardboard digipak cover, though nothing
to explain the CD’s misleading title.
Information about the lively and energetic
and obviously very enthusiastic performers,
Laurel Zucker (flute) and Susan Jolles
(harp) is pasted to the digipak cover,
too, and hence partially obscured by
the Perspex mount for the CD itself.