Grant Foster was born in Melbourne and graduated from the Sydney
Conservatorium in 1966. He studied in Paris for seven years and
became an active composer in London, working on the Peter Pan
musical with Sir Robert Helpmann and receiving a commission
from Harrods for the Celebration Overture which is light-hearted
yet voluptuously effusive. Straussian eruptions, superbly done,
alternate with episodes of buoyant Nutcracker-like charm.
Add to this moments of oompah waltz influenced by Khachaturian
kitsch. Foster has a real gift for touchingly lyrical inventiveness
which is not so far removed from the glories of a sumptuous John
Barry melody or one of Anna Pavlova's finest inspirations.
The Rhapsody is more gritty. It
strikes tempestuously upwards from chasmal depths in a style
not far removed from mature Rachmaninov. It's in three sections
but played continuously and not separately tracked: War,
Peace, Love. There's a relishably stern bi-play
between brass and piano in the first movement and much romantic
poetry before the emotional outburst that rounds out this
discursive but entertaining piece. Let's hope we get to hear
the two piano concertos before long … not to mention The
Owl of Dubai suite, the Fantasy for violin and
orchestra, the Romance for cello and orchestra and
the Fantasy for piano and orchestra.
We move from romantic orchestral hothouses
to chamber music. The Ballade is in three sections
and once again the sentimental-romantic melodies abound among
the atmospheric swell, surge and sway of Russian nights. Next
come four ‘grand tour’ postcards for solo piano. The Four
Voyages, by its title, perhaps suggests that it
is better to travel than to arrive. That said, the titles
presumably tell us the destination and certainly lend the
atmosphere of each named city to the character of the music.
Buenos Aires is a stately take on the tango. Moscow
is touched in with dripping icicle clarity and archetypical
Russian romance. Venice lilts in sleepy liquid barcarolle
motion. Marrakesh plumbs darker depths, with moonlit
and threatening alleys and more danger than any other piece
in the collection. It casts an intimidating spell. These four
movements are separately tracked.
As a bonus the set includes a DVD of
a filmed performance of the Rhapsody for piano and
orchestra in the Great Hall, Moscow Conservatory which I did
not on this occasion play. It was however generous of Bel
Air to include it.
The notes provide useful background but
no hint of a date for any of these works. I presume 1980s
Foster writes entertainingly and colourfully
- an adept at a world of styles in which his pleasing creativity
is at ease.