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Grant FOSTER (b. 1945)
Celebration Overture [11:13]
Rhapsody for Piano and Orchestra (1985) [23:38]
Ballade for Piano and Violin [18:20]
Four Voyages for Piano: (Buenos Aires [2:26]; Moscow [3:54]; Venice [2:58]; Marrakesh  [2:54]) [12:20]
Mira Yevtich (piano); Maria Safaryanc (violin)
Novaya Rossia State Orchestra/Alexander Anissimov
rec. May 2007, Moscow TV and Radio Studio 1; DVD: 20 May 2007, The Great Hall, Moscow Conservatory. Text included; DDD
BEL AIR MUSIC BAM2041 [65:23]
Experience Classicsonline

The music on this desk may remind one of that of Michael Nyman: music that is not “light classical” or film music but that while attractive, seems to be lacking a certain element that one normally associates with “serious” music. Regardless, Foster shows a variety of moods, textures and subject matter (as varied as Harrods and Dubai). Foster was born in Sydney in 1945, studied in Britain and after return to Australia has written a number of orchestral and chamber works that have been very well received.

As one might guess, Foster likes to travel. Before going anywhere for the first time he writes a short piece to imagine what the place to be visited will be like. This is the genesis for the Four Voyages for Piano which progresses from a light-hearted but undistinctive Buenos Aires to the Moscow of Doctor Zhivago. Venice is more interesting with its deliberate courting of clichés and Marrakech is pretty substantial although Paul Bowles and John Alden Carpenter have nothing to fear. Mira Yevtich’s playing is quite impressive: controlled and with beautiful alternations of legato and high energy.

Celebration Overture is more of a symphonic poem on the joys of life. It has an attractive main theme, but does not leave one impressed overall. The Ballade for Piano and Violin makes much more of an impact. It is Rachmaninoff-like in style - appropriate since it’s dedicated to Ms. Yevtich - and has an interesting manipulation of thematic material through its three movements. The piano is as important as the violin and the writing for the piano is skilled, if a little sentimental. Especially good is the synthesis of the work’s material in the coda of the last movement. Unfortunately the sound of the violin is extremely distant and this factor definitely detracts from the overall impression.

The Rhapsody for Piano and Orchestra contains some moments of genuine distinction along with many that are little better than ‘Europop’. It also has a complicated structure of great interest and a few native Australian elements. In addition to the CD recording there is a separate DVD of a live performance of the piece with the same performers. The sound here is surprisingly good, if a little too close to the piano.

For me the music on this disc is somewhat lacking both intellectually and formally, but it does have a lot of heart and is well written. It is also finely served by Ms. Yevtich who has the wide emotional range required here. The orchestra is quite competent and nicely recorded. This is a disc that one may not run out immediately to get, but which one will play more than once if you have it.

William Kreindler

see also review by Rob Barnett

 

 


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