One of the highlights of this CD is the Sir Edward German Suite.
He is often seen as being in the second-eleven group of composers.
People who have come across him associate his name with his light
opera Merrie England. German wrote a deal of ‘light music’
yet he also penned two symphonies, much incidental music and a
number of chamber works. The present work was composed in 1899
and dedicated to his friend Frederic Griffith – a flautist and
Suite is an attractive piece of ‘quintessentially English’
music. It could be argued that much in these three movements
nods towards the music of Arthur Sullivan. Yet this ignores
the fact that there is a quality about this suite that goes
beyond that particular genre. In fact the middle movement, the
Souvenir, is a perfect miniature that balances sentimentality
with retrospection. To be fair, the Gypsy Dance owes
much to the ‘theatrical life’ of the late nineteenth century.
flautist’s husband has arranged Three Folk Songs for
the flute and piano: ‘Barbara Ellen’, ‘Green Bushes’ and ‘The
Wraggle Taggle Gypsies, O’. They were written for ‘Celia on
her birthday in 2002.’ The composer writes that he “wanted to
create works which contain and contrast stunning, unashamed
virtuosity and beautiful melodic lines.” He has achieved this
in abundance. There is nothing of ‘cow and gate’ about these
three arrangements. If anything there is a hard-edged quality
that pushes any sentimentally inherent in the original tunes
into the background. There are touches of beauty and sheer poetry
in these pages that transcend the original tunes.
Head is probably best known as a writer of songs – however he
has a few chamber pieces to his credit. By the River in Spring
was written in 1960 and was revised a couple of years later:
it is hardly a work of its time being somewhat retro. It is
described as “a song without words interrupted by a flute cadenza
and a short vivace section.” I am not sure I like this work
– it seems to my ear a touch unbalanced and perhaps a little
self-indulgent. For example, a folk-like tune is offset by ‘late-romantic’
pianism. And do I detect a little phrase that sounds very similar
to the opening credits of that great 1960s series ‘The Man from
Uncle’? It needs another listen, methinks.
asked Celia what made her opt for the Arnold Cooke Sonatina.
She acknowledged that it has had some negative press in flautist’s
circles. For this reason she had not acquired the score for
her library. However, after studying it for this recording she
revised her views. Celia became struck by “what could be described
as an ‘honest transparency’. With its clear contrapuntal lines,
well crafted structure and a degree of charm there is something
of the ‘English gentleman’ about this work.”.
know that for too long Cooke has been assumed to be a pale shadow
of his teacher, Paul Hindemith. Following the recent Lyrita
release of his Symphony No. 1 I wrote that there is a thinking
abroad that somehow Cooke sold-out on his Britishness to become
a kind of Germanic clone. On the other hand there is a prevalent
expectation that an English composer should write music in a
recognisably nationalistic style: perhaps making use of folk-tunes
or nodding to the vocal lines of Tallis or the romanticism of
Elgar. This is not the case with the present Sonatina:
it can only be described as an urbane work that presents its
material in a balanced and subtle manner. It only adds to my
conviction that Cooke is a man waiting to be rediscovered or
perhaps even discovered. Possibly the most satisfying offering
on this CD.
If Cooke is ultimately satisfying, the masterpiece
on this CD is surely York Bowen’s impressive Flute Sonata
Op.120, written in 1946. I asked Celia about this work: she said
“I remember my teacher Gareth Morris speaking about York Bowen.
He had been astounded by Bowen’s technique on the piano and when
playing the piece you can almost imagine him enjoying his own
piano part!” The work is in an unashamedly romantic style and
lasts for a good sixteen minutes. The three movements manage to
be contrasting, yet totally consistent at the same time: the range
of emotion is considerable. Stylistically the Sonata breathes
a Mediterranean air rather than looking to the colder English
seas. For some unaccountable reason the Flute Sonata was
left un-played for a number of years. It is suggested that Bowen’s
romantic and approachable style became unfashionable. Yet approaching
this fine work in the early years of a more eclectic musical twenty-first
century I agree with Celia that this is a substantial piece by
a fine composer.
I will not say that I do not like the music of John
Tavener: It is just that I do not relate to it. The present work
was written for the 1979 Little Missenden Festival. Musically
it is based on Byzantine modes and Greek folk music. The Interlude
is meant to take us on a musical voyage: from Bulgaria to the Greek Islands and back. The six sections suggest stations on
the journey – they include a convivial occasion at Aegina
and Calling at Rhodes. There are some nice moments in this work.
And it certainly presents the soloist with some interesting and
Griffith’s Danse Nègre is a great work - full of life
and fun and sheer enjoyment. Griffith was himself a fine flautist.
This is blindingly obvious from this piece! It is quite definitely
an encore number. The programme notes suggest that it is a typically
“English view of a ‘Negro Dance’. With this I concur and it
is an impressive piece for all that!
know nothing about Charles Stainer – save that his namesakes
are famous in both the train-spotting and musical worlds. And
he was a professor at the RAM. This Étude was written
by the composer for Robert Murchie, one-time principal flute
in the BBC Symphony Orchestra. It is an attractive work that
does not push at any stylistic boundaries. I am not a flautist,
but I guess that it is a challenging play!
music is well played by Celia Redgate and Michael Dussek. There
is a confidence about the performances which is impressive.
The only criticism is that the programme notes could be more
detailed – especially concerning the little known works and
in the round this is a fine selection of English Flute music.
Typically, it introduces the listener to works that are unknown.
A quick check of the CD catalogue suggests that only the Bowen
is currently available on CD. So ‘well done’ Divine Art in providing
some seven first recordings of some really interesting music.
my money the laurel goes to Arnold Cooke for his Sonatina.
But the Bowen, the Redgate and the German are all very close