Tin-Pan Ballet (1986) for six players
including a synthesiser and Jazz Machines (1990), also
for six players, are delightful, colourful pieces paying homage to jazz.
They are good examples of this composer’s happy nature. Jazz and dance
rhythms feature prominently in these light-hearted pieces. They may
not plumb any great depths but are very enjoyable in their unbridled,
Surprisingly enough, maybe, the solo pieces are more
substantial in spite of their hidden programme. Bluegrass Variations
for solo violin, written in 1987 as the test piece for the Carl Flesch
International Violin Competition, alludes to North American fiddle music
but goes a good deal further than mere pastiche or parody of the Hoe-Down.
It is a substantial piece, rather demanding from the technical point
of view though the emphasis is more on style than mere instrumental
virtuosity. On the Rocks, composed in 1992, is a beautiful
nocturne though the composer, rather humorously, refers to the piece
as "Debussy playing cocktail lounge music". Once again there
is no parody in this finely crafted atmospheric piece.
The mini marimba concerto Going with the Grain
(1991) may be somewhat lighter though it has its fine moments, such
as the beautifully dreamy slow movement. The outer movements abound
with lively dance rhythms and with colourful scoring. It is a quite
attractive, entertaining work in its own way; however, I feel that it
somewhat outstays its welcome.
In short, no towering masterpieces here, but entertaining,
expertly written works to be enjoyed to the full for what they are worth.
After all, why should contemporary music always be deadly serious? Everyone
here, the composer included, seems to enjoy him- or herself enormously
and there is no reason why such joyous music making should be ignored.
Sit down, relax and enjoy!