> Richard Mills - Orchestral Works [HC]: Classical CD Reviews- Oct 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Richard MILLS (born 1949)
Aeolian Caprices (1988)
Soundscapes (1983)a
Seaside Dances (1989)
Fantastic Pantomimes (1987)
Richard Mills (percussion)a;
Queensland Symphony Orchestra; Richard Mills, Werner Andreas Alberta
Recorded: 1983, 1988 and 1990
ABC CLASSICS 432 251-2 [70:46]



Composer, percussionist and conductor, Richard Mills is heard here in his threefold capacities in a selection of his colourful and expertly wrought pieces. All these works were composed between 1983 and 1989; and the earliest of them is the superb concerto for percussion and orchestra Soundscapes completed in 1983. It is laid-out in four clearly characterised movements displaying the numerous possibilities of the percussion instruments at the soloist’s disposal. The solo part is, no doubt, very virtuosic, demanding and taxing the soloist’s skills to the full, but never extravagantly so. The first movement Signals/Dialogues alternating lively solo passages and orchestral responses is followed by a spirited Dance. A beautifully atmospheric Nocturne with some vibraphone solos is capped by an animated perpetuum mobile with a central march-like crescendo which fades away and leads thus to a restatement of the opening music rushing the work to its exalted, dancing conclusion. A brilliant, superbly written work and one of the finest and most satisfying works for percussion and orchestra that I have ever heard.

Fantastic Pantomimes, an ABC commission for the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, is some sort of short concerto for orchestra featuring a concertante group of flute, oboe, clarinet, trumpet and horn. This is an avowedly extrovert, brilliant work of orchestral display, and a superb as well as attractive showpiece.

Aeolian Caprices of 1988 is another short, lively, rumbustious overture in which Mills’ orchestral mastery gained from his inside knowledge of the orchestra pays high dividends again. The title refers to the fact that the piece is based on a harmonic system derived from the tones of the Aeolian mode, and ‘caprices’ of course reflects the playful character of the music.

Seaside Dances after Couplets by e. e. cummings, to give the piece its full title, is scored for string orchestra. Maggie and Milly and Molly and May/went down to the beach (to play one day). This wonderful piece is in six short movements, of which the outer ones are vivid seascapes framing movements reflecting episodes suggested by the poem. The resourceful string writing is beautifully assured and often calls Britten or Grace Williams to mind; and Seaside Dances is yet another example of superb string writing worthy of its celebrated predecessors by Bridge, Britten, Howells or Vaughan Williams. It should be heard more often for this wonderfully engaging work obviously deserves wider exposure. As far as I am concerned, this is the finest work in this release.

Mills’ music, while clearly of the 20th Century mainstream type, is remarkably crafted, colourful, full of fancy and imagination and very attractive. His models may be Britten, Walton and Arnold; but there is much joyful exuberance here that is one of Mills’ most endearing musical qualities. Excellent performances and recording. Mills’ music was new to me; but I really enjoyed every minute of this attractive release.

Hubert Culot


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