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  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

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http://www.capstonerecords.org

Phillip SCHROEDER (b. 1956)
All Rivers At Once: Music for Oboe, English Horn, Piano, Pre-Recorded Synthesiser and Electronics

Borne by Currents (2002)
Stillness (1997/2002)
Songs Without Words (for Oboe and Piano) (2001-2002)
From the Shadows of Angels (2001)
No Longer a Stranger (2001)
Duo Savage: Susan Savage, oboe and English horn; Dylan Savage, piano and synthesiser
Recorded at Harwood Recital Hall, Russell Fine Arts Center, Henderson State University, March 28th-29th and May 20th-31st 2002.
CAPSTONE RECORDS CPS-8709 [54.26]

This disc is the first of a couple of exemplary recitals of Phillip Schroeder's music that have been recently released by New York based Capstone Records. The other, Turning to the Center, focuses on vocal works and is perhaps more traditionally in keeping with the 20th century American outlook on that genre. This one, however, often occupies musical territory more associated with the likes of Harold Budd and the ECM label. That said, the opening of Borne by Currents with its plaintive cor anglais reminded me most of Ingram Marshall's Fog Tropes, yet it soon develops into a beatific Budd-like soundscape, with shimmering piano set against Susan Savage's mellow tones. The piece lasts over fourteen minutes and it is not fanciful to compare the cor anglais sounds with the equivalent saxophone meanderings of Marion Brown or Pharaoh Sanders. Equally, I could imagine John Harle playing this piece with absolute empathy, the echoes of Bryars' The Green Ray (sorry for mentioning it yet again!) are too obvious to ignore. Despite featuring pre-recorded synthesiser and a digital delay system, Borne by Currents is very much a duet, with the cor anglais and piano evoking a benign watercourse idyllically. Not for motorway listening!

Stillness for solo piano is meditative but closer to Howard Skempton than Arvo Pärt. The music is very slow, not much seems to be happening but it is all very gripping in a relaxed sort of way, the silences meaning just as much as the notes. The title really says it all - it makes Satie sound hyperactive and is on a par with Feldman as far as tempi go. Music to fall asleep to, not out of boredom but because it is so peaceful. Lovely! The following series of five Songs Without Words is marginally more energised but the oboe and piano duets are still largely reflective and low key. I have no idea what the individual titles, e.g. Perseverance, To Come Back Again, are references to, but the whole sequence works very well and could almost be British in its mellow pastoralia.

From the Shadows of Angels is another piece for solo piano and again the ambient/chamber jazz parallels are clear. It floats almost breathlessly at times, with a Zen-like simplicity in its repeated scales. I preferred Stillness which seems to say more in half the time but there is no denying the effectiveness of this music in what it sets out to do. The disc closes with another work featuring digital delay, this time alongside oboe and piano. No Longer a Stranger superficially bears some resemblance to the preceding track but the oboe and delay system lift it into a different league. However this is again, to these ears, less inspired than Borne by Currents and its prettiness cannot quite compensate for a less overt direction or focus. This is an interesting disc, the success of which probably depends on the listener's state of mind. What is relaxing to one person may seem soporific to another but this is further evidence of the vibrant and diverse musical activity currently going on in the US. It does, however, perhaps offer too narrow a view of Schroeder's compositional talents to elevate him in the musical public awareness to the level of, say, Michael Torke or Aaron Jay Kernis. A very nice disc nonetheless.

Neil Horner



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