Aureole etc.




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Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

AVAILABILITY

This disc, on sale at £ 12.95, and information can be obtained from AMALIE RECORDS, 15 Stanhope Road, London N6 5NE e-mail ann@anncherry.demon.co.uk
The BMS’s overseas members should contact the Hon. Treasurer, Stephen Trowell, 7 Tudor Gardens, Upminster, Essex RM14 3DE.

 

Sounds and Substance
Peter MACGARR (b.1953)

Fieldthread (1998)a
Christopher TOON (b.1935)

Alice ’98 (1998)b
Paul FARRER (b.1973)

Flute Quartet No.1 Two English Seasons (1998)c
Daryl RUNSWICK (b.1946)

Flutz (1998)d
Stephen DEUTSCH

The Windows in Ann’s Flute (1998)e
Flûtes d’Accordes (Kenneth Bellab, Douglas Townshendabc, Ann Cherryabe, Susan FitzGeraldabcde, David Olivercd, Lynda Coffincd)
Recorded: Jazzmouse Studios and Centre for Sound and Music design, Bournemouth University (Deutsch)
AMALIE RECORDS ALACD 1202 [57:46]


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The driving force behind this release is the flautist Ann Cherry who asked several British composers to compose works for the still fairly unusual medium of the flute quartet. True, there already exists a limited, but sadly neglected repertoire for flute quartet, of which a few examples come to mind: Meriläinen’s Mouvements circulaires en douceur, Gubaidulina’s Flute Quartet, some pieces by the Frenchman Eugène Bozza and Victor Legley’s Flute Quartet Op.14, Arthur Meulemans’ Andante en Scherzo, Peter Cabus’s Flute Quartet, Frits Celis’s Notturno e Danza Op.12 as well as several works for multiple flutes by Joseph Jongen, to mention but a few Belgian composers who wrote for the medium.

In commissioning the works recorded here, Ann Cherry clearly wanted "to demonstrate the importance of the flute quartet as a performing medium ... and to demonstrate the excellence and variety of British composers". I must confess that all composers here, but one, are completely new to me (and I was delighted and amused to read that Paul Farrer did the music for The Weakest Link!). Daryl Runswick, whose music is also new to me, was a comparatively familiar name. All works, but the concluding one by Stephen Deutsch, are actually for flute quartet, though in varying settings. The pieces by McGarr, Toon and Farrer are scored for ‘normal’ flute quartet (i.e. two C flutes, one alto flute and one bass flute) whereas Runswick’s work is for four C flutes. Deutsch’s piece, of which more later, stands clearly apart.

The opening item Fieldthread, by Peter McGarr is a short suite of four colourful and impressionistic miniatures played without a break. The evoke some particular or fragile moments in a garden’s life, such as a cobweb, the misty morning haze before sunrise or the birds’ dawn chorus, all neatly characterised in these vivid vignettes. An enjoyable recital opener in any case.

Christopher Toon’s Alice ’98, written to mark the centenary of Lewis Carroll’s death in 1898, is by far the most ambitious work here. Its seven sections, in turn dreamy, lyrical or mildly ironic, play without a break in a colourful, kaleidoscopic manner. These sharply contrasted mood sketches are often imbued with refreshing tongue-in-cheek humour, reflecting Carroll’s own humorous allusions to period pieces "quoted from memory, therefore misquoted" (the composer’s words) which surface here and there with telling effect. A thoroughly delightful and enjoyable work, if a bit too long for its own good.

Paul Farrer’s Flute Quartet No.1 "Two English Seasons" is on the whole fairly traditional (i.e. in 20th Century terms) although it allows for some freedom in matters of dynamics and expression, which are left at the players’ choice.

As already mentioned, Runswick’s Flutz for four C flutes is a semi-improvised canon, also leaving matters of dynamic and expression to the players, much in the same way as in Farrer’s First Quartet, although players are obviously given more freedom. It is written in a somewhat more advanced, though in no way rebarbative, idiom. There is a real sense of fun in what the composer aptly describes as an "anything-might-happen roller-coaster". This must be fun to play.

Stephen Deutsch’s The Windows in Ann’s Flute is somewhat different from the other works. The basic notated material (played here by Susan FitzGerald) was recorded first. The recording was then reworked and electronically re-processed in the composer’s studio. The studio work, however, was most sensitively done and the end result is an often beautiful meditation in which a basic melody is repeated several times within a slightly different sound context, some sort of Answered Unanswered Question. The answer comes in the form of quotes from Bach’s music played by Ann Cherry. While listening to it, I kept thinking in orchestral terms. I can imagine the composer eventually scoring it for strings and percussion (and maybe a few brass brought in for good measure). Well, yes, you guessed it: I liked this very much.

Flûtes d’Accordes (six brilliant flautists joining for the occasion) clearly believe in this programme and play most convincingly throughout. So, in short, a most interesting and welcome release exploring some unfamiliar repertoire for a fairly unfamiliar medium, hopefully paving the way for further original flute quartet music.

Hubert Culot

 



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