of the British avant-garde scene in
the 1960s and early 1970s, Smalley left
for the Antipodean sun in 1976. This
was just as the further reaches of fracture
and atonality were beginning to fester.
After his departure he was paid too
little court by the UK although things
began to improve in his new homeland.
Against the tide his Symphony was given
at the 1980 Proms and was pleasurably
received. It has been recorded by the
Australian Music Information Centre
label. Now comes this major collection
which belongs in the collection of anyone
at all interested in truly creative
The Oboe Concerto
is in four movements and is something
of a faery flight - a vigorous dream
in which lyrical fantasy takes wing
admixed with Bergian elements. There
are some wonderful moments here and
episodes such as the submissive little
song at 9.21 in the finale will have
you returning to the disc again and
again. Let's say it is one step towards
ultma thule from the Arnold Oboe Concerto.
for 12 players and has important roles
for the percussion as in the Oboe Concerto.
There is more Bergian fracture in this
Smalley wrote about
one third of the Cello Concerto in
1985 just after completing the Piano
Concerto. It was written without a commission
and left to one side for some years.
In 1997 he was moved to complete the
piece but to score it for a chamber
orchestra rather than the originally
intended full orchestra. Wallfisch's
cello sings out unapologetically through
the micro-climate created by the small
orchestra. The orchestra and soloist
rumble and slide like a didgeridoo on
occasions and at others the orchestral
bedrock echoes with the strange creak
and skid of Kastchei's eerie creatures
in The Firebird. The work starts
with dogged determination and picks
up some typically athletic aggressive
singing as at 6.30. A hammered Panufnik-like
pounding (7.10) suddenly evaporates
in favour of a quotation at 7.30 from
Schumann's Humoresque Op. 20.
This slips away and then returns. At
all times the underpinning drumbeats
remain, leading us back from this dreamlike
world into modern chatter. The piece
then returns to a strenuously romantic
mode exalted by a subtle weave of dissonance.
Smalley's regard for
Scriabin has produced these ten delicate
transcriptions rather akin to William
Baines' Thoughtdrift or Griffes'
Pleasure Dome. The Op. 48 No.
1, Op. 59, No. 2 recollects the Poem
of Ecstasy. Enigme is rather
like Frank Bridge in the Two Jefferies
Poems. The Prelude Op. 67 No. 1
recalls Goossens' By the Tarn.
There is a Grainger-like quality to
the Poème Op. 69 No. 2.
This disc contains
rewarding music-making and the performances
and recording are all of the highest
quality. Approachable yet far from anodyne.
If you feared a rerun of the vapid desiccation
of the Roundhouse days be reassured.
Don't miss this.