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  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

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Roger SMALLEY (b.1943)
Oboe Concerto (1995-6) [20.41]
Kaleidoscope (2003) [9.39]
Concerto for Cello and Seventeen Players (1995-6) [16.57]
Alexander SCRIABIN (1872-1915) transc. Roger SMALLEY Ten Poems for Chamber Orchestra (1989-90) [14.34]: Prélude Op. 45. No. 3; Prélude Op. 48. No. 1; Prélude Op. 48 No. 2; Enigme Op. 52 No. 2; Désire Op. 57 No. 2; Caresse Dansé Op. 57 No. 2; Prélude Op. 59 No. 2; Prélude Op. 67 No. 1; Prélude Op. 67 No. 2; Poème Op. 69 No. 2.
Joel Marangella (oboe)
Raphael Wallfisch (cello)
West Australian Symphony Orchestra/Roger Smalley 15-16 Apr 2003, Perth Concert Hall; 20 Feb 1997, Studio 620, ABC, Perth. DDD
ABC CLASSICS 980 047-5 [61.59]

 

Enfant aimé 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 contemporary music.

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. Highest praise.

Kaleidoscope is for 12 players and has important roles for the percussion as in the Oboe Concerto. There is more Bergian fracture in this piece.

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.

Rob Barnett



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