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Glass Sky
Jack GABEL (b. 1949) Through a Gentle Rain (2004) [8.43]
Bernard ANDRÈS (b. 1941) Narthex (1971) [7.47]
Mark FISH Pictures of Miró (2004) [19.00]
Volkmar ANDREAE (1879 - 1962) Quartet for Flute, Violin, Viola and Cello, Op. 43 (1942) [14.17]
Tessa BRINCKMAN Glass Sky (2004) [9.29]
D’Arcy REYNOLDS Cloven Dreams (2004) [9.28]
Tessa Brinckman (flute)
Daniel Rouslin (violin)
Victoria Gunn Pich (viola)
Lori Presthus (cello)
Victoria Ehrlich (cello)
Jenny Lindner (harp)
Mmitsuki Dazai (koto)
Recorded at First Presbyterian Church, Portland, Oregon, Summer 2004



The combination of flute and strings or harp can easily take on a very French feel; there is something about the timbres that easily conjures up ghostly echoes of Ravel. The composers on this disc of chamber music for flute either embrace this francophilia or do their best to avoid it. The music is performed by the New Zealand flautist Tessa Brinckman with her group, the East West Continuo.

In the first piece, Through a gentle rain, composer Jack Gabel deliberately evokes Japanese music by using a traditional Japanese instrument, a koto, to accompany the flute. The result, to my ears, sounds evocatively Japanese but I imagine that to Japanese ears the results are more a mixture of Japanese and Western sounds.

French harpist Bernard Andrès embraces his heritage wholeheartedly and in Narthex for flute and harp, produces a piece which from its very opening hints at Ravel and Debussy. The inspiration is a series of Old Testament sculptures from Romanesque churches in Burgundy. I found the work gently evocative rather than vividly characterised. Andrès spices things up with a number of interesting special effects, getting the harpist to rap the sounding-board, rattle the tuning key in the sound hole and getting the flautist to slide a finger inside the flute head joint, resulting in curiously eerie glissandos.

Mark Fish’s Pictures of Miro uses a series of pictures by the Catalan artist as the inspiration for eleven short movements for flute and string trio. Fish’s orchestration is wonderfully transparent and his melodic outlines often very French. But he also includes more hard-edged material as he responds to some of Miro’s more dramatic canvases. All the movements are quite short, mixing whimsy and lyricism with intensity and humour.

The Flute Quartet by Swiss composer Volkmar Andreae is another work which wears its Gallic charm on its sleeve. Andreae was director of the Zurich Tonhalle Orchestra and this quartet was first performed in 1942 by flautist Andre Jaunet. The work is both charming and evocative.

Tessa Brinckman’s own work Glass Sky gives the disc its name and is another piece where the composer uses a new sound-world, thus exorcising the old one. It was inspired by a visit to Helen Martins’s Owl House Museum in the desert plains of Karoo, South Africa. Brinckman was born in South Africa and the work evokes her memories of this place. Spare of texture, it is built from a series of bird calls. Brinckman mixes and matches these calls to create a climax in a work which mixes eastern and western ideas.

D’Arcy Reynolds’s Cloven Dreams was commissioned as a companion piece to Glass Sky. Reynolds uses the interior of the Owl House as her inspiration. Her melodic material is attractively folksy, again a new sound-world exorcising the old. The aura here is more Copland than Ravel. Reynolds combines her melodies with some distinctively rhythmic material and as the piece progresses, produces attractive polyrhythmical accompaniments; all in all a fitting conclusion to an imaginative recital.

Brinckman and her colleagues give pleasure in all of the pieces here. Not everything played is a masterpiece, but all the pieces are interesting and imaginative.

Robert Hugill


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