reviewing NMC’s recent recording of Meld
piano and brass (NMC D099 - see review
I complained about the scarcity of recordings of Sackman’s
music. It must be said though that Metier have already
recorded two substantial
of his, the Piano Sonata (MSV CD92008) and the Second String
Quartet (MSV CD92016 - see review
). For the sake of completeness,
mention must also be made of a recording of Cecilia
by the Hertfordshire County Youth Symphony
Orchestra and of Ballo
by the Luxembourg
comes this generous selection of contrasted chamber works
written between 1983 and 2002. It fills some gaps in the
composer’s hitherto sparse discography and considerably
adds to our appreciation of his achievement.
is a four-movement sonata for percussion and piano. The opening movement
leads into a nocturnal slow movement followed by a lively
Scherzo. The Finale reworks some material from the first
movement and ends with a short coda re-visiting material
from the slow movement.
brass quintet Time-piece
is the earliest
work here, composed in 1983 for the Albany Brass Quintet
and drastically revised in 2002; the final version heard
here is little more than half of the length of the original.
Moreover, the composer also realised that he had been over-ambitious
and that the music was “too demanding for the players’ lungs
and lips”. The revision “tries to ensure that the brightness
of the ensemble is maintained whilst clarifying the melodic
and harmonic features” (the composer’s words). Time-piece
too, is in three movements: the first opening with bright
fanfares leading into a varied main section, a stately,
almost static slow movement with a mysterious da lontano
and a brief Scherzo. To round things off there’s a moto
of great verve. This is a most engaging, virtuosic
and demanding piece.
title of the piano piece Cross hands
to “the arpeggiated material heard at the beginning played
with the pianist’s hands crossing over each other”. The
title gives an indication of the demanding and virtuosic
writing displayed in this substantial work. Considerable
dexterity is required as well as musicality.
flute quartet Koi
calls for four normal flutes,
with two additional piccolos as well as two alto flutes
and two bass flutes. The latter are humorously described
as “strange beasts” by the composer. The entire flute family
is used throughout the whole work. The flutes are regularly
playing outside their accustomed colouristic boundaries, “their
graceful way through the evocative gardens of cool sensuality”,
as the composer has it. This does not mean that the players
are to perform “tricks and gimmicks”. Far from that. On
the whole, Koi
is a really beautiful piece
of music that deserves to be heard, especially when played
with as much assurance and musicality as it is here.
, another early work dating from 1986
and revised in 1999, is something of a rarity, although
thanks to a number of brilliant trombone players, the
repertoire is now regularly explored and enlarged.
It is a compact sonata in three traditional movements.
There’s a moderately fast opening, a slow song-like
movement with a short central Scherzo subtly coloured
by the judicious use of mutes, and a lively Finale.
last work here, the Sextet for wind
in 2000, is scored for the unusual combination of wind
quintet and saxophone (soprano and alto). It may be the
most classically structured work on this disc. It is a
divertimento of sorts, quite entertaining and light-hearted
throughout, with a lyrical slow movement - again with some
more animated episodes. There is a short skittish Scherzo,
not without some tongue-in-cheek irony, and a lively dance-like
Finale. A colourful, attractive and instantly appealing
all their diversity, all these works clearly come from
the same pen; there is much stylistic coherence throughout.
Moreover, none of them outstays its welcome, for each is
perfectly proportioned and never outstretches its material.
music is not easily labelled. He steers clear of any current
musical trends and fashions, and is happy to be himself.
As such his music is uncompromisingly independent, always
superbly crafted and often strongly expressive. These fine
performances undoubtedly give Sackman’s music its due.
Not to be missed.