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Eddie MCGUIRE (b. 1948)
Music for flute, Guitar and Piano
Harbour of Harmonies (2000) [8:08]
Fountain of Tears (1992) [6:06]
Prelude 13 (1994) [5:21]
Dark Cloud (1991)  [12:40]
Caprice (1999) [2:16]
Celtic Knotwork (1990) [4:36]
Resistance Movement (2006) [5:30]
Amazonia (1987) [10:19]
Dancing Memories (2001) [5:30]
Twelve White-Note Pieces (1971) [12:54]
Nancy Ruffer (flute, piccolo)
Abigail James (guitar)
Dominic Saunders (piano)
rec. 19-20 June 2005, Reid Concert Hall, University of Edinburgh
DELPHIAN DCD34029 [73:22]


There's a copy of Edward McGuire's score 'Music for Low Flutes' which glowers redly down at me from the ancient American organ I have in my corner of a shared office in the Royal Conservatoire in The Hague. It's both a reminder to "get on with it" and a memento mori for honest toil in the wrong place - I picked up that score from a pile of rejected sheet music spotted in a recycled paper bin outside our library.

I'm sure this is no reflection of the quality of Mr. McGuire's music, more a sign of the chronic lack of space throughout our illustrious institution. As a flute player and composer myself, I was enthusiastic about having the chance actually to hear some of E McG's work, and with the quality of musicianship on this CD I find my hunch has borne flute, sorry, fruit - I like it very much indeed.

McGuire's references will find sympathy with those who were relieved to find there could be life after Darmstadt. Folk music is one of his passions, and while the compositions on this recording exist outside this world of performing little inflections creep in now and again, in the piccolo solo Prelude 13 and the closing pages of Twelve White Note Pieces for example. Heroes and trends are followed up in works for multiples of the same instrument, and the guitar resonances of Dark Cloud are a "reply to Leo Brouwer's 'Blue Sky and Smile' for large guitar ensemble." That piece was a Radio 3 hit and broadcast a number of times in the 1980s and it must have been good - even my mother liked it. McGuire's guitars sound more like drops of Japanese rain in the beginning, and the harmony is extended gradually downward in a spatial, timeless fashion. The second-interval tremolo figures are more of a gesture in Brouwer's direction, and as they grumble upwards in a return to the pattering rain a clear reverse-arch form emerges. Unlike Brouwer, McGuire resists the temptation to break out into a hard-to-co-ordinate but hummable tune, but this piece would sound good with 400 guitars as well as 4.

Four flutes are brought together in Celtic Knotwork, a piece which exists in a variety of versions, but brought together by one player in this recording. One of a number of McGuire pieces on this subject, the folk elements of the Scotch-snap rhythm - or ornament, come out strongly, as might be expected in a work whose intertwining lines are a deliberate portrayal of the ancient art-form of knotwork.

The last multi- work on this disc is also the earliest, Twelve White Note Pieces having been written while McGuire was studying in Stockholm. Far from minimalist, the work does explore texture and tonal colour through ostinati and slowly developing harmonies. Rhapsodic gestures appear over repeated figures and there is some heavy-handed chordal thumping, but the overall impression is of waves of sound. This work was conceived as having several performance options, and this a new arrangement made especially for the recording. As usual with overdubbed recordings made with one piano, the effect is -apparently - less vibrant than a live version with four different pianos. I wonder if the effort might have been better spent in writing a new piece, I know that's what I would rather have done - all those student works, brrr!

The CD opens with Harbour of Harmonies, a more recent solo piano work written for the millennium celebrations. Inspired by aspects of Marinell Ash's book "This Noble Harbour", the work is "based on the deep water and the people who had to work in harmony to make (Invergordon) what it is!" This piece is inevitably a kind of fantasy: romantic, verging on the sentimental, but expressive of lyrical passions and the eternal flow of the ocean.

The clarity and perfect intonation of Nancy Ruffer's flute playing is a real bonus on this disc, and McGuire, knowing the instrument as he does, gives it full expression and a wide range against the softness of the guitar in Fountain of Tears, and leaning solidly against the more robust sonorities of the piano in Caprice. Dancing Memories is a three movement work for solo flute, dedicated to a dance teacher called Sarah de Ruyg, the three movements recreating the "nostalgia of dance classes and solitary rehearsal - but always with a light-hearted wit." McGuire's guitar writing in Amazonia, a response to the destruction of the rainforests, explores the depth of sonority in the guitar in a way I've missed in guitar music of late - fully acknowledging traditional technique but weighing the strings with a message which in many ways digs deeper than dance or even the 'doloroso' of Rodrigo.

Resistance Movement brings us right up to date, having been written for the players on this recording - an unusual combination in chamber music. The energetic, punchy rhythms in this work offset the often reflective or textural nature of many of the other works on the disc, and, while the title is something of a pun on 'pièce de résistance', is of course also supportive of "legitimate resistance to occupation and exploitation".

The tropical colours on the cover of this CD reflect the diversity of material within, and, I suspect, might be intended to counter the impression we have of the often low grey skies of Scotland. The music is frequently of a serious nature, but is never heavily depressing or overly symbolic - it can always be enjoyed on its own terms, whatever the original inspiration or message. I sincerely hope this recording will bring Eddie McGuire's work to a wider public - this is surely what it deserves.

Dominy Clements


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