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Medieval Dances for Flute and Harp
George Frederik MCKAY (1899-1970)
Suite for Flute and Harp, (1977) [13:09]
Joseph JONGEN (1873-1953)
Danse Lente for Flute and Harp [4:19]
Henry COWELL (1897-1965)
Triple Rondo for Flute and Harp, (1961) [6:55]
Désiré-Emile INGELBRECHT (1880-1965)
Sonatine for Flute and Harp [11:42]
Joseph LAUBER (1864-1952)
Four Medieval Danses [14:53]
Nino ROTA (1911-1979)
Sonata for Flute and Harp, (1937) [13:20]
Laurel Zucker (flute); Susan Jolles (harp)
rec. 2007, USA. DDD
CANTILENA RECORDS 66034-2 [64:35]




This is an oddity. A pleasant one – but an oddity. The CD in the catalogue and on the shelves has the title, ‘Medieval Dances for Flute and Harp’. Don’t buy it if you’re really looking for mediaeval dances for flute and harp, though: the oldest music on this CD is from Joseph Lauber, who was born in 1864. Indeed the bulk of the short and sonorous pieces on ‘Medieval Dances for Flute and Harp’ is from the late nineteenth century with a suite by George Frederik McKay, who was born in 1899, as well as a sonata by the film music composer - best known, perhaps, for his music for ‘The Godfather’) Nino (mispellt ‘Nina’ in the track-listing - Rota, who died as recently as 1979.

Other recent composers represented on the disc are Joseph Jongen and Henry Cowell. There’s a chance that the inspiration for some of the music here is early dance forms, though little of that is really evident. Debussy, Franck, Ravel and even Roussel are stronger influences. Indeed the Sonatine by Désiré-Emile Ingelbrecht is a bit of a find, having great delicacy and poise. Cowell is always interesting. Aside from his unusually eventful life - he was imprisoned in San Quentin, for instance - his music is experimental and accessibly quirky: the ‘Triple Rondo’ here has a very demanding harp part, to which Jolles more than lives up.

Not that this is in any way a virtuoso collection, or even a showcase for the instruments – certainly not ‘showy’. The music is played with sensitivity and passion. McKay’s ‘Suite’ is nicely constructed and contains some balanced and attention-catching ideas.

Lauber’s contribution is actually entitled ‘Four Medieval Danses’ [sic], though the pavane and gaillarde which are the names of two of the four movements actually date from the Renaissance, of course. Cheerful enough and – again – executed with wit and restraint, yet exposing the tuneful creativity to just the right degree, this can be enjoyed alongside Jongen’s ‘Danse Lente’, which is fresh and light.

The emphasis here, then, is on a relatively unexplored corner of the American instrumental repertoire from the past century and a quarter. The tradition in which these composers are working is squarely American as influenced by European impressionism. There is inventive, delicate and energetic music making and Zucker and Jolles make persuasive advocates for the composers they perform. But do forget the title!

Notes on the music on this CD are virtually non-existent: there are a few sentences about each composer represented as part of the cardboard digipak cover, though nothing to explain the CD’s misleading title. Information about the lively and energetic and obviously very enthusiastic performers, Laurel Zucker (flute) and Susan Jolles (harp) is pasted to the digipak cover, too, and hence partially obscured by the Perspex mount for the CD itself.

Mark Sealey

 

 

 


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