Nigel WESTLAKE (b.
1958) Hinchinbrook Riffs (2003) [8:30] Jovian Moons (2001, rev. 2002) [16:09] Songs from the Forest (1994) [6:59] Flying Fish (2003) [4:07] Shadow Dances (2000, rev. 2004) [12:31] Antarctica – Suite (1992) [23:45]
Michael Kieran Harvey (piano) (Moons);
Leonard Grigoryan (guitar) (Forest); Joel Westlake (double
bass) (Forest); Saffire Guitar Quartet (Fish)
Melbourne Symphony Orchestra/Nigel Westlake (Dances, Antarctica)
rec. Iwaki Auditorium, ABC Southbank Centre, Melbourne,
May 2003 (Moons) and July 2004 (Dances, Antarctica);
Avalon Studio, November 2003 (Forest); Jumpstart Studio,
Brisbane, June 2004 (Fish) and Jeremy Alsop’s Studio, May
2006 (Riffs) ABC CLASSICS
476 5744 [72:01]
Westlake is a versatile
musician with an early background in rock and jazz. He trained
as a clarinettist as well as a composer and is equally at
ease when writing for movies and the concert hall. He developed
a real liking for the guitar under the influence of Frank
Zappa and through being in regular contact with some top-rank
guitarists such as John Williams, Timothy Kain, Karin Schaupp,
the Grigoryan brothers, Craig Ogden and the Saffire Guitar
Quartet, of which karin Schaupp and Slava Grigoryan are members.
Riffs (2003 – guitar
and digital delay) and the suite Antarctica (1992 – guitar
and orchestra) are probably among his best-known works,
at least going by the number of commercial recordings. Antarctica has
been recorded by John Williams, Timothy Kain and now
Slava Grigoryan, whereas Hinchinbrook Riffs has
been recorded by Kain, Ogden and now again by Grigoryan.
The suite Antarctica actually reworks some
material from the score written for the eponymous IMAX
film. This is a lovely score with much colourful and
readily accessible music; and its popularity is undoubtedly
well deserved. There are many fine moments, of which
the miniature tone poem Wooden Ships [track 10]
and the delightful Scherzo-like Penguin Ballet [track
11] may be singled-out. As I remarked in earlier reviews, Hinchinbrook
Riffs is a very nice work, in which digital delay
is discreetly used throughout as a way to enlarge the
guitar’s sound palette. The results are highly effective.
other works, new to me, are scored for different instrumental
combinations. The earliest one Songs from the Forest is
for two guitars and double bass. This is a short, dance-like,
jazzy piece replete with what I have once termed Westlake’s
finger-snapping, foot-stamping music; a most attractive work
for a rather unusual instrumental group. This performance
is almost a family affair since it is played with zest and
obvious enjoyment by the Grigoryan brothers and by the composer’s
Moons for guitar and
piano is an altogether more ambitious and substantial
work in four movements (Ganymede, Europa, Callisto and
Io). Each evokes albeit without blunt description, the
four moons of Jupiter, that became better-known after
the Galileo and Voyager missions. The music and the instrumentation
perfectly suggest vast, empty spaces, while still allowing
for contrast and variety. I do not know many duos for
guitar and piano, but this one works remarkably well.
Dances, completed in
2000 and revised in 2004, is scored for guitar and orchestra.
It is a single-movement fantasy. It is somewhat more
dissonant and ambiguous in its first part: up to a cadenza
that leads into the dance section proper. It is replete
with Westlake fingerprints.
Fish is a movement from
the suite Six Fishes for guitar quartet,
and is – appropriately enough – a lively, bouncing
Scherzo. Judging from this, I hope that the Saffire quartet
will record it complete some day, possibly with other
works by Westlake.
mentioned earlier, there is much variety and invention in
Westlake’s guitar music, which is superbly and most idiomatically
written for the instrument, be it alone or accompanied. Moreover,
Westlake’s inexhaustible melodic fund and rhythmic verve
make his music particularly accessible and enjoyable. All
the performances here are simply splendid, and the composer
conducts vital, lively performances of the orchestral scores.
This is a self-commending release for all Westlake fans and
others will find much to enjoy here too, guitar buffs or
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