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alternatively Crotchet


Grant FOSTER (b. 1945)
Celebration Overture [11:13]
Rhapsody for Piano and Orchestra [23:38]
Ballade for Piano and Violin [18:20]
Four Voyages for Piano: Buenos Aires; Moscow; Venice; Marrakesh [12:20]
Mira Yevtich (piano)
Maria Safaryanc (violin)
Novaya Rossia State Orchestra/Alexander Anissimov
rec. May 2007, Moscow TV and Radio Studio 1; DVD: 20 May 2007, The Great Hall, Moscow Conservatory. DDD
BEL AIR MUSIC BAM2041 [65:23]
Experience Classicsonline

Grant Foster was born in Melbourne and graduated from the Sydney Conservatorium in 1966. He studied in Paris for seven years and became an active composer in London, working on the Peter Pan musical with Sir Robert Helpmann and receiving a commission from Harrods for the Celebration Overture which is light-hearted yet voluptuously effusive. Straussian eruptions, superbly done, alternate with episodes of buoyant Nutcracker-like charm. Add to this moments of oompah waltz influenced by Khachaturian kitsch. Foster has a real gift for touchingly lyrical inventiveness which is not so far removed from the glories of a sumptuous John Barry melody or one of Anna Pavlova's finest inspirations.

The Rhapsody is more gritty. It strikes tempestuously upwards from chasmal depths in a style not far removed from mature Rachmaninov. It's in three sections but played continuously and not separately tracked: War, Peace, Love. There's a relishably stern bi-play between brass and piano in the first movement and much romantic poetry before the emotional outburst that rounds out this discursive but entertaining piece. Let's hope we get to hear the two piano concertos before long … not to mention The Owl of Dubai suite, the Fantasy for violin and orchestra, the Romance for cello and orchestra and the Fantasy for piano and orchestra. 

We move from romantic orchestral hothouses to chamber music. The Ballade is in three sections and once again the sentimental-romantic melodies abound among the atmospheric swell, surge and sway of Russian nights. Next come four ‘grand tour’ postcards for solo piano. The Four Voyages, by its title, perhaps suggests that it is better to travel than to arrive. That said, the titles presumably tell us the destination and certainly lend the atmosphere of each named city to the character of the music. Buenos Aires is a stately take on the tango. Moscow is touched in with dripping icicle clarity and archetypical Russian romance. Venice lilts in sleepy liquid barcarolle motion. Marrakesh plumbs darker depths, with moonlit and threatening alleys and more danger than any other piece in the collection. It casts an intimidating spell. These four movements are separately tracked. 

As a bonus the set includes a DVD of a filmed performance of the Rhapsody for piano and orchestra in the Great Hall, Moscow Conservatory which I did not on this occasion play. It was however generous of Bel Air to include it. 

The notes provide useful background but no hint of a date for any of these works. I presume 1980s and 1990s. 

Foster writes entertainingly and colourfully - an adept at a world of styles in which his pleasing creativity is at ease.

Rob Barnett



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