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Philip GATES (b.1963)
Sonata for Flute and Piano – Danzas del Sud (1993) [14:28]
Mood Music for Alto Saxophone and Piano [9:47]
Sonata for Clarinet and Piano (1995) [16:46] ¹
Airs and Graces for Flute and Piano [9:46]
Mood Music for Alto Saxophone and Piano [6:47]
Rio Bound for Clarinet and Piano [2:47] ²
Ian Clarke (flute)
Roy Willox (alto saxophone and clarinet ²)
Thomas Kelly (clarinet) ¹
Janet Way (flute)
Philip Gates (piano)
rec. January 1999 
Experience Classicsonline

My last encounter with the music of Philip Gates (see review) proved greatly enjoyable. I was particularly drawn to his A Garland for Gatsby, an imaginative piece for piano. Now we encounter some earlier pieces in this Shellwood disc of sonatas and duos for flute, alto saxophone, clarinet and piano.

The Flute Sonata is a work rich in dance patterns, rich and redolent. Its subtitle is Danzas del Sud but it seems also to take in Provençal languor as well as Parisian conservatoire rigour in its technical demands. Listen to the way the piano sets up a tango rhythm in the first movement enticing the hesitant, ruminating flute, music that soon modifies into refined reverie. The slow movement is shot through with lyrical tristesse and the finale veers between an initial introspection and a consequent terpsichorean verve. It’s the same spirit of yearning reverie that courses through Wonderland from Mood Music. The nostalgic hues are palpable. The March Hare of the second piece gives us some quirky rests amidst its balletic leaps and the concluding waltz is brimful of charm. That veteran great, Roy Willox – a name much misspelled – proves an ardent and eloquent champion.

The Clarinet sonata is another expressive three-movement work, dating from 1995. It has its more mordant moments but is again based on dance rhythms, and sports a melancholy slow movement. The finale has Latin American veins and there’s a spirited ‘false ending’ to keep auditors and one suspects players on their toes. Airs and Graces is another work for flute and piano. There are six movements. Poppyland is lissom, Naiad is very strongly stamped ‘Paris c.1925’ and there’s some evocative Scottish brogue in At Loch Leven. These are rich little character studies, deserving of exploration. Mood Music is bipartite – the opening solo soliloquy from Willox’s alto saxophone embraces reflective still and then increasingly warm songfulness. The second part, Soft-Shoe gives us some snappy 20’s rhythm. There are shanty hints in the final number, Rio Bound, and with its nautical associations that’s only right.

Philip Gates is the pianist on all theses tracks and his colleagues Ian Clarke, Thomas Kelly, Janet Way and the aforementioned Roy Willox prove staunch advocates of his winning, life affirming, and excellently recorded music.

Jonathan Woolf


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