Susan Milan is an influential exponent of the modern flute; a long-standing professor at the Royal College of Music, a former chairman of the British Flute Society and a soloist with an international reputation. Her playing has a unique voice within the flute world. This disc features twentieth century British music for the flute, much of which was composed especially for Milan. It receives premiere recordings here. Milan’s playing is expertly accompanied by pianist Andrew Ball, himself one of the country’s leading contemporary music pianists, who has given numerous premieres and is known for his innovative programming and excellent communication of new repertoire to worldwide audiences.
Richard Rodney Bennett’s concert music possesses evidence of his jazz style and of his diversity as a composer; his output has included cabaret songs, operas and TV music, as well as several excellent works for the flute. Winter Music is in three movements, with a particularly expressive final slow movement. Summer Music is perhaps the better known of Bennett’s flute output, with lyrical melodic lines which develop through the work and combine in the final energetic movement.
Robert Saxton’s Krystallen is a single movement piece written in 1973 and premiered by Susan Milan with the late Clifford Benson. Saxton’s music explores textural uses of the instruments, with the flute often in its low register but never dominated by the piano. Flutter-tonguing also features heavily in this work, which is atmospheric, with melodic lines gently unfolding throughout.
The Moon Dances by Cecilia McDowell is more tonal in style, with strong dance-style rhythms and a dialogue between the instruments. The first movement is energetic and boisterous, while the evocative slow movement uses extended techniques such as pitch bends and tongue-rams to create a sense of magical stillness. The final movement is the most dissonant, with rapid gestures and sparkling coruscations between the instruments.
Arthur Butterworth’s Aubade is a charming recital work which owes its musical identity to a combination of English and French flute styles. Butterworth’s melodic lines are simple and elegant, heard against an intense and somewhat brooding piano part.
The title track of the disc, Out of Cool¸ was composed by flute player and composer Dave Heath, and is a popular work in the flute’s repertoire. Influenced by Coltrane, the work is a single movement which increases gradually in tempo towards the frenetic central section. The performer is given freedom in terms of interpretation, with the intention of creating a quasi-improvisational feel. Milan and Ball give a convincing performance which creates a sense of drama and building intensity.
The final work of the disc, Brian Lock’s Flute Sonata was composed most recently, in 2004, and premiered by Susan Milan. A challenging piece, the music shows the influence of Lock’s teachers, Lutoslawski and Alexander Goehr, more than one would perhaps expect from a composer who is better known for his media works. Biting harmonic language is fused with considerable demands to create a fascinating instrumental show-piece. It’s performed here with considerable panache.
This is an excellent collection of new British repertoire, which gives the works well-deserved exposure. Milan plays with a strong tone and a sense of conviction, as well as impressive technical control. Andrew Ball’s piano playing is excellent throughout, providing an equal duo rather than a background accompaniment, together giving a stylish account of the repertoire.