Michael J. EVANS

Variations on Johnny Has Gone for a Soldier [4:08]; Sonata in D flat [3:51]; Sonata in C [4:17]; Trio No 2 (2008) [19:40]; Variations on an Original Theme [9:53]; Flying Away [2:21]; Sunshower [2:17]; Merci Sophie [0:57]; Sonata in E flat [6:03]
Lisa Hennessy (flute); Emmanuel Feldman (cello); Karolina Rojahn (piano)
rec. 23 September 2008 [1, 4-7, 10]; 13 January 2009 [2, 3, 9, 11,12]; 3 March 2009 [8] Futura Productions in Roslindale, MA. DDD
NAVONA NV5813 [53:53]

This disc features a range of recent works by the American composer, Michael J Evans.

The opening work, Variations on Johnny has gone for a soldier is for cello and piano, and is based around the popular folk song of the title. The tonality of the writing has a nostalgic feel, which suits the usage of the theme. Sonata in D flat is for piano and has a Nyman-esque opening, before the impressionistic melodic material takes over. The Sonata in C is similar in style: simple, tonal, and melodic, although this sonata has more drama than the previous one.

The Trio No 2 was composed in 2008 and is scored for flute, cello and piano. The four movements are short and have a meditative feel, with the melodic material shared between flute and cello and the piano providing a flowing accompaniment line in the first movement. This is music that would not be out of place in a spa or retreat of some kind. It provides a nice sense of relaxation and does nothing to offend or challenge. There is a hint of a jazz influence in some of the writing, and the melodies are easily memorable. The second movement opens with husky low register piccolo, played expressively by Lisa Hennessy. This is a rhapsodic movement with flowing melodies, and the playing from cellist Emmanuel Feldman and piano player Karolina Rojahn match the standards set by the flute at the opening. The third movement features more rhythmic patterns and unison lines, while the final movement is almost dance-like in its flowing lines and undulating accompaniment.

My own personal taste is for new music which has more bite and a greater sense of emotional impact than this, and by track 8 (Variations on an Original Theme) the saccharine language of Evansí music had become a bit too much. There is nothing inherently wrong with this music; it is played well and is structurally sound, but there is also little to distinguish one track from the next. The Variations on an Original Theme is texturally very similar to the Trio, with a melody line accompanied by flowing quavers. The consonant language is undoubtedly easily accessible, but for me, it has little substance.

Three short tracks follow; Flying Away evokes butterflies, Sunshower describes the effect when you experience sun and rain at the same time, and Merci Sophie is a short tribute to a friend in Paris. The final track is the Sonata in E flat, the longest of the three one-movement sonatas.

Carla Rees