Mountain Songs – A cycle of American folk music
Robert BEASER (b.1954)
Mountain Songs (1984) [28:15]
Il est né, le divin enfant (1982) [3:29]
Edward MACDOWELL (1860-1908)
Woodland Sketches (1896) arranged by Eliot Fisk; Will o’the wisp [1:19]; To a Wild Rose [1:53]; A Deserted Farm [2:44]
The Smile of Contentment and Love, arranged by Eliot Fisk [1:39]
Stephen FOSTER (1826-1864)
Jennie’s Own Schottische, arranged by Eliot Fisk [1:39]
Beautiful Dreamer, arranged by Eliot Fisk [2:53]
If You Only Have A Moustache, arranged by Eliot Fisk [1:38]
Chick COREA (b.1941)
Children’s Song No.2, arranged by Eliot Fisk [1:53]
William SCHUMAN (1910-1992)
Orpheus and his Lute, arranged by Eliot Fisk [2:48]
Charles IVES (1874-1954)
Waltz, arranged by Eliot Fisk [1:31]
We Are Climbing Jacob’s ladder, arranged by Eliot Fisk [2:28]
Eliot Fisk (guitar)
Paula Robison (flute)
rec. 1986
NIMBUS NI 2560 [54:09]
It’s sobering to reflect that it’s nearly a quarter of a century ago that Eliot Fisk, and Paula Robison, collaborated on this album for MusicMasters. It appears in Nimbus livery now, bearing the original 54 minute timing of an LP, though that shouldn’t especially worry the admirers, in particular, of the fecund Fisk. Good performances don’t date, and it’s hardly feasible to add anything to an established programme such as this.
The centrepiece of the programme is taken by Robert Beaser’s Mountain Songs whose fondness for Appalachian songs is palpable. Many will recognise English, Irish and Scottish ballads transplanted into a Newfoundland land. Barbara Allen for instance is given a cautiously wistful patina, with discreet taps on the body of the guitar, whereas we have a vibrant and fast moving setting of House Carpenter. One of the most successful of these eight settings is He’s Gone Away. Here melancholic yearning is contrasted with faster, cocksure passages, neatly reflecting the ballad’s duality. Paula Robison plays a piccolo in The Cuckoo which sports rather more convoluted harmonies than its ballad mates – a dirgeful and unsettled, unsettling setting. Finally we have – as its title suggests – a really ebullient piece to close in the shape of Quicksilver.
There are other pleasing things to detain one as well. Fisk has arranged a series of works by American composers for guitar and flute. He chose three MacDowell piano settings. To A Wild Rose is the most obvious choice – and would a delightful concert closer – but Fisk has surrounded it with a jovial Will o’the wisp and the wistful character piece A Deserted Farm. Similarly he has constructed a Stephen Foster triptych in a way reminiscent of the MacDowell, with Beautiful Dreamer standing at the centre and a piccolo outing in If You Only Have A Moustache. It’s interesting that Fisk has gone for Chick Corea’s little song but it makes a pleasing entrant amongst the more august and established things. Schuman’s Orpheus and his Lute is languorous and expressive and the Ives pairing provides a fine contrast. We end though with Beaser and his restful setting of a French carol, Il est né, le divin enfant.
These delightful performances still continue to give pleasure. Don’t overlook them in the welter of Fisk’s more obviously virtuosic contributions elsewhere.

Jonathan Woolf

These delightful performances still continue to give pleasure ... see Full Review