Stephen GOSS (b. 1964)
Frozen Music (2005) [19:40]
Uneasy Dreams (2006) [7:43]
Dark Knights and Holy Fools (2006) [13:58]
Under Milk Wood Songs (1990) [10:50]
Sonata for Guitar (2006) [15:32]
Tom Ellis (guitar); Tetsumi Nagata (violin); Oscar Perks (viola); Jonathan Bloxham (cello); Delta Saxophone Quartet; Craig Ogden (guitar); Paul Tanner (percussion); Jenevora Williams (voice); Stephen Goss (guitar); Michael Partington (guitar)
rec. 23 June 2006, Menhuin Hall, Stoke D’Abernon
3 June 2007, 14 October 2007, Studio One, Performing Arts Technology Studios, University of Surrey
25 April 1993, Seldson Hall, Elstree, Herts
6 September 2007, Queen Anne Christian Church, Seattle, USA. DDD
CADENZA CACD0711 [67:43]

Stephen Goss has gained a reputation as one of Britain’s foremost living composers for guitar.

The title track of this disc, Frozen Music, referring to architecture, was commissioned for the Menuhin School to celebrate Lord Menuhin’s 90th birthday. The piece is in seven movements, each one representing a different building, and full of hidden and not-so-hidden cultural references - for example, to earlier composers, Le Corbusier, and scenes from films. There is an intelligence in the writing which holds the piece together, but the expressive lines and beautiful harmonies mean that the music can be taken in its own right, without a need to understand or even notice the deeper plot. This is a well-crafted work which has much to offer on a number of different levels. It is performed well here by Menuhin School pupils.

Uneasy Dreams for saxophone quartet and Dark Knights and Holy Fools for guitar and percussion are both based on the imagery from Terry Gilliam films. Goss creates atmospheres and moods in his writing which are evocative and imaginative. I particularly enjoyed The Fisher King, the third movement of the saxophone quartet, with its wonderfully eerie sound-world and beautifully balanced four-part texture. The Delta Saxophone Quartet play the music with sensitivity and deeply-felt expression. Dark Knights and Holy Fools makes use of the varied combination of percussion and guitar, providing a wide range of sounds and textures. The drumming in the opening movement is highly effective, while the more gentle sound of guitar and vibraphone in the second movement provides an interesting contrast. The later movements have different rhythmic pacings and changing textures, with the guitar sometimes used to accompany melodic percussion. This is a highly successful work which is performed with vigour and stylish conviction by Craig Ogden and Paul Tanner.

Under Milk Wood Songs are a set of five intoxicating songs, heard here in a beautiful performance by Jenevora Williams and the composer on guitar. Concentrating on the female characters in Dylan Thomas’s work, this piece again shows Goss’s range of cultural interests and the sense of imagination in his writing which brings these characters to life.

The disc ends with the Guitar Sonata, a fifteen minute work in three movements. Resonances of earlier composers abound once again, including Debussy, Scarlatti and Beethoven, who are used to provide both structural drive and melodic impetus. Despite this, however, the music is entirely Goss’s own, demonstrating his excellent understanding of the guitar and evocative compositional style.

This is a fine disc which shows the range and quality of Goss’s compositions. The playing is of a consistently high standard and the disc is well produced. Essential listening for anyone with an interest in the guitar.

Carla Rees