Graham LYNCH (b.1957)
Undiscovered Islands

White Book 1 - piano (Vanishing Pathways; Hamamet; Night Garden; Wave Break; The Emperor’s Field; Midsummer Reds; The Delight of Arrival) (2002) [19.03]
Mediterranean - flute and piano [9.00] (2008)
Petenera – piano (Bell; Dance; The Six Strings; De Profundis) (2005) [9.57] (2005
Moon Cycle - solo flute (2002-6) [4.31]
White Book 2 – piano (Undiscovered Islands; Night Journey to Cordoba; Dragon
Inner Moon; The Sadness of the King; Toques) (2008) [19.51]
Three Tangos – flute and piano (The Stolen Branch; Milonga Azure; Pájaros del Mar) (2003-6) [14.42]
Mark Tanner (piano); Gillian Poznansky (flute).
rec. 6-7 October 2008, St George’s, Brandon Hill, Bristol. DDD
Audio examples from the recording are available to listen to on the composer’s website.
PRIORY PRCD 1024 [78:33]


This is a well presented CD with some appealing art work. Graham Lynch is a British composer with a rock and jazz background, and a Ph.D. in composition from Kings College London. His music has been performed by a number of leading ensembles, and his work in the tango genre has been widely accepted at an international level. This disc includes works for flute and piano, composed since 2001.

White Books I and II are sets of short pieces for piano, composed in 2001 and 2007/8 with seven and six movements respectively. Book I has a sense of distillation in the style; melodies emerge from the harmony only to be absorbed once again, and each piece has its own, almost impressionistic, texture and mood. Book II has evocative individual titles, which give a sense of imaginary places and contrasts of atmosphere. The music is more dramatic than the earlier book, with a stronger sense of rhythm and greater sense of flow, while the structures become less reserved and less crystalline than in the earlier pieces. A strong sense of emotion pervades each movement, which takes on its own individual personality in response to the descriptive nature of its title.

Mediterranean is a work for flute and piano - originally saxophone and marimba - which is gently influenced by the musical styles of the region. As with Lynch’s piano pieces, his music has the sense that it is accompanied by an imaginary image, or set of images, with the music describing both the scene, and perhaps most importantly, its mood and emotion. The music is unindulgent with clean, simple lines, and although the piece has a sense of calm and repose, as if wandering around in a warm climate, there is a clear sense of direction.

Petenera is a four movement piano work which takes its title from flamenco, and also makes reference to poems by Lorca. As one would expect with these two influences, there are strong guitar-like references in the piano writing, and Lynch captures the dark mood of Lorca’s writing well. Moon Cycle is a short work for solo flute, based on the phases of the moon. The modal musical language and well conceived rhythmic writing give a sense of space to the music.

The disc ends with three tangos, orchestrated here for flute and piano, although they have been performed in versions for various different instrumental combinations. The Stolen Branch is a simple tonal work which was originally planned as a setting of a love poem by Neruda. Milonga Azure is a gently flowing café-style tango which brings to mind the music of Piazzolla, and is delicately performed here. The final tango, Parájos del Mar (Sea birds) is a slightly faster work with stronger rhythms and a free central section. These three works are well conceived and successful in their execution, demonstrating an excellent understanding of the tango style and providing an interesting contrast with Lynch’s other works.

This is an enjoyable disc which shows Lynch to have an interesting and enticing compositional voice. The playing is consistently good from Tanner and Poznansky; these performers play with a sense of understanding of the music, providing an emotional context and atmospheric mood with a good sense of communication with the listener.

Carla Rees

And a further perspective from Rob Barnett:-

Londoner Graham Lynch, after a spell in a remote part of the West Highlands, now lives in Penzance in Cornwall. His teens were divided between classical music studies and playing keyboards in rock bands. His teachers include David Lumsdaine and Silvina Milstein with private composition lessons from Oliver Knussen. For the avoidance of doubt Lynch is not a minimalist – at least not in the Glass, Reich or Adams senses

Lynch’s website bio tells us that he went from a generally modernist approach to more modal/melodic language inflected by voices outside the classical mainstream. His Invisible Cities was premiered in 1999 by the Orchestra of Opera North, and then taken up and recorded and broadcast by the BBC Symphony Orchestra. The BBC National Orchestra of Wales took up his Stars in a High Wind (1999). There was a sequel to Invisible Cities in the form of Red and White Domes written for the Sinfonia of Leeds in 2004. The tango also took a hold on his imagination bringing a continuing stream of tango-related works which have been widely taken up. He has also arranged Piazzolla’s Four Seasons for the Belcea String Quartet, with bandoneon, and double bass. There’s also a violin sonata among much else.

Turning to the present disc we encounter in the White Books a ‘soft music’ that is melodic, modal and suggestive of the Orient. The composer tells us that the scheme of the Books was inspired by the format of Couperin’s Ordres. Very far from banal it is nuanced and shot through with the tango and the voices around the Mediterranean bowl. Then again we meet in Vanishing Pathways a Butterworth-Housman poignancy. The Graingerian Hamamet has a bell-loud oriental complexity. Night Garden evokes a halting moonlit stroll as if walk constantly interrupted by thoughts bearing inwards. Wave Break has a grandeur woven into the granite and steel with sparks and clashes. The Emperor’s Field is subtle and suggestive. In this music there is often the sense of blue moonlight but with the brightness of day. In the Second Book, Undiscovered Islands and the final Toques we encounter momentary flurries of rhetoric and eddies of sound - essentially tuneful. It reminded me at times of the piano music of Estonian Urmis Sisask in his sidereal glimmering writing with just a shading of dissonance. The Sadness of the King is more melodic but slow of pulse. The flute in Mediterranean is fruitily played and recorded – apt in a work of flighty warmly-bathed fantasy. Petenera was inspired by the poems of Federico Garcia Lorca. It is like the best of William Baines in its Gallic-style impressionism. Mooncycle has the trajectory of a feather. It is in five short pause-separated sections. In Three Tangos, Stolen Branch has a gracious piano pulse. It is haunting writing and on the hazy moonlit edge of direct statement with an Hispanic flavour emerging from time to time. Milonga Azure sports a slow pulsed piano ostinato – like a lulling song into sleep. Pajatrios del Mar has a dignified rigid strut yet with a quiet impudence. It’s superbly done by Poznansky.

Mark Tanner has also recorded for Priory a very fine yet overlooked 2CD set of music by York Bowen.

Delicate, subtle and mesmerisingly impressionistic music.

Rob Barnett

see also review by John France

Composer’s Notes and RB’s rough notes on private recordings of Graham Lynch’s orchestral and chamber music.

Invisible Cities
This work is about ten years old, but is a piece I'm quite fond of. It probably requires careful listening, as there is a lot of delicate orchestral scoring. It was last played as the modern test piece in the Leeds Conductors Competition: interesting to hear it rehearsed by six different conductors! What was nice was that I received a very positive reaction from the audience, and it wasn't an audience that would normally listen to contemporary music.
RB: 14 mins duration – Scriabin-like ceremonial, mysteries, dissonance and bells. Something of Valentin Silvestrov’s smoking dreaminess and volatility. Has the sense of instinctive progress - discursive and rhapsodic. Powerful impressionism.

Red and White Domes
This was written for the Sinfonia of Leeds, an amateur orchestra. For this reason the musical language is more direct than some of my other works. It's not a great recording, but will give you some idea of the piece.
RB: 20 mins. Atmosphere of awed tension (9.30) then ablaze with rhythmic vitality (12.03).

Stars in a High Wind
Written around the same time as Invisible Cities. Performed by BBCNOW and Brad Cohen. The BBC only sent me a cassette tape, with a little moment of distortion on it, hence the bad hiss!
RB: 11 mins. A breathy and magical slow-writhing movement.

Milonga Azure
A tango that I've had to re-arrange over twenty times. I can't locate the BBC Concert Orchestra version at the moment but I've sent what I consider to be the best performance, by a tango quintet.
RB: 3 mins – A tango volcano – mesmerising, hypnotic dripping – some parallels with the sway of the Stars In A High Wind but here extremely accessible.

Violin Sonata
This two movement piece is due for a bit of revision, especially the second movement. The piece has quite a strong tango Spanish influence.
RB: 8 mins first movement only. Winding, haunted, Grand Guignol, magical and hypnotic in effect. Fascinating and delicately pointed rhythmic play.

In Arcadia
A recent set of five short pieces for clarinet and piano. These are entirely tonal, but not really tango-influenced, so a bit of a departure for me.
RB: 12 mins. Ian Peak (cl) and Jo Barlow (pf) – very much the English singer in style: Howells/Finzi but with an admixture of that mesmerising quality apparent in many of his other works.

The Hanging-Cloud Bridge
A harp piece from a few years ago: a short miniature based on a woodblock print by Hokusai: The Hanging-Cloud Bridge
RB: 4 mins. A sense of Et in arcadia ego – all leaf-flutter and sybaritic pearly deliquescence. All totally consonant with the harp's accustomed character - we come back to his orchestral statements of faith from the late-1990s above. Piece played here by Marshall McGuire.