Flights of Fancy
Henri DUPARC (1848-1933) Three songs for cor anglais and piano arr. by Philip Gates (Extase; Testament; Soupir) (1870-1890) [11:13]
Philip GATES (b. 1963) Sonata for Oboe and Piano (Poco impetuoso - Inquieto; Canzonetta; Misterioso - Grazioso) (2009) [14:54]
Charles KŒCHLIN (1867-1950) Au Loin op. 20 for cor anglais and piano; Monodie op. 216 No.11 for cor anglais; Le Repos de Tityre op. 216 No.12 for oboe d'amore [11:34]
Francis POULENC (1899-1963) Sonata for Oboe and Piano (Élegie; Scherzo; Déploration) (1962); Mélancolie for piano (1940) [15:22 + 6:04]
Erik SATIE (1866-1925) Avant-dernières Pensées for piano (Idyll; Aubade; Méditation); Prélude de la Porte héroïque du ciel for piano (1894) [3:39 + 4:42]
Andrew Knights (oboe, cor anglais, oboe d'amore); Philip Gates (piano)
rec. 12 April 2011, St John’s Church, New Alresford.
MELODIST CD5683 [67:31]

Londoner, Philip Gates read music at the Queen's College, Oxford. He also studied privately with Phyllis Sellick. Freelance musician, teacher, conductor, pianist and composer, his musical allegiance lies with tonality and tunes. That’s pleasingly evident from his compositions. These can be heard on a handful of CDs: a String Quartet played by the Eberle on Naim, a selection of wind sonatas on Shellwood and his Piano Quintet and Gatsby Garland on Melodist (review review).

Gates’ skilled arrangements of three Duparc songs are spot-on. They bring out the dreamy flow of Extase and Soupir and unshackle the line from the limitations of breath control inevitably experienced by singers. The vibrant and tremulous Testament contrasts well with the haze and laze of the other two songs. I could not wait to hear Gates’ three movement Oboe Sonata. It traverses a warm landscape in which Satie, Ibert and Poulenc would have been at home. Another work which might be a blood brother to the Sonata is Françaix’s L’Horloge de Flore. It’s a most winning piece – deliciously over and done with in about fifteen distinctive and very personal minutes. Koechlin’s Au Loin (1879), Le Repos de Tityre and Monodie speak quietly of mist-shrouded hills – Baxian-Celtic in their conjuring of comforting stillness. The expertly paced and placed Satie introspections nicely complement the other music – nothing is out of place. The enchanting Poulenc Oboe Sonata and Mélancolie with a contrasting skipping central Scherzo is of a piece with the other works in this atmospherically consistent and reflectively assembled anthology.

This welcome collection is warmly and closely recorded and well documented by a composer whose natural affinity, to our benefit, rests with the singing French instrumental tradition.

Rob Barnett

A warm landscape … comforting stillness. An atmospherically consistent and reflectively assembled anthology.