According to the liner-notes, David Jephcott "began composing
music as an antidote to the stresses of his commercial and academic
life in the 1990s. He is entirely self-taught as both pianist
and composer and uses modern music technology to produce beautiful
melodies." As is clear from the track-listing above, the
orchestral arrangements are delegated to others - "a hand-picked
team of skilled arrangers" - which gives the subtitle of
this release, 'The Music of David Jephcott', a slightly different
bias: it is Jephcott's music, but through collaboration.
Six of the nine works are between three and three-and-a-half
minutes in length, with a seventh only a minute longer. Together
these pieces constitute, in the nicest sense, a kind of musical
bric-a-brac, mellifluous miniatures all capably orchestrated,
albeit formulaically and mainly for strings, and some with more
flair than others. The three arrangements by Jim Clements are
the weakest; the worst of them, The Prairie Whistler, features
a solo for David Morris, who is an English professional whistler
and former International Grand Champion whistler! Morris has
published three CDs on his own label (David
Morris Music), the latest entitled 'Classical Whistling'.
He certainly is a fine whistler, but the piece tries hardest
to be film music and comes across as considerably more contrived
than the others.
It is the two programmatic longer works that stand out on this
CD, at least in part on account of their imaginative orchestration.
What the original scoring of any of these works was, incidentally,
is only rarely mentioned in the notes. Plain Sailing is a "seascape
[which] depicts the exhilaration and the perils of being on
the high seas", and includes allusions to well-known sea
shanties. Needless to say, the music imagines tall ships and
the sailing is anything but plain - it is not too long before
a storm is brewing and Jephcott's music for once turns dissonant,
if not exactly ferocious. It is not exactly the Voyages of Sinbad
- or even the Adagio of Spartacus and Phrygia! - but
the work has its atmospheric moments, and the ending is creative.
The four-movement Egyptian Suite "depicts the serendipitous
discovery of a Pharaoh's tomb by a small group of desert nomads."
The sections are entitled 'The discovery of the tomb', 'Greed',
'The spirits awaken', and lastly 'Retribution' - in which the
covetous nomads are entombed alive with their booty! All of
which might give the impression that this is a work of relentless
drama and turmoil, yet Jephcott cannot help but smile through
his music, giving a family-friendly, Disney-filtered version
of dark and bad.
The booklet, sporting a photo of Ludlow Castle on the cover,
gives a layman's description of each work and good biographical
notes all round - of Jephcott, Rundell, Morris and the arrangers.
The sound quality is fairly good, but it is worth pointing out
that this is not a Nimbus recording as such: despite the obvious
fact that Nimbus is clearly involved at a high level, Nimbus
Alliance is really a different label. To quote the company that
deals with its PR: "Nimbus Alliance is a new classical
record label created to offer international distribution to
recordings licensed to Nimbus Records but not originated by
the company. Nimbus Alliance will consider projects from new
artists trying to find a home for recordings they have made
privately" - which presumably is the case for this disc.
In sum, this is not really a CD to interest the collector of
art music as such, but, whilst hardly compelling, is certainly
worthy of consideration by anyone attracted to pretty, timeless
music that is lightweight, but not banal.
Collected reviews and contact at reviews.gramma.co.uk
And a review by Rob Barnett:-
David Jephcott has a gift for coming up with memorable melodies. Some would call it a knack which always seems half to demean this blessed faculty. Stafford-born he is an autodidact so far as music is concerned. The works featured here are the products of commissioned collaborations with sympathetic and like-minded arrangers so Mr Jephcott cannot be short of a penny or two. The existence of this pleasing recording is also no doubt facilitated by the composer’s bank account – as indeed are many such discs in the currently thronged market. His professional field is technology and we are told that he invented the bead drive. He now lives in Shropshire.
The Adagio is a smoothly soothing piece with none of the piercing intensity of the Barber equivalent; no harm in that. This is soul balm and for me suggests one of those lightly ecstatic moonlit caramel intermezzos in French grand opera. The Blue Nile is for full orchestra. It too is gentle and emerges from the same benign milieu as the Adagio - a touch of the Pavanes by Fauré and Ravel. The Ludlow Air is dedicated to the Shropshire town. Its language is tinged with that of the classic English pastoral, a mist of birdsong, green swooning and folksy Butterworth contours peppered with the occasional insurgency from Mozart and Canteloube. Glencoe starts with an explosion of life and moves rapidly to a lissom melody countered with a catchy half-dance and half planxty for harp.
Jephcott's wife, Ann, enjoys Egyptology and assisted David in the Egyptian Suite. This does not draw on the Arabian conventions of Western music. The language is not dissimilar to the other pieces here. It is in four movements with the Discovery of the Tomb marked by a climax soon softened away. Greed is reflected in growling and gritty music - a hint of early Sibelius in troll mood. The spirits awaken continues in sinister mood with capricious fantasy and grotesqueries at play in woodwind and percussion. Retribution is smooth like the freestanding piece The Blue Nile. It develops in chiming splendour with the music fading back into filmic relaxation. The Prairie Whistler is a rather melancholy piece with a touch of Claude Lelouch rather than the claimed Morricone resonance. The Refugees' Lament was written in response to the grievous plight of those dispossessed by the Balkans war. The cello is played by RLPO principal Jonathan Aasgaard. It's a gravely elegiac curvaceous melody though paced moderato rather than slow. The Phantom's Waltz is from a ballet score. The scenario a married couple riven by infidelity. The gods try a reconciliation in a forest glade. This waltz is part melancholy French film score from the 1950s and part Valse Triste.
Plain sailing is a 22 minute high seas fantasy. The language cuts through waters already voyaged by Sibelius in Pohjola's Daughter and by Moeran, Prokofiev and Copland. There’s some fantastically fibrous and capricious writing for piano with orchestra along the way. Dark clouds sweep in. The music’s progress feels instinctual and becomes dissonant before reverting to type. There’s extendedly lyrical and even nostalgic bejewelled writing over the last nine or so minutes. It's not all gentle marine reverie but there is quite a high quota of that mood.
Pleasing listening. Shame we don’t get any idea of when these works were written.