Although this “album” (the composer’s description) is produced on a classical label, it is far from clear exactly into what category the music itself should be fitted – not that that really matters. It describes itself as a Concerto
but the back of the gatefold sleeve also mentions “The Greater Sea Suite in A” in six movements for oud, piano, viola and percussion, which are neither presented as a unit on this CD nor in any particular order. This peculiarity is not further explained either on the sleeve or in the substantial booklet insert. Seven out of the sixteen tracks include orchestral parts, but the playing by the excellent Australian Chamber Orchestra is difficult to judge because for much of the time they are backwardly placed both in the recording perspective and in the music they are asked to play.
What effectively we have here, therefore, is an album designed to showcase the talents of Joseph Tawadros on the oud, a traditional Arab instrument like a cross between a guitar and a mandolin with an appearance like a highly decorated bivalve mollusc. Tawadros plays it excellently, but the traditional style of the instrument is hardly in evidence at all, despite his citation of the poetry of Kahlil Gibran as an influence. So this is cannot really be categorised as “world music” either, but more as a valiant attempt to marry Tawardos’s playing to a more generalised culture which one might identify as “Western” were Tawadros not based in Australia. The results are interesting, often rewarding, and generally pleasant. Whether they actually form a concerto is much more debatable. Perhaps it could all have been a bit less up-beat - one gets an occasional feeling of an up-tempo Latin American dance band - and a bit more reflective. The three longest tracks – entitled Sleepless mother, Upon the wind
– are the best things here, with a wistful melancholy that recalls Rodrigo in places.
Paul Corfield Godfrey