Grant FOSTER (b.1945)
Suite, The Pearl of Dubai (The Winter Palace: 1916-1918 [16:49] Romance: Nicholas and Alexandra [11:04] Dubai [3:45]; Fantasy: Anastasia [24:46])
The Ballad of Reading Gaol [10:32]
Fantasy: Anastasia [26:13]
The Ballad of Reading Gaol [11:01]
Mira Yevtich (piano) (Fantasy & Ballad - CD & DVD)
Novaya Russia Symphony Orchestra (Winter Palace and Fantasy - CD); Hermitage Symphony Orchestra (Romance); Belorussia Symphony Orchestra (Dubai); Belorusian Philharmonic Orchestra (Fantasy - DVD); Sergey Roldugin (cello) (Romance); Zaurbeck Gugkaev (conductor) (Suite - CD, Fantasy - DVD); Andrew Goodwin (tenor) (Ballad - CD & DVD)
rec. Winter Palace: 28 August 2011, Moscow; Romance: 10 July 2011, St Petersburg; Dubai: 19 July 2011, Minsk; Fantasy (CD):, 12 January 2012, Moscow; DVD: live, no details given No text included but available on internet
QUARTZ QTZ 2091 [67:22 + 37:14]
Quartz provide lengthy biographies of the soloists and conductor represented on these discs but only a photograph of the composer and a direction to his website. The latter reveals that he was born in Sydney, Australia, and studied there and in Paris. His compositions include piano concertos, symphonies, piano and chamber music and songs but this disc is the first of his music that I have heard although a previous CD of his music has been mentioned on this site (review review).
The CD contains the whole of The Pearl of Dubai Suite, based on a legend that Anastasia, the youngest daughter of the last Tsar, went to Dubai in disguise in 1916 to collect pearls, leaving a look-alike in her place. After the revolution the latter was executed, and Anastasia stayed in Dubai, marrying a young Bedouin and having descendants who are still alive there today. I have no idea of the historical basis if any for this, but the Suite is divided into four movements depicting in turn events at the Winter Palace, the simple life for which the Tsar and Tsarina craved, the exoticism of Dubai and Anastasia’s adventures in Dubai.
The music is tonal, derivative and very enjoyable, for much of the time reminding me of film music from the 1940s or later, in particular the many “piano concertos” included in those films. It is hard to find much in the way of individuality, formal interest or real drama but there is an eloquence and evident sincerity in the gestures which for the most part endears it to the listener.
The Ballad of Reading Gaol is a setting of the first seven verses of Oscar Wilde’s poem. Again it is not strongly individual, and like the Suite is perhaps overlong for its content, but it too is patently sincere and enjoyable.
The CD contains complete versions of both works, with the Suite performed by three different Russian orchestras. The DVD contains different versions of the Ballad and just the Fantasy from the Suite. Mira Yevtich is the hard worked pianist on both discs, and Andrew Goodwin sings the Ballad admirably on both. Neither the sound of either disc nor the production of the DVD will win prizes but both are adequate to introduce the composer and the works. I remain unsure as to where to place them. There is an eloquence and easy lyrical line that is endearing even when the music is at its most derivative. This is certainly not music that breaks any boundaries but it does show that it is possible to work within those boundaries to produce results that are worth hearing.
Little in the way of individuality, formal interest or real drama but there is an eloquence and sincerity that endears the music to the listener.