Gary SCHOCKER (b. 1959)
Music for a Lost Planet (2009) [13:28]
Song Without Words (2013) [3:21]
Taran CARTER (b. 1980)
Owls Sfutel (2012) [17:21]
Jelle HOGENHUIS (b. 1954)
Andrew DOWNES (b. 1950)
Sonata, Op.99 (2008) [20:34]
Forest Over Sea (2013) [15:04]
Clumsy Dances, No.6 (2011)
A Clumsy Gigue [2:06]
Peter Sheridan (flutes)
Katherine Day (piano, Music for a Lost Planet and Taran Carter)
Jane Hammond (piano, Song Without Words and Sonata Op. 99)
Jessica Laird (alto flute, Elegia)
Lisa-Maree Amos (alto flute, Forest Over Sea)
Andrew Macleod (piccolo, A Clumsy Gigue)<
rec. Move Records Studio, February 2012-April 2014
MOVE RECORDS MD3375 [79:36]
Peter Sheridan has for some years now been a leading worldwide ambassador for low flutes, with previous recordings on the Move Records label including Below, and Monologues and Dialogues. Sheridan is also a tireless pursuer of new music, though given the unusual instruments with which he performs this is as much a necessity as a desire to seek out and collaborate with the vast resource of composer talent which is all too frequently ignored by more conventional soloists.
Sonorous Sonatas is a fascinating selection of recently composed works for flutes ranging from piccolo to subcontrabass. The range of instruments may by dizzying but the music is entirely approachable and indeed highly attractive. Gary Schocker's Music for a Lost Planet has four movements, the opening Above having a playfully French feel to it, the mellowness of the alto flute entirely suited to the lyrical nature of this and the following Below. More punchy and virtuoso, Burn reveals a side of the alto you don't hear often, the final Float returning to more gentle moods with some nicely understated syncopation.
Jane Hammond's Song without Words is a short piece arranged for contrabass flute, exploring the expressive nature of its upper range as well as using its human cello-like lower sounds. In this piece can hear where the lower the instrument, the less defined the projection. Peter Sheridan's sound mixes with the piano in the lower register but almost vanishes at times, showing that these instruments demand sensitive handling in conventional combinations. Taran Carter's Owl Sfutel introduces the bass flute, giving it some potent nocturnal atmospheres as well as pitting it against some energetically sustained but always transparently and sympathetically scored piano writing. This is one of the most substantial and successful pieces on this disc, not compromising in terms of inventiveness and equality in material for both instruments, but creating something new and naturally flowing for an uncommon combination.
Jelle Hogenhuis deserves credit as builder of the lowest flutes in Peter Sheridan's collection, and his Elegia gives the piano a break, blending bass and alto flutes in a "dark brooding poem-like piece" which expresses a sense of sorrow and regret, as well as anger and defiance. Andrew Downes's Sonata for contrabass flute and piano is the first such work for this combination. Downes gives the low flute plenty of breathing space, as well as moments where the two instruments complement each other and add colour and dynamism to their respective sounds. His idiom is effective if not one which makes huge demands on our emotions - the technical proficiency of the composition and beauty of these musicians' playing making up for a work which I have to admit not finding particularly memorable.
Carolyn Morris's Forest Over Sea brings alto and bass flutes together with the piano to create what is another unusual if not unique combination. This piece is "inspired by nature and in particular the Great Ocean Road in Victoria" where the composer "spent many summers, enjoying the crystal clear ocean overlooked by lush forest." This is music which wears its heart on its sleeve, and is illustrative of vast and beautiful views as well as birds at play and moods of the ocean both serene and undulating: nature through rose-tinted and sentimental lenses.
The programme is capped by perhaps the least likely but most fun combination of all - piccolo and subcontrabass flute. Houston Dunleavy's Clumsy Dances (Dance No. 6) - Clumsy Gigue is "a parody on a bi-polar relationship between the two outer extremes of the flute family." This is a fun piece but works remarkably well, the subcontrabass flute providing a deep but bouncy springboard over which the piccolo flies like something happy and feathered, and in the hands of Andrew Macleod, anything but clumsy.
Very well recorded and expertly performed, this is a very fine addition to Peter Sheridan's discography and a superb demonstration of the rich legacy of his generous and pro-active commissioning of a wide variety of composers. Long may his musical voyages continue.