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Tailwind - The Best of British
Cecilia McDOWALL (b.1951)
Century Dances (2005) [11:42]
Timothy SALTER (b.1942)
(2014) [12:39]
Andrew WILSON (b.1960)
Suite of Sweets
Op. 115 (2007) [14:22]
Marc YEATS (b.1962)
Dark Gravity
(2014) [16:12]
Gelächter Trio (Emma McGovern (oboe); Sarah Smith (clarinet); Lois Au (bassoon))
Caleb Herron (percussion: Yeats)
rec. August 2015, St Silas The Martyr, London.
OBOE CLASSICS CC2032 [55:00]

This is an elegant and elegantly presented anthology of wind music by living British composers. I knew the names of two of them. Cecilia McDowall has had quite a few CDs on Dutton and Timothy Salter I know of through his Usk label discs. McDowall's overture-scale work is in five variegated movements: Allemande - Menuet (Ghost Dance) - Mazurka - Tango - Last Dance. The music has an open air feel even if the three players are - as with everything else here - recorded right up-close so that even the quieter sections have a pressing presence. The first three movements adopt a relaxed Mozartean aspect although things tighten, darken and warm up in the Tango. A louche jazziness grips the Last Dance.

The Trio asked Timothy Salter to write a piece "with an extra challenge". For a start this piece — in six movements: Mobile - Tightrope - Confluence - Aria - Ceremonial - Chase — is more staccato than the McDowall, although the aria has more legato. It also has a modernist sound; try Confluence with its active handheld percussion played by members of the trio. The oboe lines had me thinking of Gordon Crosse's Ariadne.

Andrew Wilson's way with the wind trio - at least on this occasion - is closer to McDowall than to Salter; closer to Arnold than to, say, Fricker whose dryish Wind Quintet I heard recently. There's much lilting charm and pastel emotion in these irresistible sweets: Lemon Parfait - Caramelita - Hazelnut Clusters - Ciandujotti - Fudge Fugue. Now there's a concept that would have appealed to Carey Blyton.

The Marc Yeats piece is in a single uninterrupted 16-minute span. The writing is all edgy awkward corners, a tendency to halting progress, little silences, dramatic fluttering changes and rasping, burping, squealing dissonance. The at times hyper-active percussion intensify the effect. It just goes to show that the breadth of today's composerly styles and compositions is catholic … and with a vengeance.

There are a few brief background paragraphs with the digipack housing but much more can be found on the Oboe Classics website. The Gelächter Trio are a confidently talented group of musicians who on this occasion have received financial support for this project from the RVW Trust and the Fenton Arts Trust. This disc will be welcomed by those with broad tastes and the entirely honourable urge to explore. The Gelächter, Mr Herron and Oboe Classics prove brilliant allies of these composers and compositions.

Rob Barnett



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