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JOHN AND PETER's WHISTLING BOOK John Turner - recorder, Peter Lawson - piano.   FORSYTH CD FCD001/2 2 CDs [56.34]+[48.29]


FORSYTH CD FCD001/2 £19.99

available From Forsyth Brothers Limited, 126 Deansgate, Manchester M3 2GR UK
+44(0)161 834 3281    +44(0)161 834 0630    e-mail:

Over a number of years Forsyths of Manchester have published a considerable amount of new music for recorder, much of it composed for and first performed by John Turner. Together with pianist Peter Lawson, John has recently recorded a programme of music from the Forsyth catalogue issued on this 2 CD set. Most of the pieces date from between 1968 and 1998 but the inclusion of works by Alan Rawsthorne and Walter Leigh extend the period of composition to almost sixty years.

Some of the music has become quite well-known already, and popular works such as Geoffrey Poole's Skally Skarekrow's Whistling Book, Alan Bullard's Recipes and John Golland's New World Dances represent the lighter side of the repertoire, though all have their more serious moments. John Golland is also represented by his four movement Divertissement in which the expressive Air is the emotional centre.

It is very welcome to have a recording of Alan Rawsthorne's Suite (1939) and of Walter Leigh's brief but haunting Air composed just three years later. Among the shorter pieces in the programme, Douglas Steele's Song inhabits a similar musical world to Leigh's Air. Nicholas Marshall's Caprice and Arnold Cooke's Capriccio are, as their titles suggest, more lively, but there is considerable contrast between their musical languages.

Anthony Gilbert's Farings are a collection of eight short pieces which, although composed over a period of thirteen years, have a unity of purpose - all but one were composed to celebrate birthdays - and also a musical unity created by Gilbert's very individual approach to the recorder.

Published only recently, Michael Ball's Prospero's Music is a substantial and impressive work inspired by Shakespeare's "The Tempest", in which the composer has captured the magical atmosphere of the play in very original music that makes considerable demands on both players.

A Book of Song and Dance by Robin Walker contains some disarmingly simple yet evocative settings of such well known tunes as Shenandoah and Tired Boy and a number of solo pieces both for recorder and piano that are fully in the spirit of folk music. The collection was first performed in York Minster, and requires a large acoustic for best effect. This has been achieved synthetically but very convincingly in this recording.

If many of the pieces recorded here were dedicated to John Turner, the Four Diversions find him as composer of these four popular miniatures for descant recorder and piano, dedicated to David and Gill Munrow.

John Turner's continued encouragement of composers to write works for the recorder resulted in two new pieces being specially composed for this recording. David Ellis's jazz inspired Shadows in Blue, which makes use of sopranino, bass and tenor recorders with piano, and Kevin Malone's Saturday Soundtrack, a wacky journey through the sound-world that accompanies the likes of Tom and Jerry! Probably even more effective, because of its potential visual impact, in live performance, cartoon mouse ears are nevertheless not obligatory!

As the dedicatee and first performer of much of the music on these discs, John Turner brings considerable authority to the performances. In Peter Lawson, John is joined by a musical colleague of many years, whose understanding of the special role of the pianist in this repertoire is most evident.

A programme that more clearly demonstrates what contrasts of musical style and texture are achievable in contemporary music for recorder and piano would be difficult to compile.

There is no doubt that however enjoyable these discs are to listen to, they will not only bring a considerable and important collection of twentieth century recorder music to a wider audience, but hopefully encourage more players to explore this repertoire for themselves. It has always been John Turner's intention that the lives of such works extend beyond his own first and subsequent performances of them and indeed many are finding their way into the repertoire. This is thus a significant and worthwhile recording on any number of counts.


Andrew C D Mayes

John Turner has staged a one-man revival of the recorder, commissioning, recording, encouraging and enthusing wherever he goes. This collection is one of his most significant contributions.

A collection of two CDs of music for recorder and piano or solo recorder (in fact largely for the two instruments) may suggest an endurance test. In practice such is the variety of expression on these discs and the brevity of the individual movements ones endurance is hardly ever tested. The market for this set will be further enhanced by the AEB (so I understand) having selected some of the pieces as set works for the exams.

GEOFFREY POOLE Skally Skarekrow's Whistling Book ([7.28] 1 Clouds (with silver linings) 2 Spring Breezes 3 Sunshine 4 Hailstones)

A masterfully varied suite from the one-time choral conductor. They run the gamut from tumbling clatter hurling notes around the hall, to rumba, to brightly-lit Shostakovich but began with Clouds: second cousin to Rubbra's affecting Plusieurs Regrets.

MICHAEL BALL Prospero's Music [9.49]. From a Scottish skirl and snap to sections reminiscent of Shostakovich and De Falla (nice blend!) to the barbed dissonance of the central section it is evident that Ball's is a fine imagination.

ALAN BULLARD Recipes ([9.45] 1 Coffee and Croissants 2 Barbecue Blues (when the fire goes out) 3 Prawn Paella 4 Special Chop-Suey 5. Fish and Chips)

These are high quality musical postcards: Continental serenade, hurdy-gurdy sentimentality, purring and bubbling jazziness, a Carmen fantasy, Chinoiserie with a dash of the puys of the Auvergne and a final knotted hanky knees-up.

ALAN RAWSTHORNE Suite ([6.01] 1 Sarabande 2 Fantasia 3 Air 4 Jig)

These pieces are all very brief with a Lambertian elegy, an insistently cool sea-chanty, a Bach-like air and a jig that seems to conjure up the phantasmal dance of a one-legged man (remember Delius's Beggars' Dance from Hassan?)

NICHOLAS MARSHALL's Caprice (1.39) reveals a lyric voice yielding Waltonian/Finzi gentleness while DOUGLAS STEELE's Song (3.22) gains height from sorrow to joy; comforting and strong music.

ROBIN WALKER A Book of Song and Dance ([17.57] 1 Song 1 2 My Luv 3 Idyll 4 Song 2 5 Rite 6 Dance I 7 Canon 8 Shenandoah 9 Dance2 10 Clark Sanders 11 Tired Boy)

Loneliness and solitude stalk these pages from echoey Gaelic and traditional songs of the capercaillie ilk, to highland snows, steely piano sparks, brusque and bruising, breathy solitude, lullabies and at least one rather fine contribution to the musical literature of Chinese evocations.

WALTER LEIGH's Air (his last composition) is artfully artless in its winsome simplicity.

ARNOLD COOKE's Capriccio is of slightly greater complexity though still lyrical but with a sprinkling Rawsthornian pepper and recollections of the Nielsen flute concerto.

ANTHONY GILBERT Farings (1 Mr. Pitfield's Pibroch 2 Eighty for William Alwyn 3 Arbor Avium Canentium 4 BatterFeet 5 Slow Down After Fifty 6 Miss Carroll her Lullabye 7 MidWales Lightwhistle Automatic 8 Chant-au-Clair). This is much harder work with stop-start, strangulation occasional, Shostakovich-like intensity, flitters and shards of music, sparks and shrapnel. A much more approachable accent is adopted for the infectious dance rhythms of the final chant-au-clair; clarity indeed and at last!

JOHN TURNER Four Diversions (1 Intrada 2 Waltz 3 Aubade 4 Hornpipe). John Turner's reserved positive lyricism in the Intrada is in touch with the English pastoral school. The waltz is like a fairground roundabout. Turner's tunes are good and flightily lofted. The summer mornings of the hornpipe are a dancing step closer to Grainger and Malcolm Arnold

DAVID ELLIS's Shadows in Blue holds up broken Schoenbergian mirrors to reflect the greeny-blue depths of the sea.

JOHN GOLLAND's Divertissement (1 Entrée 2 Gavotte 3 Air 4 Gigue)

has a cheeky entree, a halting gavotte seeming to mimic a pensioned-off music box, an air that has the romance cold upland waters and a jolly gigue.

JOHN GOLLAND New World Dances 1 Ragtime 2 Blues 3 Bossa Nova. These jump through hoops you would expect given the titles. The vaulting is done engagingly. The virulent tunefulness of ragtime is memorable. The finale Bossa Nova struts out of West Side Story.

KEVIN MALONE's Saturday Soundtrack is one of the least attractive works here. Its kaleidoscopic melodrama, hits, blows, growls and monkey whoops, splashes of dies irae and samplings from here and there do not impress.

Nice slim case and good notes including a list of the subscribers.


Rob Barnett


Andrew C D Mayes

Rob Barnett

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