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David Patterson: Loon's Tail Flashing

Patterson / Charles Peltz
Release Date: 05/14/2013 
Label:  Albany Records   Catalog #: 1417   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  David Patterson
Performer:  Jessi RosinskiChaerin KimJames PelleriteDeborah Rentz-Moore,   ... 
Conductor:  Charles PeltzA. Herm Baumgartner
Orchestra/Ensemble:  New England Conservatory Wind EnsembleAustrian Society For Contemporary Music Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Back Order: Usually ships in 2 to 3 weeks.  

Notes and Editorial Reviews

PATTERSON In Memoriam Messiaen. 1 Spin ( taken in uncle purple’s little car ) 2,3. Chiquis. 4,5 Ojibawa Oh. 4,5 Beaver Moon. 4,6 Thrushes in Parc Eric Satie, Arcueil. 7 Thrushes Near Hoagland’s Home, Read more Bloomington. 7 Wednesday Obbligato. 2,8 Two Hymn Settings 9 1 Charles Peltz, cond; 1 New England Conservatory Wind Ens; 2 Jessi Rosinski (fl); 3 Chaerin Kim (hp); 4 James Pellerite (Native American fl); 5 Susan Consoli (sop); 5 Deborah Rentz-Moore (alt); 5 Daniel Hershey (ten); 5 Donald Wilkinson (bs); 6 John LaFoyette (perc); 7 A. Heim Baumgartner, cond; 7 Austrian Society for Contemporary Music O; 8 Pamela Ambrose (vc); 8 Timothy McFarland (pn); 9 David Patterson (org) ALBANY 1417 (56:53)

This collection of widely divergent and eclectic pieces by composer David Patterson, issued under the album title Loon’s Tail Flashing, embraces a style described in the booklet as “simple but not simple.” Such an aesthetic philosophy may seem immediately at odds with the title of the first piece, In Memoriam Messiaen. Surely any music dedicated to the French master of modernist harmonies and obtuse melodic structures would, by its very nature, not be “simple”? As it turns out, this piece, at any rate, is not simple at all, certainly not harmonically. Patterson uses a slow-moving melody (if such it may be called), distantly related (to my ears, anyway) to Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man but much “spacier” in its intervallic movement and certainly in its chromatically shifting harmonies. Slow-moving, low brass chords are interspersed with tinkling passages on piano. It’s a fascinating piece.

Spin (taken in uncle purple’s little car) , commissioned by the James Pappoutsakis Memorial Flute Competition, is described as simulating a ride through the countryside “where natural images pass by one after another.” This I found to be a pleasant piece, played with a lovely tone by flautist Rosinski and harpist Kim, but not terribly varied despite its “pictorial” quality.

The two group songs that follow, Chiquis (dedicated to a Siamese cat “who listened”) and Ojibwa Oh (which means “people of the puckered moccasin” in this Native American language), are likewise “simple,” as per the description of Patterson’s style, but in these cases quite fascinating in their construction. In the midst of Chiquis, for instance, the four singers hold an unusual chord in close harmony while James Pellerite’s Native American flute plays harmonically modal figures above them. Ojibwa Oh has a simpler melodic structure, often centered around the syllable “oh,” yet with similarly unusual harmonies underneath the flute. Happily, the singing of the four artists—all members of the Boston Camerata—is excellent.

Beaver Moon explores similar figures by the Native American flute, here juxtaposed against a small series of percussion instruments (drum, rattle, notched stick, bell, and bullroarer, a piece of wood tied to a string and swung in a circular motion). This is music of ambient mood rather than complex design, and for its type works very well.

The two brief orchestral tone poems on thrushes, celebrating the birds at Parc Erik Satie in Arcueil, France, and the other the thrushes at Hoagy Carmichael’s hometown of Bloomington, Indiana, are lovely pieces, the former paraphrasing the composer’s famed Gymnopedie No. 1 and the latter Carmichael’s Heart and Soul (a piece much beloved by 10-year-old amateur pianists all over America, at least when I was growing up). Both use delicate string and wind figures, interspersed with light percussion, the music somewhat progressing in stop-start fashion. They are also more conventionally melodic than the Messiaen tribute or the two part-songs. Strange harmonies mask the first appearance of Heart and Soul in the latter, and the Bloomington thrushes seem to be peppier and a bit noisier than their Gallic counterparts. The second appearance of the Heart and Soul theme, somewhat transformed, is in the strings, which then move into a slow development section with a piano trill and woodblocks underlining the piccolo thrush song. Eventually we get the familiar rhythm of Carmichael’s song played by the piano, but this time it’s the melody that never really appears.

The unusual combination of flute, cello, and piano performs the little suite Wednesday Obbligato. Here, Patterson has written music of a darker hue and harmonic cast, the cello and piano interacting in somewhat murky waters while the flute tries to remain resolutely cheerful atop it all. I found the more challenging aspects of this music more to my liking than Spin, as Patterson here creates an occasional polytonal vortex between the piano and cello from which the flute only “escapes” by the other two instruments dropping out momentarily. Each time they re-enter, the music changes in one way or another, and very often they are engaged in their own dialog, into which the flute must “fit.” This, too, I found extremely interesting. Perhaps it represents the “natural” music of a bird (played by the flute) hovering over the more complex but “created” music of the piano and cello?

The album ends with two hymn settings, C. Harold Lowden’s Living for Jesus and Charles H. Gabriel’s Brighten the Corner Where You Are . Patterson himself plays them on organ, the first of them using very “orchestral” settings that simulate strings (both violins and cellos) and glockenspiel. These arrangements really sing, almost sounding old-fashioned except for the occasional odd harmony thrown in for good measure.

I found this a very interesting album, perhaps not the highest pinnacle of music-making but certainly worth hearing. David Patterson certainly has his own style going for him.

FANFARE: Lynn René Bayley
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Works on This Recording

In Memoriam Messiaen by David Patterson
Conductor:  Charles Peltz
Orchestra/Ensemble:  New England Conservatory Wind Ensemble
Spin (Taken in Uncle Purple's little car) by David Patterson
Performer:  Jessi Rosinski (Flute), Chaerin Kim (Harp)
Chiquis by David Patterson
Performer:  James Pellerite (Native American Flute), Deborah Rentz-Moore (Alto), Susan Consoli (Soprano),
Daniel Hershey (Tenor), Donald Wilkinson (Bass)
Ojibwa Oh by David Patterson
Performer:  Deborah Rentz-Moore (Alto), Daniel Hershey (Tenor), Susan Consoli (Soprano),
James Pellerite (Native American Flute), Donald Wilkinson (Bass)
Beaver Moon by David Patterson
Performer:  James Pellerite (Native American Flute), John Lafoya (Percussion)
Shadowland by David Patterson
Performer:  James Pellerite (Native American Flute), John Lafoya (Percussion)
Thrushes in Parc Eric Satie, Arcueil by David Patterson
Conductor:  A. Herm Baumgartner
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Austrian Society For Contemporary Music Orchestra
Thrushes near Hoagland's Home, Bloomington by David Patterson
Conductor:  A. Herm Baumgartner
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Austrian Society For Contemporary Music Orchestra
Wednesday Obbligato by David Patterson
Performer:  Timothy Mcfarland (Piano), Pamela Ambrose (Cello), Jessi Rosinski (Flute)
Two Hymn Settings by David Patterson
Performer:  David Patterson (Organ)

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