VINE Flute Sonata. I. CLARKE Orange Dawn. SCHOENFELD Achat Sha’alti. Ufaratsta (Valentine). GUBAIDULINA Allegro rusticana. Klänge des Waldes. WELCHER All the words to all the songs. SCHWANTNER Soaring. Black Anemones. BEN-HAIM 3 Songs without Words. Read more class="COMPOSER12">CORTESE I dream’d a dream. BOYD Goldfish through Summer Rain • Alexa Still (fl); Stephen Gosling (pn) • KOCH 7658 (71:32)
Alexa Still is a talented flutist whose faultless legato and unfailing musicality make for compelling listening. This is a disc that mixes the music of a lot of composers, and the constant is Still’s rock-solid determination to show each in the best possible light. Still’s sense of adventure, as documented in Paul Ingram’s interview (Fanfare 28:3), is writ large here. Stephen Gosling is a fine accompanist.
The Australian composer Carl Vine deserves more attention than he currently enjoys. Philip Scott recommended a disc of Vine piano music in Fanfare 30:5. The Flute Sonata (1992) contains moments of shimmering beauty. It lasts 13:03 (not 13:63, as the back cover would have us believe). Gentle pointillism sits right next to proto-minimalist passages with no sense of conflict or incongruity. The slow movement is particularly beautiful, while the finale alternately buzzes with energy and relaxes into pools of lyricism.
Ian Clarke (of the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, London) lists composers as diverse as Stockhausen and Bobby McFerrin as influences. His Orange Dawn, a remarkably approachable, often beautiful piece, was inspired by a sunrise at the Great Rift Valley in East Africa. African sunrises are awe-inspiring. Clarke opts to paint the beauty of the scene in generally interior fashion. Paul Schoenfeld writes undemanding music, if the pieces on offer here are anything to go by. Achat Sha’ali is based on a verse of a Psalm of David and is gentle and unassuming; Ufaratsta is more energetic but still appealing, and takes its material from a Jewish folk song.
Recently, I was much taken by Diana Baker’s disc of Gubaidulina (Fanfare 30:6). The two works here represent the more conservative side of the composer. The harmonies of Allegro rusticana do indeed have a slight whiff of the peasant about them (think light Bartók); Klänge des Waldes (“Sounds of the forest,” 1978) is highly evocative and very imaginative. The composed hesitancy of the passage around 1:50 is most effective.
Dan Welcher is a name new to me. His All the words to all the songs is a tribute both to pianist Vinson Hammond and to popular music. Easy on the ear, with an aura of sweet reminiscence, it seems to act as some sort of interlude after the first Gubaidulina piece. Schwantner’s Soaring is virtuoso in nature, both for the flute and for the piano, and very brief (1:35); the hauntingly evocative Black Anemones (1981) originated as a song, and it shows. Black Anemones only lasts 4:17, and not 14:17 as the back cover claims.
The Three Songs without Words by Paul Ben-Haim were originally for voice, but have appeared in a number of instrumental guises. The creeping exploratory nature of the first is particularly effective. The title of Glen Cortese’s I dream’d a dream quotes Whitman for this work written in the wake of 9/11. Its bittersweet language speaks of nostalgia for a world that can never be quite the same again. Finally, Anne Boyd’s Goldfish through Summer Rain. Boyd is an Australian composer who explores the cultures of South East Asia (particularly Japan and Indonesia) and who is also fascinated by “the intersection of Christian love with Buddhist silence.” There is an openness to her language that speaks of large spaces tinged with affectionate orientalisms. A lovely way to end the disc—and I would be very interested to hear more of Boyd’s music.