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Here, The Cliffs: Orchestral Music Of Hilary Tann

Tann / Trevor / Novotny / Slovak Radio Sym Orch
Release Date: 06/26/2012 
Label:  North/South Recordings   Catalog #: 1056   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Hilary Tann
Performer:  Debra RichtmeyerFrantisek Novotny
Conductor:  Kirk Trevor
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews



TANN With the Heather and Small Birds. In the First, Spinning Place. 1 From the Feather to the Mountain. Here, the Cliffs. 2 From Afar Kirk Trevor, cond; Slovak RSO; 1 Debra Ritchmeyer (a sax); 2 Frantisek Novotny (vn) N/S 1056 (69:45)


Hilary Tann (b.1947) has an Read more interesting transcultural story. Born in Wales, she has spent the majority of her professional life in the U.S., teaching in upstate New York. But she also has a deep appreciation of Japanese culture, has studied there, and plays the shakuhachi (a five-hole bamboo flute developed as a tool for Zen meditation; another composer I review in this issue, Frances White, also plays). This intersection of different traditions is reflected in her work.


This disc is a survey of the composer’s orchestral music over the decade 1994–2004. There’s no doubt she’s been productive! The majority of works are imagistic, and most are inspired by the Welsh landscape. Only the program’s final (and most substantial) work, From Afar (1996), overtly refers to Japanese musical elements. But throughout I notice a strong underlying modal element that suggests non-Western harmony. Even the first piece, With the Heather and Small Birds (1994), has a prominent melodic lick that somehow makes me think of Balinese gamelan.


In the First, Spinning Place (2000) is a saxophone concerto, and Here, the Cliffs (1997) a rhapsody for violin and orchestra. Both evidence heartfelt lyricism, and are expertly performed by their soloists. From the Feather to the Mountain (2004) was composed for a youth orchestra, but makes no evident compromises. I particularly like the rolling brass chords, each one a crescendo, whose ultimate return gives the work a satisfying ending.


If I have any criticism of this music, it’s that its aesthetic is a little too “classical” for me, in its emphasis on a balance between the open and the active. In From Afar, for example, the opening, suggesting the spacious pacing of gagaku , is soon replaced by far busier rhythmic music. In terms of an ideal of balance, this of course is correct. But I admit I find Tann’s music most compelling when her Western orchestration and harmonic practice intersect with a less linear Asian formal sensibility.


Having said that, this is music of great integrity, impeccable craft, and genuine expressive ambition. It bespeaks a genuinely open and substantial artistic persona.


FANFARE: Robert Carl
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Works on This Recording

1.
With the Heather and Small Birds by Hilary Tann
Conductor:  Kirk Trevor
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra
2.
In the First Spinning Place by Hilary Tann
Performer:  Debra Richtmeyer (Alto Saxophone)
Conductor:  Kirk Trevor
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra
3.
From the Feather to the Mountain by Hilary Tann
Conductor:  Kirk Trevor
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra
4.
Here, the Cliffs by Hilary Tann
Performer:  Frantisek Novotny (Violin)
Conductor:  Kirk Trevor
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra
5.
From Afar by Hilary Tann
Conductor:  Kirk Trevor
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra

Sound Samples

With the Heather and Small Birds
In the First Spinning Place
From the Feather to the Mountain
Here, the Cliffs
From Afar

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