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Jacob, Arnold: Flute Concertos; Musgrave: Orfeo II / Alexa Still


Release Date: 01/25/1995 
Label:  Koch International Classics Catalog #: 7140   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Gordon JacobThea MusgraveMalcolm Arnold
Performer:  Alexa Still
Conductor:  Nicholas Braithwaite
Orchestra/Ensemble:  New Zealand Chamber Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 0 Hours 49 Mins. 

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This CD is reissued by ArkivMusic.

Notes and Editorial Reviews

During the 1960s and 70s when debates raged over the continuing viability of tonal music in traditional forms and this writer wanted to put forward a respectable representative thereof, the name of Gordon Jacob (1895-1984) inevitably suggested itself. Such figures are considerably harder to locate than one would expect and, in fact, I would often refer to Jacob as the Camille Saint-Saëns of modern British music.

For nearly seven decades, this star pupil of Stanford, Vaughan Williams, and Howells was one man who could be counted on never to fall below certain high standards of professionalism in whatever genre he chose to assay—from large-scale symphonic and/or choral works (an imposing Te Deum, for example) to humorous
Read more bits of “light music“ (that wonderful exercise in creative plagiarism, Old Wine in New Bottles, is a perfect case in point). Of course, all of his enormous skill and expertise also infused his numerous instructional manuals and prolific pedagogy at the Royal College of Music.

At the heart of Jacob's prodigious output are a dozen or so concertos for practically every instrument, with special emphasis on winds and brass. The flute concerto of 1951—a recording premiere in four mellifluous movements whose ideas are closely and fruitfully interrelated—is simply one of the most polished and captivating ever written for this instrument by a non-Frenchman. Its sensuously self-generating themes, together with decorative but never ornate filigree and deft writing for a complement of strings, constitute one of the solidest examples of genuine craftsmanship one could ever hope to encounter. But with all this fluency and facility, Jacob was forced to sacrifice a distinctive personality or sound of his own, something one of his most illustrious pupils, Malcolm Arnold, had in abundance from the very start.

Arnold is only incidentally concerned with polish in this Second Flute Concerto of 1972 (a CD premiere), and never at the cost of the characteristic rough edges that go along with his quirkiness. This work is full of those trademark about-faces from dreamy tenderness to enigmatic terror, plus the sudden attacks of bustle leading nowhere in particular which comprise aspects of his peculiar and unpredictable skittishness. The distorted treatment of three-quarter time is a particular feature of this twelve-minute Second Concerto, which is much less conventionally structured than the First.

The third and final work here is by a Scottish-born composer long resident in the U.S., Thea Musgrave (b. 1929), whose dramatic and confrontational style was quite fashionable in the 60s and 70s (perhaps because of gender reasons?) but whose ideas have always struck this listener as more arresting on paper than in performance. In any case, Orfeo II, this six-movement suite for flute and strings (subtitled “An improvisation on a theme“) and inspired by the mythic misadventures of the title character, indicates a certain mellowing on Musgrave's part but very little increase in actual interest, to these ears at least. Fortunately, Koch has spared us the alternative version Orfeo I—which calls for electronic tape!

Nonetheless, this release provides a stunning showcase for the astonishing Alexa Still, who negotiates all the varied technical and interpretive demands of these three very different sources as effortlessly and as reflexively as mere breathing, with Braithwaite and his New Zealanders offering impeccable support. A must for all collectors of British music and flutomanes everywhere.

-- Paul A. Snook, FANFARE [7/1993] Read less

Works on This Recording

1.
Concerto for Flute and Strings by Gordon Jacob
Performer:  Alexa Still (Flute)
Conductor:  Nicholas Braithwaite
Orchestra/Ensemble:  New Zealand Chamber Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1951; England 
Date of Recording: 12/1991 
Venue:  University of Victoria, New Zealand 
Length: 20 Minutes 57 Secs. 
2.
Orfeo II by Thea Musgrave
Performer:  Alexa Still (Flute)
Conductor:  Nicholas Braithwaite
Orchestra/Ensemble:  New Zealand Chamber Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1975; Scotland 
Date of Recording: 12/1991 
Venue:  University of Victoria, New Zealand 
Length: 15 Minutes 23 Secs. 
3.
Concerto for Flute no 2, Op. 111 by Malcolm Arnold
Performer:  Alexa Still (Flute)
Conductor:  Nicholas Braithwaite
Orchestra/Ensemble:  New Zealand Chamber Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1972; England 
Date of Recording: 12/1991 
Venue:  University of Victoria, New Zealand 
Length: 12 Minutes 14 Secs. 
Notes: This performance is also included on Koch International Classics 7607. 

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  1 Customer Review )
 Fine flute concertos performed by an outstanding  October 19, 2014 By Eric Andersen (Clonbinane, Victoria) See All My Reviews "Each of the concerti on this disc is "modern" in their own way, but each are highly approachable and enjoyable. Even better, they all put the spotlight on a really wonderful player - Alexa Still - who plays magnificently. Ms Still has superb technical ability, and plays with great finesse and expressiveness. In this disc she is supported by the fine New Zealand Symphony Orchestra ("her" orchestra, as she was for many years 1st flute there) under Nicholas Braithwaite. Don't expect that any of this is necessarily 'great' music which is somehow been unjustly neglected. However each concerto is beautifully crafted by composers who all knew understod the technical and musical challenges they could expect their soloist to play. Ms Still does this music so well, and this CD is highly recommended for any lover of the flute, or those prepared to listen to music which is just a little off the beaten path." Report Abuse
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