Orchestral Masters Vol. 2 Review

A lovely review of our second volume of Orchestral Masters.

Beautifully Performed

Contemporary
orchestral music -
enjoyed by
GEOFF PEARCE

'Very pleasurable and committed performances.'

This two CD set of contemporary orchestral music from composers around the world is beautifully performed by the Brno Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Mikel Toms.

The composers represented here are all masters of orchestral writing, and whilst the music will create a challenge for many listeners as it does not have many 'tunes' in the traditional sense, a different approach is needed, looking at texture, combinations of timbres and the portrayal of 'atmosphere'. Do this, in conjunction with the interesting programme notes, and I believe you will find the set rewarding and enjoyable.

Edward Smalldone's work The beauty of Innuendo explores the beauty found within a memory, rather than trying to create a direct experience. It is reminiscent of both Sibelius and Douglas Lilburn, with its brilliant brass, high wind writing and cells of notes that gradually build into a longer phrase.

Peter Dayton's From Sombre Lands, inspired by John Hitchens' semi-abstract landscapes, contains some beautiful writing including solo violin, delicate percussion and high wind work.

Symon Clarke's Three Orbits, depicting three moons of Saturn, are more a reflection of the character of the Greek Gods after which the moons are named, rather than a depiction of the orbits themselves (although the middle movement combines both). Iampetus is melodic but not tonally tuneful. Hyperion features glissandi, delicate chords and brilliant brass and wind writing over more static strings. It's sometimes restless, and would definitely be hard to bring off, but these forces manage it very well. Tethys is delicate in many places and hauntingly beautiful, sometimes reminding me of the music of Charles Koechlin. This movement would resonate with many listeners.

Youngwoo Yoo's very interesting piece Honbul revolves around the Buddhist concept of reincarnation and the journey of the 'Fire of the Soul' after death, searching for a new life to enter. It features an evocative cello solo, and some sections are quite beautiful. Several lovely quiet moments really shimmer.

Zhiyi Wang's The Aroma of Exotic is also very interesting and can be viewed as a cross-cultural experience by an Occidental experiencing Oriental culture or vice versa. At times I was reminded of the dawn section of Ravel's Daphnis and Chloe, and I liked this work a lot.

Scott McIntyre's imaginative Particle of Time depicts the history of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, and its growth from a small ensemble to what it is today. It contains some dazzling orchestration.

Kenneth Froelich's First Symphony, 'Dream Dialogs', follows. A substantial three movement work, it is very listenable and has strong tonal centres. I really liked this, and if I had to choose a movement to introduce this work, it would be the second, entitled 'Spinning Yarns', influenced by the jazz concept of 'trading fours' and full of vitality and rhythmic drive.

Bernard Hughes' Anaphora is dynamic and interesting and, whilst being modern, is easy to listen to.

Capriccio Mediterraneo, from the pen of Mauro Farrugia, is a lovely work depicting the three Mediterranean regions. At times reminiscent of early Bartók or Kodály, it is one of the most listenable tracks here, and I think it will be liked by all.

Roydon Tse's Remembrances was a real surprise — a lovely heartfelt reminiscence, full of warmth and longing. Ravel is a strong influence here, and the work is very listenable and one that I expect to often return to.

Last on the album is Paul Siskind's Clarion Call, written as an opener for a concert, it starts with a fanfare but is a lot more than just that. A very easy piece to enjoy, it rounds off this disc very nicely.

This is one of the best compilations of recently composed music, and contains plenty for everyone to enjoy. Very pleasurable and committed performances.

Copyright © 26 March 2015 Geoff Pearce,
Sydney, Australia