WORKS: Hook, Mesh, Stub, Cud
PERFORMER: Ensemble Bash, Icebreaker, Delta Saxophone Quartet, John Harle Band
CATALOGUE NO: 440 216-2 DDD
Like Steve Martland, the English composer Graham Fitkin (b.1963) is a former pupil of Louis Andriessen, the Dutch composer who brought a raunchy dissonance to musical Minimalism. He’s long since stopped merely doubling the Dutchman, but the strain of finding his own style still shows on his third album for Argo – Fitkin is nothing if not popular right now.
Hook, for the percussion group Ensemble Bash, sees him dallying rather entertainingly with a dance-music-influenced, easy-listening manner which it would be hard-hearted not to enjoy. But the problem of individuality recurs with Mesh (Fitkin has a nice line in punchy titles), written for Icebreaker, the group that has helped popularise Andriessen in Britain. Here the Dutch connection soon gives way to a relative of the Inspector Morse theme, and the stark oppositions of mood seem merely gratuitous.
Has Fitkin simply sold out? Stub is more earnest, but its jazzy counterpoint for saxophone quartet drops alarmingly quickly into an imitation of Steve Reich’s New York Counterpoint for clarinets, with some Andriessen and even Michael Nyman thrown in. Cud is big-band Minimalism with a small band: expertly done, occasionally witty, but totally empty. It’s harder to be a good Minimalist than some suppose, for one shouldn’t be any more satisfied with cheap imitations here than in any other field. Keith Potter