Maconchy, Debussy, Rr Bennett, Burrell, Payne, T Davies & Stout

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COMPOSERS: Burrell,Debussy,Maconchy,Payne,Rr Bennett,T Davies & Stout
LABELS: Riverrun
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: Chroma
WORKS: Works
PERFORMER: Chroma
CATALOGUE NO: RVRCD 56
Though Schoenberg’s Pierrot may be the solar plexus of 20th-century music, Debussy’s Syrinx, for solo flute, also written in 1912, is no less emblematic of an alternative approach to composing that still thrives today. The manner in which Debussy’s portrait of the mythical water nymph blends imperceptibly into Richard Rodney Bennett’s Sonata after Syrinx (1985), for flute, viola and harp, finely performed by the ensemble Chroma, makes the point, and plausibly suggests the addition of works by three generations of British composers to make a gratifyingly diverse ‘suite’ of water music.

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Not all, it must be said, strictly adhere to the Debussyan model. Diana Burrell, for one, is too much her own person to conform to type, and her Double Image (1991) typically displays tensile energy through sonorities that ambush the ear in bold combinations. By comparison, Elizabeth Maconchy’s four-movement Reflections (1960) shows its age, though the craft remains impressive. Undertow (1999) by Tansy Davies opens with a two-part invention whose flowing lines at first recall Syrinx, while Anthony Payne’s A Sea-Change (1988) stands for the improvisational aspect of composition. In contrast, Alastair Stout’s Empty Fathoms (1998), inspired by lines of George Mackay Brown, is a lithe and nimble sea study. Nicholas Williams