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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

LABELS: Deux-Elles
WORKS: Piper’s Dream; Arctic Circle; Seven Impressions; Six Pastiches,
PERFORMER: Emma Williams (flute, piccolo), Richard Shaw (piano); Ensemble Lumière
Cecilia McDowall is clearly a thoroughly useful composer. Several of the items on this disc are suites of miniatures for flute (or in one case piccolo) and piano, technically undemanding exercises in pastiche which make attractive pieces for teaching or examination purposes. And the remainder, variously for flute and piano, piano solo and different wind ensembles, seem to have been written for specific performers, such as Ensemble Lumière, of which McDowall is associate composer. The language of these more serious, if still modestly scaled, pieces is essentially traditional and tonal, but enlivened by a strong rhythmic impetus and by some imaginative colouring, including piano clusters and pizzicatos. There is a good deal of quotation and stylistic reference, for example to Scottish bagpipe and fiddle music, a Hungarian folksong, the Monteverdi Vespers and a Schubert song; occasionally, this seems lazily emblematic rather than born of musical necessity. But, encouragingly, the most recent piece, Arctic Circle for piano and wind quintet, creates its atmosphere of far-Northern myth and landscape effectively without such shorthand. The demands of this piece occasionally place some strain on the collective intonation of the ensemble; but in general these are enjoyable performances, well recorded, of some likeable music. Anthony Burton