McDowall’s ‘colourful scores’ conveyed by the Trio Derazey

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Cecilia McDowall
LABELS: Deux-Elles
ALBUM TITLE: McDowall
WORKS: Cavatina at Midnight; Colour is the keyboard; Strange violin, are you following me?; Anaphora; Falling Angels; Shades of Solace; Colour of Blossoms; Exaudi; The Night Trumpeter
PERFORMER: Matthew Scott (clarinet), Sally Bartholomew (bassoon), Mark Kesel (trumpet); Trio Derazey
CATALOGUE NO: DXL 1171

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Composer Cecilia McDowall (b1951) brings a notably vivid imagination to her colourful scores. Sometimes richly tonal, sometimes more exploratory in harmonic range, her music is always full of invention and this warm, accessible disc conjures enticing scenes of midnight nightingales, ghostly Venetian waters and Kandinsky’s vibrant painting palette.

The recording centres around pieces scored variously for piano, violin and cello, with additional trumpet, clarinet and bassoon heard in the disc’s most substantial work, The Night Trumpeter (2004) which explores the idea of the trumpet as a ‘conveyor of information’. The work’s particularly mesmerising first movement –  by turns eerie lullaby and fractious fanfare – is inspired by Rose Tremain’s novel Music and Silence, where a ‘night trumpeter’ is commissioned to stand watch over a sleeping baby (the future King of Denmark) and sound the alarm should the baby awake. The disc contains numerous other gems, including the explosively sonorous Colour is the Keyboard (2007) for solo piano, sparked by the work of Russia’s famous synaesthetes Kandinsky and Scriabin, while Cavatina at Midnight (2008) for piano trio is an achingly beautiful homage to the nightingale, rich in references to Beethoven’s magnificent String Quartet Op. 130.

Trio Derazey brings a commendable vivacity and lyricism to McDowall’s scores, but there is some rocky intonation and the recording balance is at times uneven. Nonetheless, this recording comprises a welcome collection 
of Mcdowall’s powerful, imaginative works. 

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Kate Wakeling