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Classical Music Review

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Music for Woodwinds


Composer: Scott Pender
Label: Navona Records
RRP: £13.99
Release Date: 10 November 2017

Navona Records presents Music for Woodwinds from composer Scott Pender, his fourth appearance on the label. On this album, Pender showcases his chamber works for woodwinds from the last thirty years in ensemble combinations both common and unfamiliar...

Those that enjoy modern classical music which is inspired by the past, building on melodies and delivering music to lift the spirit and touch the soul (rather than the quirky trend to deconstruct the instruments, but end up just sound like musicians mucking about) will fall in love with what Scott Pender delivers here.

In the lighthearted 'Kimchi Dreams' for two clarinets and bassoon, Pender conjures gentle, dreamy imagery, balancing two lyrical pieces with two quirky, rhythmically charged ones. The cinematic 'Variations for Oboe & Piano' uses the classic theme-and-variations form to paint a broad canvas. The dramatic 'Suite for Woodwind Quintet' features bubbling, energetic outer movements surrounding a contemplative Adagio. The most candid and emotional work on the album, 'Lyric Set' for bassoon and piano, fully exploits the wide range of the bassoon. The movements carry descriptive titles: from the flowing opening of 'In the Tide of Times', followed by the reflective simplicity of 'Every Day Is Saturday' – then the stubborn humour of 'Lord Berners’ Giraffe', and ending with the sad grandeur of 'Hopeful about the Past'.

The remaining pieces - 'Toccatina' for flute quartet and 'Five Dances' for bassoon quartet - add an extra element of rhythmic appeal. 'Toccatina' draws a bright, crisp portrait using the flutes’ upper register contrasting with an emerging melody in the bass flute. In 'Five Dances' the contrabassoon adds depth and drive to the strikingly rich sound of the bassoon chorus.

Over the course of this album's 18 tracks (59 min) there are several that you'll instantly warm to. These include 'Kimchi Dreams - II. Slow & smooth, with resignation'; 'Variations for Oboe & Piano' (the end segment reminded me very much of Howard Shore's 1988 score for David Cronenberg's Dead Ringers); and 'Suite for Woodwind Quintet - II. Adagio cantabile (which brought to mind Patrick Doyle's score for Eragon (2006)).

It's a lovingly crafted album that you'll not only play a lot now, but still dig out in years to come.


Darren Rea

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