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Classical Music Review

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Imaginary Birds
Music for Oboe & English Horn


Composer: Phil Salathé
Performed by: Ling-Fei Kang (oboe), Charles Huang (english horn, oboe), Andrew Knebel (viola), Annabelle Taubl (harp), Yu-Chen Shih (piano/celesta), Katie Kennedy (cello), Mohamed Shams (piano) and John Birt (guitar)
Label: Navona Records
RRP: £13.99
Release Date: 08 February 2019

Ravello Records release Phil Salathé's quirky and stylistically rich Imaginary Birds: Music for Oboe & English Horn. The album is as much a natural observation as it is a musical piece of work: With the precise gaze of an ornithologist, Salathé illustrates seven enchanting anatine scenes, from frolicking in the water, nesting, to bickering over which duck gets the slug for dinner, to name but a few...

With all the grace and poise of a swan, Phil Salathé delivers this 5-piece extravaganza. Over the course of these 22 tracks (45 min, 17 sec) he tackles everything from truly beautiful pieces ('Expecting the Spring Breeze') to playful, almost comical compositions ('Imaginary Birds of the Frozen North - III. Sub-Arctic Screech Owl'). There's experimentation, traditional and modern works included here and it's remarkable that none feel out of place, nor does it feel strange mixing them together in one coherent piece.

There's a hint of Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf in the aforementioned 'Imaginary Birds of the Frozen North - III. Sub-Arctic Screech Owl'. The experimentation and way that the instruments take on the guise of their ornithological subject is refreshing and captivating.

This is a truly inspired collection of pieces, with incredibly fine tuned performances.


Darren Rea

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