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Classical Music Review

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Composer: Garth Baxter
Performed by: Arabesque Duo, Azimuth String Quartet and West Shore Piano Trio
Label: Navona Records
RRP: £13.99
Release Date: 08 February 2019

Navona Records release Resistance, a collection of works by composer Garth Baxter, who describes his commitment to form and aesthetic as "modern traditionalism." Over the course of these 11 tracks (1 hr, 16 min, 40 sec), Baxter expertly weaves together traditional classical structures with a more modern, avant-garde, approach to delivery something that wrings every ounce of emotion out of the listener...

Garth Baxter's (Ask the Moon) compositions on Resistance each come with a story to tell. Opening the album is 'The Silver Run', a soaring depiction of The Silver Run area in Maryland as told by the voices of flute and piano.

This stunning soundscape is followed by the passionate 'Could You Dream What I Dream' for violin and piano, matched only in romantic quality by 'Romance Without Words' and 'Il y a Longtemps' ("Long Ago"). This expression of love is followed by 'Des Larmes Encadrées' (“Framed Tears”), a sentimental reflection inspired by his familial ties with a fellow artist who plays the saxophone.

'Resistance', the title track, is a triumphant stance in favour of tonal, lyrical music in an age of atonality and the breakdown of harmony. Its power is balanced by the dark yet deeply moving story of 'MacPherson’s Lament', inspired by Scottish fiddler James MacPherson and his last composition, written just before his hanging. On the other hand, 'Ballade For A Princess', inspired by Chopin’s 'Fantasie-Impromptu', reflects the beauty and romance portrayed in so many of that Romantic composer’s compositions. These powerful, moving sentiments are tastefully balanced by the guitar duo 'Edgefield', in which Baxter melds traditional rhythms with a highly innovative yet understandable way of modulating through different keys. 'From the Headwaters' aptly brings Resistance to a close, tying in the harmonies of its predecessor with the lyricism of the rest of the album.

I totally fell in love with the mix of traditional and modern styles, which blend together effortlessly. There are far too many highlights to pick out favourites, but 'Il y a Longtemps' had segments that reminded me of Mark Knopfler's score for Last Exit to Brooklyn.

This is a diverse and engaging album that will bring hours of listening pleasure.


Darren Rea

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