American Record Guide

Nicholas Marshall was born in 1942 in Ply­mouth, England. He studied at Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge and the Royal College of Music and had lessons with Sir Lennox Berke­ley as well. He has directed music festivals, taught horn at the College of Arts at Darling­ton, and composed several children’s works including two operas. His music is mostly tonal; any dissonances are very gentle. His tex­tures are uncluttered, and there’s a welcome simplicity to his ideas. I don’t mean to damn him with faint praise, because there is much that’s good, but the songs do tend to sound the same after a while. The melodies are singable and well crafted but not quite inspiring. The Birds, for tenor, recorder, and piano, is the strongest set of songs; the poems are by Hardy, Yeats, Tennyson, and others.

‘Plaint’ is a short, restrained, pleasant melody for cello and piano. The Recorder Concerto has an oddly Shostakovich-like theme in I. The Man­chester Chamber Ensemble is actually a string quartet, and it doesn’t give the recorder a plush enough setting. I would like to hear the concerto expanded for a true chamber orches­tra, and a little percussion would add some much-needed punch to III. Even if the record­er isn’t the most naturally expressive instru­ment, I enjoyed hearing its chance to shine in a more modern setting. The performances are all polished, though the cellist, Smedley, has weak intonation. Notes are in English with texts included.

—Stephen Estep