American Record Guide

Before we get any further, “Flutes Concerto” is not a misprint: the soloist plays the standard flute, alto flute, and piccolo in the three movements. This release is called Mixed Doubles, and these are all double concertos. Gordon Crosse’s Brief Encounter is a ten-minute piece for oboe d’amore, recorder, and strings. There’s a bit of the English pastoral sound, but the middle section gets pretty wound up. The plaintive, almost pitiful sound of the recorder paired with the oboe d’amore is quite striking; I’d never heard of Crosse (b. 1937 in England) and figured this was one of “those” releases where someone who figured out how to stuff notes into music software had somehow got ten enough funding to record it — but I’ve been blown away by the poetry in the Brief Encounter. The Concerto for viola and strings with French horn is a feast for the ears; it often sounds like a British Copland wrote it. II, especially, is a lot like a summer day in the country­side where the vivid greens are sometimes dimmed by large, fast-moving clouds. There’s no threat of a storm, but the clouds remind you that there is something far bigger than you at work. Fantasia on Ca’ the Yowes is for recorder, harp, and strings; it doesn’t have the dramatic thrust of the other two pieces.

John Manduell’s Flutes Concerto uses harp, strings, and percussion in the ensemble and is very colorful. After a fairly calm, lovely opening (which sounds a lot like the chords from one of Michael Torke’s color-named pieces), there are very prominent bells of some sort; I turned to my fiancee and said, more for entertainment than anything else, “I feel like I’m being attacked by a Christmas display.” Manduell gets fascinating sounds from the whole ensemble, and I’d like to know exactly what kind of bells he used. Anyway, the music is livelier than Crosse’s and more dissonant. The textures are more detailed and three-dimensional, too, but overall, his music is less personal; by the end of the Double Concerto (for oboe, English horn, and strings) I’m bored. The musicians play very well and the sound is good; notes in English.

—Stephen Estep