American Record Guide

This collection actually has works by 15 other composers, including Wilfred Josephs (1927-97) and Matyas Sieber (1905-60), so it should appeal to readers with an interest in 20th Cen­tury British music. History has a few examples of composers who were prolific writers; Berlioz and Schumann come to mind. Fewer wrote beyond the topic of music. You might come up with Cyril Scott and Paul Bowles, but probably not Anthony Burgess (1917-93). He was a self-taught composer who wrote more than 250 pieces, including 3 symphonies, an operetta based on Joyce’s Ulysses, 24 preludes and fugues called The Bad-Tempered Electronic Keyboard, and much else.

His only child Andrew (or Paolo Andrea, 1964-2002) learned to play oboe and English horn, then in his 20s gave up the oboe and switched to recorder. The first work Burgess wrote for him was a sonatina around 1990. He then wrote four sonatas for great bass recorder, another for great bass recorder, vio­lin, and piano, and two for treble recorder – he was working on a third in 1993 when he died. Of those sonatas, only one is presented here, the first for great bass recorder, played on a descant recorder in C, with the slow move­ment on alto recorder in F.

The nine-minute Sonatina (c. 1990) is a neoclassical work, sometimes with unassimilated influences, but enlivened by glissandos that come off very well. The first sonata, from about the same time, is a somewhat shorter work at 8 minutes. There are also several shorter pieces by this composer.

Among the other selections, there are sev­eral recorder sonatas and a particularly dra­matic and evocative work by Barry Ferguson (b 1942), The Untamed has a Language but no Words. There is a 19-page booklet with an especially humorous anecdote from Ferguson. Turner and Davies hold the listener’s attention through it all, giving thoroughly committed performances.

The terminology for recorders may differ between the United States and Britain. Descant recorder = soprano (in C); treble recorder = alto (in F). Great bass recorder, however, is not the same as contrabass recorder. One is pitched in C and the other in F. This recording might make an enlightening gift for an avid reader or fan of the notorious Kubrick film.

—Todd Gorman