English composer Philip Wood (b. 1972) was educated at the University of Northampton and Leeds University, where he studied with Philip Wilby and Julian Rushton. He has written a great deal of music especially for amateur performers, .though this disc collects seven of his works written for professional musicians. The main performer on the disc is recorderist John Turner, who has specialized and championed hundreds of new chamber works for his instrument. The other musicians on this album are in what I informally think of as the “Turner circle”, as they are among his frequent collaborators.
Wood’s liner notes acknowledge a passion for 20th-century British composers of a traditionalist cast; he names Vaughan Williams, Holst, Walton, Arnold, Alwyn, Rubbra, and Cooke, among others. These names give an idea as to the world that his music inhabits. While it can often be an elusive exercise to identify elements of national style, there is something in Wood’s music that certainly has a distinctly English manner. Several of the works set texts by English poets, and Wood notes that the music in general takes inspiration from the landscape of the Lake District where he lives (in Cumbria). The writing is always concise and well made, and the manner is generally genial.
The two works that most stood out to me were Two Motets: expressive settings of Latin liturgical texts for unaccompanied soprano; and the extremely fine Recorder Concerto, a very expressive two-movement work. Sonnets, Airs, and Dances is compelling in its understatement—of the six movements, only three use all the performers together; one is for the soprano alone, and two are for the instruments only. All the works are comprised of short movements (only three movements across the whole disc are longer than four minutes). The performances on this album by Turner and his colleagues are all excellent. In his notes, Wood calls the album a “modest collection,” which is an apt description. As someone who believes very strongly that there is great artistic value in modest expression (i.e., not every piece needs to attempt some sort of “grand statement”), I feel Wood has succeeded admirably with this appealing music.