This is an outstanding CD of concertos by two British composers, written for combinations of ‘unlike’ instruments with strings as support. The recording is wonderfully well balanced between the soloists and the Manchester Sinfonia. It is exciting to hear such vibrancy and clarity in every track, and the pieces by Sir John Manduell and Gordon Crosse complement each other brilliantly.
The flute concerto [sic] for flute, harp, strings and percussion by Manduell evokes deep-rooted, even pagan, stirrings in the listener from the very beginning of the piece,. Manduell explains that he wanted to “embrace a spatial element” by requiring the flute player to play away from the ensemble at times. It is very clear in the recording that positions of the strings, harp and percussion are varied, and the listener feels as if in the room with the musicians themselves. As well as the to-be-expected concert flute, the alto flute is given voice, as it is highlighted in the haunting second movement.
The playing expresses a wonderful artistry and the work itself gives scope to demonstrate an impressive breadth of tonal shading, textures and moods. Throughout the disc, this quality of musicality both in performance and composition is exquisitely balanced. The third movement surprises us with piccolo playing that moves the music forward with suspense and drive. Michael Cox handles every musical and artistic demand with complete command. No one who hears him can doubt the ability of this musician, but this disc shows that he is, first and foremost, a musician, and the flute is merely his chosen means of expression. Michael Cox communicates and sings through his instrument, suffusing the work with both dexterity and line.