We tend to listen to the CDs a few times through before we read the sleeve notes, and this rather beautiful CD from Mr Whitlock had a dozen plays before we could press pause. (He’s Mr Whitlock because we like the cut of his jib: he looks like clothes aren’t top of his priorities, so he gets to be a Mr). It opens with just piano and 20 keys being struck in the style of a youngster trying to compose a tune, 10 pairs of notes going down the scale from F (we think). Then it gets more complex, but remains delicate and rather lovely. The opening work is Suite Antique , in which Mr Whitlock takes various dance forms and plays with them. The second work is the title track, written about the River Teign in Devon (he’s from Devon and grew up overlooking the river). Also on here are other works including Three Pieces For Wind Trio and his satirical The Faust And Mephisto Waltz.
We’re going to ignore the tracks and talk about the album as a whole. It struck us as the kind of music you’d hear and enjoy in a television programme or film, that could plink away either in the background or over a scene and work well. Not surprisingly, this is particularly true of the opening work, written with physical movement in mind. The opening section of Suite Antique , Allemande (a German style of dance) would be the music playing during a wartime drama while the lovestruck main characters drove through a rustic scene, just before the lad goes off to war, the music conveying the lovely scenery but with a sense of sadness. Like all the album, it’s simple in form and easy for the listener to appreciate quickly.
The second piece Courante is more obviously a dance piece, a courante being a 16th century court dance with short advances and retreats. The wind pieces feature flute, clarinet and bassoon and keep the simplicity of the piano work, and have a rustic, playful charm, and would suit a gothic children’s programme set in a wood. We decided all this before we read the sleeve notes, and it transpired that his earliest work was written to accompany a silent movie, and if Mr Whitlock is so inspired that all makes sense. It’s music that is simple and not distracting if, say, you were watching a silent movie, but is interesting in its own right when attention is directed towards it.
The piano playing (Duncan Honeybourne, Wai-Yin Lee) is good enough to appease the serious listener yet the music is gentle enough not to intimidate someone new to piano music. Highly recommended.