We can’t work out what links these four interesting pieces except the Moores Symphony Orchestra performed them between 2008 and 2013. It seems to lack a central theme and varies in tone and mood, but it is interesting. It’s an hour or so’s entertainment rather than a CD with a set mood. Admittedly, all four pieces have concrete inspirations – three places and one person – so maybe it’s that.
The opening piece is Etruria by Thomas Fortmann. Sadly this is nothing to do with the Potteries – the Wedgwood works, the invention of photography and the coining of the “Am I Not a Man And a Brother?” anti-slavery / civil rights slogan have not moved Fortmann as yet – but is instead inspired by the Tuscan landscape. Fortmann’s blog says he has composed for various rock bands and both jazz and rock rhythms feature in this piece. Fortmann cites the influence of Pythagoras and the relationship between a tone’s pitch and the length of a plucked string in numerical terms, and the Etruscans’ love of practical explanations of nature of love of music as inspiration. Whatever, dude. It’s approachable and evocative, pastoral idylls at 4:4 time (almost), and it’s suggestive of cinema, the music to accompany a travelogue to Italy.
Robert Nelson’s Capriccio is next, which is inspired by violinist Andrzej Grabiec, professor of violin at Houston Moores School of Music. There’s some technical violin playing going on (though Nelson says the piece is appropriate for good students) but the composer tries to capture Andrzej’s wit and sense of humour, so the piece is also inspired by whimsy and contrasts of mood. It’s lighter in feel and more playful than Fortmann’s opener. Peter Lieuwen’s Astral Blue is next, inspired by beauty of the earth. This is a more delicate work than the other two; if it was synth and not actual instruments it would almost be New Age. Birds fly, seas splash, refreshing winds blow. In places it was almost Tubular Bells. Refreshing.
Finally, Percy Grainger, whose work as a folk arranger is familiar to even people who know very little about classical music, he being a regular of the Last Night of the Proms (and he made a posthumous appearance in 1988, thanks to piano rolls made using a wooden robot 50 years previously). Lincolnshire Posy is given an American makeover in a new orchestration by Merlin Patterson. It fits in well, picking up the more sedate air of the rest of the concert and gradually gathering speed.
This is a CD that you can play many times and appreciate in different ways each time. The artwork is eye-catching and distinctive; well done Pia Loertscher.