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Modest claims

Music by Phillip Schroeder, reviewed by REX HARLEY

all rivers at once - Duo Savage performs music by Phillip Schroeder. © 2002 Capstone Records

There is something a little earnest about the extensive details given in the booklet accompanying this CD, especially those on composer and performers: rather like the CV of a keen job applicant. Maybe someone felt the need to impress us with their credentials simply because most of us, at least those living outside Carolina, will probably never have heard of either Phillip Schroeder or Susan and Dylan Savage.

I mention this, not because the music itself bears out its provenance -- a minor, but obviously well-funded American University -- but because I found myself enjoying both music and performance a great deal. What should be made clear at the outset is that, like the West Coast composers -- say Harrison or Hovhaness -- Schroeder is not trying to break new ground. He is happy to explore the possibilities available to him in a strongly melodic tradition, and to give them his own gentle twist, creating expansive lyrical sound-worlds either for solo piano or, most hauntingly, for the contrasting voices of piano and oboe, or cor anglais. In addition, two of the pieces employ a digital delay system, allowing phrases played by the performers to be repeated at specific intervals after they are first heard.

Borne by Currents, the first piece, uses this device and is, essentially, built around a yearning phrase on the cor anglais with accompanying piano arpeggios. It lasts nearly fifteen minutes, yet in no way outstays its welcome. This is reflective, even meditative music, which draws the listener gently in. Songs Without Words, by contrast, is a more astringent piece, making a few more demands, harmonically, on the listener but, as pianist Dylan Savage observes in his notes: 'the use of consonance and dissonance is so skilfully conceived that it easily blurs the distinction between the two ...'

From the Shadows of Angels, for solo piano, dynamically subdued, explores the contrasts between the highest and lowest notes of the instrument, and also between pause and movement, stillness and flurries of notes. No Longer a Stranger returns us to the same territory as where we began, but at the higher pitch and keener timbre of the oboe.

What you will find on this disc is music which makes modest claims for itself, which will certainly inspire no revolutions, but is both accessible and yet grows stronger with repeated listening. The quality of recording is exemplary.

Copyright © 17 July 2003 Rex Harley, Cardiff, UK


Phillip Schroeder / Duo Savage: all rivers at once

CPS-8709 Stereo NEW RELEASE 54'26" 2003 Capstone Records

Duo Savage: Susan Savage, oboe and cor anglais; Dylan Savage, piano and synthesiser

Phillip Schroeder: Borne by Currents (2002) for cor anglais, piano, pre-recorded synthesiser and digital delay system; Stillness (1997/2002) for piano; Songs Without Words (2001-2) for oboe and piano; From the Shadows of Angels (2001) for piano; No Longer a Stranger (2001) for oboe, piano and digital delay system


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