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Fragments
Bernard ANDRÈS (b.1941)
Algues (1987) [12:25]
Jacques IBERT (1890-1962)
Entr’acte (1935) [3:40]
Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918)
La fille aux cheveux de lin for harp (1909-10) [2:36]
Syrinx for flute (1913) [2:52]
Witold LUTOSLAWSKI (1913-1994)
Three Fragments (1953) [4:54]
Jules MOUQUET (1867-1946)
Danse Grecque (1907) [3:59]
Ralph VAUGHAN WILLIAMS (1872-1958)
Fantasia on Greensleeves (arr. for flute and harp, E. L. Jones and David Sumbler) (1934) [3:59]
Hendrik ANDRIESSEN (1892-1981)
Intermezzo (1950) [4:36]
John RUTTER (b.1945)
Chanson (from ‘Suite Antique’) (arr. E. L. Jones) (1979) [2:55]
Alan HOVHANESS (1911-2000)
The Garden of Adonis (1971) [6:28]
John MARSON (1932-2007)
Can’t Stop to Talk (from Suite for Flute and Harp) (1993?) [3:48]
The Juniper Project
rec. 2017/18, St Thomas’ Church, Stockport
DIVINE ART DDA25179 [52:59]

I would divide this CD into three sections or streams. Firstly, there are several works that were specifically composed for the combination of flute and harp (or possibly with the composer giving other instrumental permutations). Secondly, there are some arrangements of music that were originally conceived for other forces. And, thirdly, despite the performers being a duo, there are two pieces that showcase each instrument as a solo.

The opening work is Bernard Andrès Algues composed in 1987. It was scored for a variety of instruments including oboe, flute or violin, but always featuring the harp. It is a good introduction to this CD. This is easy listening at its best. Nothing to challenge the listener, just the sheer pleasure of hearing this ravishing sound. The title translates as ‘Seaweed.’ Not sure what the inspiration for this title as, but these seven short movements all seem to conjure up an image of the sea. Quite gorgeous.

I enjoyed Eira Lynn Jones’ playing of Claude Debussy’s La fille aux cheveux de lin in its harp solo version. I am old fashioned, and prefer my Debussy Préludes played on the piano, for which they were designed. Setting this prejudice aside, it is beautifully played here. Syrinx, originally called ‘Flûte de Pan’, was composed in 1913. It served as incidental music for Gabriel Mourey’s play Psyché. This is an evocative piece of pastoralism, imbued with a good measure of paganism. Its subtle mood is captured in this performance.

Still in France, Jacques Ibert’s Entr’acte for flute (or violin) and harp (or guitar) was also incidental music, composed for a 1935 French production of the 17th century tragedy, El medico de su honra (The Surgeon of his Honour) by Pedro Calderon. Like many Frenchmen, Ibert was adept at creating an Iberian manner in his music. Whirling Spanish dances and Flamenco-infused music are balanced by a middle section which is a wistful serenade. The work ends with a vibrant ‘stamping’ finale.

We are in a Greek landscape for Witold Lutoslawski’s ‘Three Fragments for flute and harp’. This work dates from 1953 and was originally written as incidental music for several Polish Radio Theatre plays. The first ‘fragment’ was drawn from The Spell based on an idyll by the Sicilian poet Theocritus, whilst the remaining two were derived from Odysseus in Ithaca, an adaptation of a play by Jan Parandowski. The innocent ear may not clock that these three ‘fragments’ were written by Lutosławski: they lack pitch organisation and certainly do not include any form of aleatory music. If anything, the listener will be reminded of Debussy, Ravel or Poulenc.

Ralph Vaughan Williams’s ‘Fantasia on Greensleeves’ was one of my earliest musical discoveries. That was in the ever-popular version (1934) devised by Ralph Greaves for string orchestra with harp (or piano) and one or two flutes. Since that time, there have been several arrangements for a wide variety of instruments: piano solo, organ, violin and piano, cello and piano etc. The present version, by David Sumbler and Eira Lynn Jones, is for flute and harp. The magic of this is that the listener gets the full effect of the piece and hardly seems to miss the strings! A lovely version to add to the 120-odd recordings of ‘Greensleeves’ currently available.

John Rutter is so well-known for his Christmas carols and other choral music, that his orchestral repertoire is often overlooked. The present harpist, Eira Lynn Jones has arranged Rutter’s Antique Suite work for flute and harp alone. The Suite has six movements: the present appealing ‘Chanson’ is the fifth. There is also an edition of the work for flute and piano.

Jules Mouquet has created a composition in the image of Debussy – if not in actual sound, certainly in mood. The Danse Grecque (1907) is less of a dance, than a little poem evoking the landscape of Arcadia. It is an original work for flute and harp, although it can be played with piano accompaniment.

The ‘Intermezzo’ by the Dutch composer Hendrik Andriessen was written back in 1950. It is a work that seems to be in a trajectory from Ravel and Debussy. It creates a gorgeous hot summer’s day atmosphere with shifting tempi and stunning figurations for both instruments. There is just a hint of the Orient in several bars. It is my favourite piece on this CD.

I have never explored the music of Alan Hovhaness. It seems to me that a composer whose opus list extends beyond 400 and who wrote some 67 symphonies may be a project too far. However, it is enjoyable to tinker around the edges of his catalogue, as this present short work proves. The Garden of Adonis op.245 was composed in 1971: it was devised for the current combination of flute and harp. The title is derived from a canto of Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queenie. The music mirrors the poetic conceit where Spenser imagines a garden of reincarnation, with the souls of the dead appearing as flowers. Hovhaness permeated his music with an Eastern sound, using an oriental scale. Each of the work’s seven movements imagines a different flower. Three movements (I, II and VI) are played on this CD. It is probably best not to get hung up on the ‘theology’ of The Garden of Adonis and just enjoy these sounds from the ‘mystical east.’

The final work on this CD is extracted from John Marson’s Suite for Flute and Harp (c.1993). The third movement is the ‘jaunty’, jazzy and slightly wayward ‘Can’t stop to talk.’ It is a little gem that deserves to be better known. I would like to hear the rest of what promises to be a charming suite. I understand that a full recording has been issued on Cantilena Records.

The playing by The Juniper Project - Anna Rosa Mari (flute) and Eira Lynn Jones (harp) - is superb. The sound recording is ideal, and the CD liner notes always helpful. All in all, this is a great CD: It explores many delightful byways of music that surely deserve to be discovered.

John France

 

 




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