Composers: Roger Smalley
Compositions: Piano, vocal and chamber music
Performers: Taryn Fiebig s, Scott Davie p et al
Catalogue Number: TOCCATA TOCC0501

Although British-born composer Roger Smalley is well known to local audiences, he has remained relatively neglected elsewhere. This excellent disc draws from over 40 years of productivity and shows just how important smaller compositions can be, as well as the economy and sophistication which he brought to his work.

The song cycle Nine Lives is both a witty and sympathetic series of often simple settings devoted to the feline. For cat lovers, here is something to add to Rossini and others whilst showing how – with the simplest of means, veering between melodicism and atonality – ingeniously Smalley is able to evoke the cat in all its wonder and fascination. Simply sung by soprano Taryn Fiebig, this is a delight which should be programmed more in song recitals.

A brief essay by the pianist Daniel Herscovitch explains that Smalley’s career fell into three periods and due to the appropriate programming of this disc we are able to follow the advances and changes throughout his career, venturing from simple post-Britten song settings to his own fascinating and colourful sound world. And all is done with the economy of a couple of instruments.

As attractive as the earlier works are, it is in the later works (on the disc, and in terms of their position within the composer’s creative life) that we realise just what a unique and colourful compositional voice Smalley possessed. This music is truly hypnotic and haunting.