Angus McPherson

Angus McPherson

Angus McPherson is a writer, editor and digital content specialist. He is a former Deputy Editor of Limelight and has written for BBC Music Magazine, RealTime Arts and CutCommon. A flute player by training, he holds a PhD in Music.

Articles by Angus McPherson

CD and Other Review

Review: Toivo Kuula: South Ostrobothnian Suites Nos 1 & 2 (Turku Philharmonic Orchestra/Leif Segerstam)

Opening with the broad Festive March Op. 13, Ondine’s latest release of music by Finnish composer Toivo Kuula presents orchestral works from a composer better known for his vocal writing. Though more solemn than ‘festive’, the expansive March places Kuula in the tradition of Sibelius, with whom he studied composition. Kuula’s orchestral offerings are unfortunately limited: the composer died young, killed in a fight during celebrations for the end of Finland’s Civil War. The first South Ostrobothnian Suite opens with chorale-like brass and winds underscored by motoring pizzicato strings. The cor anglais is the star of this movement, Landscape, Satu Ala’s tone liquid and tenebrous. The second movement, Folk Song, drips with Finnish melancholy while Ostrobothnian Dance is elegant and convivial. The third movement, Devil’s Dance, is bright and cheery and Song of Dusk is full of rich melody, once again featuring the cor anglais. South Ostrobothnian Suite No. 2 is the work of a more mature composer, but is very much a suite of convenience raher than musical unity – Kuula himself often performed the movements separately at concerts he conducted. The final movement, Will-o’-the-Wisp, opens with a treacley cello solo and is longer than all of the preceding movements combined….

March 15, 2016
CD and Other Review

Review: Flute Vox (Laura Chislett)

Laura Chislett’s Flute Vox was envisaged as a kind of sequel to her 1995 collaboration with pianist Stephanie McCallum, The Flute in Orbit. More than 20 years later, the pair have released a double CD exploring more recent works by the composers featured on their first album, as well as a selection of other works. The album is an eclectic mix of contemporary flute works, from the solid intensity of Edgard Varèse’s Density 21.5 – a venerable 80 years old this year – to Michael Smetanin’s spritely 2015 work for flutes and mixed media, Backbone. Toru Takemitsu’s Voice kicks off the first disc, the close, dry recording highlighting Chislett’s precise technique and making audible every nuance of breath, voice and air. While this allows the listener to hear every detail of Chislett’s playing, it also robs the work of some of its haunting mystery. Along with Varèse and Takemitsu, Iranian-American composer Reza Vali is the only other non-Australian composer on the recording, his Persian Suite (Folk Songs, Set No. 12E) contributing lyricism and spirited energy. The didgeridoo-like growls and percussive vocal attacks of Zadro’s Vox Box make it a rhythmically driven tour de force for amplified bass flute and Brett…

March 1, 2016
CD and Other Review

Review: Kaija Saariaho: Let the Wind Speak (Camilla Hoitenga)

A plaintive flute melody, ending in a sigh, opens Tocar, the first track on Camilla Hoitenga’s new album Let the Wind Speak. The recording showcases Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho’s chamber music and it is infused with the close personal relationship between flautist and composer. The album features acoustic works for solo flutes (Hoitenga also plays alto, bass and piccolo) and chamber ensembles, including several new arrangements. At the heart of the CD is Sombre, a work commissioned in 2012 by Da Camera of Houston for performance in the tranquil space of Texas’s Rothko Chapel. Prefaced by solo bass flute, Sombre is based on fragments of Ezra Pound’s last Cantos, from which the album takes its name: “Do not move/Let the wind speak/that is paradise.” Hoitenga and Da Camera are joined by baritone Daniel Belcher, whose dark voice compliments the timbre of the bass flute. Tocar, originally for violin and piano, appears in a new arrangement for flute and harp, Hoitenga’s slides and timbral murmurations against Héloïse Dautry’s expressive harp playing. Although the aural quality of the work is very different, Hoitenga’s “flutistic” arrangement of the violin part perfectly captures the atmosphere of Saariaho’s work. Mirrors, which appears in three different…

February 23, 2016
CD and Other Review

Review: Ryan Wigglesworth: Echo and Narcissus (Hallé)

Ryan Wigglesworth is making a name for himself as an accomplished conductor, composer and pianist. He is Composer in Residence with the English National Opera, for whom he is writing an opera for the 2017 season, and is Principal Guest Conductor of the Hallé orchestra, who feature on this recording. This album is the first full-length portrait of his compositions and demonstrates his prowess over a variety of mediums. Wigglesworth’s Echo and Narcissus: A Dramatic Cantata, for which the album is named, is a setting of text from Ted Hughes’ Tales from Ovid that had its premiere at the Aldeburgh Festival in 2014. Wigglesworth on piano is joined by mezzo-soprano Pamela Helen Stephen, tenor Mark Padmore and two choruses of female voices. Stephen, augmented by chorus, is the narrator – her voice sumptuous and authoritative. The part of Echo is sung by a wistfully distant second chorus (heard mainly from offstage), while Padmore makes an anxious, keening Narcissus. The album opens with Augenlieder, a suite of four songs, settings of poems linked thematically by eye or gaze imagery, written for soprano Claire Booth. Wigglesworth conducts the Hallé, the orchestra a haunting underbelly to Booth’s limpid soprano. Three orchestral works round…

February 22, 2016
CD and Other Review

Review: Shostakovich: Cello Concertos Nos 1 & 2 (Capuçon, Gergiev)

Shostakovich’s cello concertos, both written for legendary cellist Mstislav Rostropovich, swing from smouldering slow movements to flashes of manic, frenetic activity. This new recording from Erato pairs French cellist Gautier Capuçon with Valery Gergiev and the Mariinsky Orchestra in a recording that highlights the exquisite details of Shostakovich’s cello writing, taken from concerts in 2013 and 2014 in Paris and St Petersburg. This is Capuçon’s second recording with Gergiev and Mariinsky, having previously released a CD of Tchaikovsky and Prokofiev in 2010. Capuçon hits the spiky five-note motif that opens the First Concerto with restrained intensity. This personal motif, based on the initials of the composer’s name (DSCH), is repeated aggressively in various guises throughout the first movement, returning in the finale to give the concerto a cyclical framework. Capuçon’s tone in the Allegretto is liquid and velvet, but full of depth and crunch as he leans into the low double-stops. The Mariinsky’s strings are lushly dissonant as they introduce the second movement, Gergiev shaping them into flowing arcs before the creeping cello line enters. Capuçon’s glissandi sigh, his sound rich in the lower registers and smooth and glassy in the high. He harnesses space and silence in the cadenza…

February 11, 2016