Sunday, May 19, 2013

"Through the Reeds" is thoroughly enjoyable

Walter Ross: Through the Reeds
Woodwind Concerti
Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra
Kirk Trevor, conductor
Ravello Records

On Walter Ross' website, it says "he likes to write music that musicians enjoy performing and audiences enjoy hearing." That claim is ably supported by the works on this new release from Ravello.

Ross' primary instrument was the french horn, an instrument common to both brass and wind quintets. The concertos on this release might not push the technical boundaries of the solo instruments, but each one plays music that is uniquely suited to it.

The oboe d'amore is a somewhat obscure instrument, falling into disuse after the Baroque period and revived in the 20th Century. Ross' concerto is a welcome addition to the repertoire. His modal harmonies give the worka neo-renaissance flavor, through which the oboe d'amore hops and skips and sings. Michal Sintal is an able soloist, and Ross' music shows off the capabilities of his instrument to best advantage.

The Concerto for Bassoon and String Orchestra has an almost Coplanesque feel to it in places. Humor and good spirits are common elements in Ross' music, and this jovial concerto  fits right in. The middle movement is especially beautiful, and soloist Ramon Masina makes the most of the lyrical nature of the music.

The Concerto for Flute and Guitar is light and airy, perfectly suited to these two instruments. The middle movement has a Latin flavor to it, but only just -- this is Ross, not Rodrigo.

The final work on the album, the Concerto for Oboe, Harp and String orchestra rounds out the program nicely. Ross' straight-forward style is consistent throughout the album. The strings chug along in seemingly simple yet ever-changing patterns. The oboe and the harp dance around each other in a jovial fashion. Underneath this attractive surface Ross has constructed a solid work woven together by motivic development.

To paraphrase the composer, these were concerti that musicians enjoyed performing, and I enjoyed hearing.

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