At first an all flute album featuring a contemporary composer would seem to be a risky idea at best but this disc of some of Joseph Schwantner‘s flute compositions works very well. Pulitzer Prize winning Schwantner is no stranger to the concert or recording scene and deservedly so. He writes a modern, though not terribly experimental, style which works well in the concert hall and on disc. He won the Pulitzer for his wonderful 1978 Aftertones of Infinity and wrote a substantial guitar concerto championed by Sharon Isbin among many other works.
Jenny Oh Brown is an unfamiliar name to this reviewer but I suspect that will not be the case for long. This is one talented and charismatic artist and she has recruited some marvelous fellow musicians for this album. This is not the complete flute music of Mr. Schwantner but it is certainly a very nice representative sampling.
The album starts with Black Anemones (1980), a piece which is pretty much part of the standard flute and piano repertoire now. The performance of this lyrical post-romantic essay clearly demonstrates why this piece has become popular. It requires a great deal of skill and virtuosity for both the flautist and the pianist and both musicians handle their roles expertly.
The next three tracks are the separate movements of a piece,, again for flute and piano, called, Looking Back (2009). The first movement, called Scurry About is a frenetic and virtuosic little romp which gives both musicians ample opportunities to demonstrate their chops. The second movement, Remembering, is a sort of nostalgic solo flute cadenza and the finale, titled Just Follow brings the work to a satisfying conclusion.
The highlight for this listener, though, is the three movement quartet for flutes, Silver Halo (2007). No piano here but every member of the flute family pretty much and each gets what sounds like a very satisfying role.
In addition to Jennie the album features Jeffrey Panko on piano, Karin Ursin, flute and piccolo; Janice McDonald, flute and alto flute; and Susan Saylor, flute and bass flute. This Innova release is a must for fanciers of the flute and of Mr. Schwantner’s music.