The booklet for this little flute-and-guitar album name-checks Bartók and Berio in its presentation of music influenced by folk song sources. American composer Robert Beaser's Mountain Songs actually occupy an intermediate space between such contemporary treatments of folk material and simple settings of folk melodies. Commissioned by the present performers, the eight "songs" for flute and guitar, mostly based on traditional Appalachian melodies, are varied arrangements that are idiomatic to the two instruments. They diverge from the tunes' basic modal-tonal structures and also modify the rhythms, but there is never a great distance from the source material. They're attractive adaptations, played to the hilt by two musicians who are virtuosos in their own right. The program is rounded out by a selection of American compositions (and popular songs, including an unusual 1840s item, The Smile of Contentment and Love), arranged for flute and guitar by guitarist Eliot Fisk. These follow naturally on Beaser's work, with the result that the program as a whole offers a wide range of innovative but non-modernist treatments of vernacular melody. Originally recorded in 1986, the album has held up well both musically and sonically as a fresh treatment of a venerable but lately somewhat neglected theme.
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