Grant Llewellyn

John Metcalf: In Time of Daffodils

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The choice of daffodils as the theme for this album and one of the works contained herein is not arbitrary; composer John Metcalf is Welsh, and the daffodil is the national flower of Wales. Metcalf's music has an outward conservatism that conceals internal economy of an almost modernist-systematic sort: as he puts it, "Since my music sometimes wears its heart on its sleeve I have frequently employed quite limited material and rigorous structures to counterbalance this...." He tends to use pan-diatonic pitch materials, but his music, although directly emotional, is free from sentimentality. The combination works best here on the Three Mobiles, a sort of saxophone concerto (and sort of several other kinds of piece as well) that evokes their subject beautifully; Metcalf was directly inspired by the celebrated mobiles of Alexander Calder. This is the kind of music Webern might have written if he had suddenly decided to return to tonality at the end of his career. As with serialism, there is a component of variation procedure in Metcalf's music, and it is on display in the other two works on the album. These may be less successful than the Three Mobiles for some listeners; In Time of Daffodils, consisting of settings of famous poems about the titular flower, forces the listener's attention to choose between the music and the metrical structures of the poetry, which are not transmitted in the settings. Metcalf is a distinctive voice throughout, however, and a home team consisting of the BBC National Orchestra of Wales under Grant Llewellyn renders the music with sympathy and enthusiasm. Recommended for listeners interested in the accessible contemporary orchestral music of the British Isles.

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