This is the third in a trilogy of albums devoted to short pieces by English composer Oliver Davis; the first two have had strong influence from folk dance music as well, but here the rhythmic impulse is especially strong. Certainly the music is light and accessible, but it's a good deal more subtle than its purely diatonic surfaces and minimalist-like basic thematic material might suggest. Consider first of all the roles played by the solo instruments in the music, which consists mostly of little concertos. Some of the pieces began as semi-improvisatory playing by violinist Kerenza Peacock, to which Davis added orchestral music: the violin thus offers not a dramatic contrast to the orchestra, but a sort of organic kernel of its music. To this novel structure Davis adds fine control over texture (sample the first movement of the concerto Arco), which achieves that state only after a pizzicato opening, and a mix of styles that variously suggests Copland, the English pastoralists, and Eastern European dance music in addition to minimalism. Davis weaves all this together into compact movements that hold together beautifully; the entire album clocks in at just under 50 minutes, but you wouldn't want it longer. Davis has been known mostly for film and television scores, but also for music for television commercials. Perhaps the last of these is responsible for his talent for concision; in any event, this is music that will appeal to both those in search of easy listening and those who want to focus more closely. Not only Peacock, but piano soloist Huw Watkins and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra under Paul Bateman have the right combination of precision and relaxed pacing, letting the music unfold naturally, but keeping it well under control. Signum contributes superior sound, from Abbey Road Studios. Highly recommended.
Oliver Davis: Dance
Paul Bateman / Kerenza Peacock / Royal Philharmonic Orchestra / Huw Watkins
Oliver Davis: Dance Review
by James Manheim