The Adagio is a smoothly soothing piece with none of the piercing intensity of the Barber equivalent; no harm in that. This is soul balm and for me suggests one of those lightly ecstatic moonlit caramel intermezzos in French grand opera. The Blue Nile is for full orchestra. It too is gentle and emerges from the same benign milieu as the Adagio - a touch of the Pavanes by Fauré and Ravel. The Ludlow Air is dedicated to the Shropshire town. Its language is tinged with that of the classic English pastoral, a mist of birdsong, green swooning and folksy Butterworth contours peppered with the occasional insurgency from Mozart and Canteloube. Glencoe starts with an explosion of life and moves rapidly to a lissom melody countered with a catchy half-dance and half planxty for harp.
Jephcott's wife, Ann, enjoys Egyptology and assisted David in the Egyptian Suite. This does not draw on the Arabian conventions of Western music. The language is not dissimilar to the other pieces here. It is in four movements with the Discovery of the Tomb marked by a climax soon softened away. Greed is reflected in growling and gritty music - a hint of early Sibelius in troll mood. The spirits awaken continues in sinister mood with capricious fantasy and grotesqueries at play in woodwind and percussion. Retribution is smooth like the freestanding piece The Blue Nile. It develops in chiming splendour with the music fading back into filmic relaxation. The Prairie Whistler is a rather melancholy piece with a touch of Claude Lelouch rather than the claimed Morricone resonance. The Refugees' Lament was written in response to the grievous plight of those dispossessed by the Balkans war. The cello is played by RLPO principal Jonathan Aasgaard. It's a gravely elegiac curvaceous melody though paced moderato rather than slow. The Phantom's Waltz is from a ballet score. The scenario a married couple riven by infidelity. The gods try a reconciliation in a forest glade. This waltz is part melancholy French film score from the 1950s and part Valse Triste.
Plain sailing is a 22 minute high seas fantasy. The language cuts through waters already voyaged by Sibelius in Pohjola's Daughter and by Moeran, Prokofiev and Copland. There’s some fantastically fibrous and capricious writing for piano with orchestra along the way. Dark clouds sweep in. The music’s progress feels instinctual and becomes dissonant before reverting to type. There’s extendedly lyrical and even nostalgic bejewelled writing over the last nine or so minutes. It's not all gentle marine reverie but there is quite a high quota of that mood.
Pleasing listening. Shame we don’t get any idea of when these works were written.
Rob Barnett, Musicweb-international.com