Archive for June, 2008

‘Into His Countenance’

Friday, June 20th, 2008

 If music be the food of life then call me a glutton.

Music has formed a continuous thread throughout my life and will always continue to do so. It lifts, it transports; it makes one forget and it makes one dream. It inspires tears, laughter, joy…expresses sorrow and all those intangible things in between – music is perhaps the most evocative medium we have.

To me composers seem to live their lives in phases. And what better way to celebrate a composers phase or two, or three…than to capture them on CD. One of my fave composers, Australian Phillip Wilcher, has recently seen a selection of his works to date released on CD to celebrate his big Five-O and I have had the pleasure of listening to this recording featuring some of the works which have formed a path for this man to the present day.

‘Into his Countenance’ is now released and is a fitting birthday present for a composer who writes music that is just made to be remembered.  I often think that Phillip’s music is a combination of past and present…melodic (an absolute necessity in music in my opinion); romantic, edgy, impressionistic – Dali painted for the ‘eye’, Phillip ‘paints’ for the ear…

And when this is all combined with interpretation by the most astute of musicians – people who not only champion Phillip’s works but are also dear friends – you have quite simply, a gem. It is all here; the composer’s joy and irrepressible humour – deep insight and personal sadness.

Tolmie Tune written for, and performed by, the wonderfully gifted oboist Rachel Tolmie; a musical joke – proof that composers are not all seriousness – but very often playful and fun. What I love about this piece is that it shows us, that in Rachel’s hands, the oboe is not just the ‘plaintive’ voice of the orchestra we all know and love…it can be childlike, witty and even naughty. Here the oboist is the comedian and is joined in the fun by the versatile pianist John Martinwho get’s the last laugh…?

‘A Rose in Water’: Phillip’s own gift to his beloved mentor Miriam Hyde on her 90th birthday and beautifully played by Jeanell Carrigan.  Few pianist’s have the gift of that ‘sympathetic touch’ with their instrument as Jeanell does. Few musicians can truly convey exactly what the composer felt when they wrote a particular piece – this is never more evident than in ‘One Tuesday in September’ . Written following the events of 9/11,  the piece describes the composer’s reaction to that devastating event.

‘Into His Countenance’ is the title piece and surely the most personal work for the composer to date; written in the weeks following his mother’s death, and played by the inspired choice of flute and string orchestra, Phillip tells us of the journey of one woman’s soul towards ‘the countenance of God’. Not a final journey by any means – the soul is finite, we will never know just where a soul begins but we do know that it never ends.

The melody, played so beautifully by flautist Amanda Muir, has a floating quality which conveys sensitively the transition the soul makes as it becomes part of another time and place; it is a journey we are all part of eventually and with the strings of the Bourbaki Ensemble the music revisits a time when the pain of letting go, combined with the discovery of something so deeply spiritual, inspired a determination to honour his mother’s life. What better way to do this than through music…

There is so much to enjoy on this CD; music that is fresh, vibrant and very Wilcher. Of course behind every composer is a publisher and Publications by Wirripang provide that vital encouragement and support to it’s artists. This particular CD release (along with the composer) has been lovingly nurtured by Phillip’s publishers Anne and Brennan Keats. In an industry where composers can be regarded as little more than manufacturers, Anne and Brennan, through their care for the composer as a person, have earned the same respect and affection from their composers that they, in turn, afford them. 

And last, but never least, the excellent recording itself; recorded and edited by Peter Bell, his work gives us the wonderful finished product and and is a fine example of his skills.

So what kind of birthday cake do you give a person whose life revolves around notes and key signatures?…I happen to know that Phillip has a leaning towards lemon meringue pie 🙂

I spoke about phases earlier on. One wonders, if present recording technology was available centuries ago, how ‘Mozart at Ten’  or ‘Beethoven – My Romantic Period’  would have been like to capture on CD…we will never know, but one thing is sure – ‘Phillip at 50’  provides plenty for him to be well proud of.