Goldleafing a Dream….gilding the notes of an eternal structure.

‘Goldleafing a Dream’.…I just love the title of this CD of the works of composer Phillip Wilcher. Having spent the past several months listening to this music played by Rachel Tolmie (oboe/cor anglais), Amanda Muir (flute) and John Martin (piano), I very much was struck by the feeling of being present within an artist’s studio and witnessing the process of taking a moving structure and gilding it to preserve and enhance the elements of it’s beauty and influence. Dreams are the structures of the mind – passageways through which we move when we are least able to control direction….but we are always moving in them – either towards or away from the intangible – and what better way to understand and preserve the influence of a dream than to burnish it with gold so that it lasts for eternity…? that is what this musical collaboration somehow magically achieves and I will use excerpts from the 27 tracks – my favorite selected pieces – from this recording to illustrate what is a remarkable, and in places, a quite personal musical journey from the composer’s heart to the listener’s ear.

[1] ‘Goldleafing a Dream’ oboe and piano: written for the illuminist, Danette Wallace, this piece has two contrasting actions. The oboe begins on a phrase that I feel is one of seeking, or searching; that first movement of the hand over the canvas made by an artist. The oboe creates an image of fluid creativity, smooth and confident, with the piano providing thoughtful inspiration. This piece is a landscape of colour and movement, elegant and transparent; the oboe beautifully controlled by Rachel Tolmie with the familiar comforting warmth of John Martin’s piano accompaniment underlying the phrasing.

[2] ‘How Sweet the Moonlight Sleeps’ oboe and piano: without a doubt this is my favorite piece from this CD. The title is taken from the reading from Shakespeare’s ‘The Merchant of Venice’…

How sweet the moonlight sleeps upon this bank!
Here we will sit, and let the sounds of music
Creep in our ears: soft stillness, and the night,
Become the touches of sweet harmony.

Moonlight is the close of day and one feels the the stillness of night falling from the piano’s opening notes. The piano provides a lush and resonant mist through which the oboe ‘wanders’ with a wistful yearning; a forest of shimmering, silvery light in a world of darkness – the piano and oboe reflecting the tranquility and harmony that is only found when all but the senses of touch and sound are asleep. I particularly love the role that the composer has given the piano in this piece because this is where the mechanics of playing the instruments become less apparent and the music and the emotion instead come forward and tell the story. This is the true expression of music, when it is in the hands of those who care about it. This could be a personal indulgence but something that could satisfy a feeling nonetheless; I would also love to hear this piece with a viola playing the oboe part…as it is though, it is sublime.

[11] ‘Nager Dans La Joie’ oboe, flute and piano: reflecting the composer’s love of French music, and that of the composer Francois Poulenc, this is a fun piece that takes me back to sitting in a cafe on the sidewalk of a lively town in France. There is a rhythm in this piece that is found in the people passing by, the cars and street stalls…the flavour is delightfully provincial France where the people live and move to the laid back beat of every day life, their joie de vivre. The three elements here – piano, flute and oboe – provide a soundscape of scenes and people that remain familiar; the gentle pace of life heard in Amanda Muir’s flute, the pattern of movement in the oboe and the optimism about life and love, that the French are known for, are conveyed by John Martin’s jazzy piano. This is a ‘good mood’ piece for making you smile.

[13] ‘The Flautist’s Pavane’ flute and piano: dedicated to the flautist herself, Amanda Muir, this is an intimate piece which is both introspective yet quite revealing. Amanda’s playing is warm and expressive throughout the exquisite little lyrical phrases. One gets a feeling of consolation from the instrument throughout the piece. The passages are well intoned with sympathetic piano accompaniment and as this work has also been arranged for flute and string orchestra, the depth of emotion contained within the music enjoys the opportunity to be elaborated even further.

[23,24,25] ‘Three Novelettes’ oboe and piano: three short, savvy pieces that highlight John Martin’s flair for  syncopated rhythms that seem so easy to the listener but actually require an innate sense of not only tempo but style. Composed as an homage to the ‘comic genius of Francois Poulenc’, the pieces on this recording influenced by Poulenc have inspired me to explore the life and work of the Gallic composer. Phillip Wilcher has a knack for recreating through music scenes and images from times past and the themes of the Novelettes are evocative, for me, of the atmosphere of Paris in it’s golden pre-war age. In these three Novelettes you sense those elements that made the fabric of Poulenc’s Parisian life; cabarets, music halls, friendships, the good life…Phillip Wilcher seems to have taken the notes from the air around Poulenc and woven them into these three delightful pieces.

[27] ‘Stanza’ oboe and piano: even though this was originally written for violin and piano, I feel this piece really rests so poignantly with the oboe. Dedicated to the dancer Lucette Soper, I guess it is no coincidence that the graceful movement of a swan comes to mind when listening to this piece. Rachel Tolmie’s mastery of some complicated phrasing in this piece proves once again how she is the perfect exponent for the composer’s vivid musical energy. Despite the sadness that underlies the story of the dancer to whom this work was dedicated, this is very much a  joyful reminiscence, spirited yet sensitive – a letter to a cherished soul.

The above tracks are part of a compilation of works that, for me form a path from yesterday to today along which memories and dreams are the paving stones. The variety of genres reflect the variety of life and I feel that the composer has used these to urge us to explore, create and appreciate what lies within each of us. The essence of this music lies in the continuity of a thread across time; taking from life past and present that which is precious, sometimes sorrowful but somehow beautiful and gilding the structure they form in our lives. Preserving them for eternity…goldleafing a dream.


Composer: Phillip Wilcher

Oboe/cor anglais: Rachel Tolmie

Flute: Amanda Muir

Piano: John Martin

Recording and Mastering (2010): Peter Bell

Booklet design: Anne Keats

Cover: Medieval gold leafed illumination by Miss Danette Wallace

Produced by Wirripang Pty Ltd.















2 Responses to “Goldleafing a Dream….gilding the notes of an eternal structure.”

  1. Much to my shame, I have only just read this review. Wendy, how can I ever thank you for such meaningful words. You are the perfect angel! What an honour you have afforded me, equal to that of the fine musicians who played on the cd. I am humbled, truly. Blessings and thanks again for your appreciation and support.

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