Sunday 6 October 2013

Music for an unwritten film - Full Circle

Full Circle INS509
Adrian Munsey and Andrew Powell have both had long, productive careers, Munsey as a film and TV producer and composer, Powell as an arranger, conductor, performer and producer. But the two knew each other as students at Cambridge in the 1960's and this new disc is the result of a new collaboration between them 40 years on - hence the album's title Full Circle. On it Andrew Powell conducts the Philharmonia Orchestra ina a series of joint works, with soprano Elin Manahan Thomas as soloists in some.

The disc opens with Threnody for a Drowned Village which opens with just a solo flute then gradually builds with Manahan Thomas finally joining singing a wordless vocalise, then dying back again. The music is consonant, tonal and highly approachable, very fluid in style and to a certain extent rather intriguing.  Whilst light in style, the music has quite a film music feel to it. This track, and many of the others on the disc, sounds like music for an unwritten film.

Reflection III (with Chacony) is a rather folk-y piece with nice solos for flute and oboe over string writing which hints at earlier English composers. Nunc Dimittis, with a Manahan Thomas contributing a fine-grained solo, definitely sounds like the title track of a TV series. The music is attractively melodic and with much to interest, but I was not sure that the style worked in the context of the words. The same could be said for Silent Movie with the title feeling very much a tease, you are intrigued as to what the movie is and what the drama behind the music is.

Memory of Water is an attractive waltz, whilst the three movement Concertino for Orchestra is a nicely contrasted sequence of movements with some lovely melodies, interesting textures and very romantic drama. Hwiangerdd, which sets a text in Brythonic (an early form of Welsh) is a collaboration between Powell and Menna Elfyn. The result is fluent and attractive, a curiously characterful lullaby.

Misty Suite's four movements are all short and they flow into each other, forming a single interesting whole. The music was written to accompany a short story by the children's author, Hilary Robinson. Finally on the disc is Elegie an orchestration of a piano piece by Debussy written in 1915, the orchestral version bringing bass clarinet to the fore and introducing some interesting textures.

The music on this disc is fluent, attractive and relatively undemanding, very much in the modern light-music vein. Though for me the music's style lacks and element of grit and rarely seems to be able to dig below its remarkably fluency. The performances are all superb. If the modern film-music genre interests you then this disc will definitely be on your list.

Andrew Powell and Adrian Munsey - Full Circle
Philharmonia Orchestra
Elin Manahan Thomas (soprano)
Recorded 12 Septebmer and 21 December 2011 at Abbey Road Studios
Infinity INS509 - 1CD

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