BEPPE Remote Galaxy
The composer formerly known as Fred Jonny Berg here releases his second collaboration with the Philharmonia, Ashkenazy and flautist Emily Beynon. Some technical aspects of the release were noted, and praised, when it was one of the test discs for February’s audio section.
2L’s recording – Blu-ray and accessible in 5.1 and 7.1 DTS, 2.0 LPCM and 9.1 Auro 3D – does indeed sound breathtaking. This is not only effective in its capture of individual sonorities in the orchestra but in its ability to provide coherence in potentially tricky balances. In the closing Flute Concerto No 2, Beynon’s solo line has (or would have) to battle with a Brucknerian weight of organ and brass, hardly the norm for a wind concerto even in our post-Ferneyhough repertoire.
A thumbnail sketch of Flint Juventino Beppe’s musical idiom might refer frequently to the tonal masters of the earlier 20th century – Holst (especially ‘Uranus’), Sibelius, even Elgar in more pastoral moments. At a first hearing the music can seem to alternate with too much regularity between the elegiac and epic, atmospheric outer space – Beppe’s take on John Williams’s take on Holst.
For all the fluent and careful instrumentation, this can sound samey. Yet repeated listening does reveal more interesting harmonic adventures. Lost in September (about a missing dog) and Tightrope Walking Beneath Heaven (about just that) have a sense of humour and a genuine sense of danger. Even more attractive – because it covers the widest range of moods – is the Flute Concerto. Here the unconventional heavy scoring of two of the movements is well counterparted by some testing solo writing.
Remote Galaxy and Distant Words also make good use of solo instruments. In the former the (in context) eccentric and anachronistic sound of Ralph Rousseau’s viola da gamba sounds like historically informed performance visiting the Planetarium. In the latter the range (and jazzy virtuosity) of Mark van de Wiel’s clarinet seems to play the unsung role of a lover. This, the lightest piece in the collection, surely deserves a further shelf life in the concert hall.