Goehr_Marching to Carcassonne; Pastorals; When Adam Fell
Alexander Goehr turned 80 last August and this programme, spanning nearly 50 years of his creative life, is as welcome a birthday tribute as one could wish for. The earliest piece is the somewhat ironically named Pastorals, composed in 1965; ironic (for all the composer’s explanation) because of the piece’s invigorating Varèsian toughness. Though composed for an orchestra with a reduced complement of winds and no violas, its textures are mostly suggestive of chamber music, with the string ensemble and the two winds interjecting themselves only at intervals. When Adam Fell, completed in 2011, is more lyrical in its frame of reference (with just a suggestion of a Ländler at the start), though scarcely less tightly constructed, its material derived from the bass-line of Bach’s chorale setting of that name.
The most extended piece here is a suite, Marching to Carcassonne, a set of character pieces (March, Invention, Chaconne, Burlesque and the like) unfolding as a series of episodes in which solo piano and chamber ensemble alternate. Over the course of the work, a more fluid dialogue is established between the two. This is perhaps the most accessible work here, though the opening march introduces a neo-classical element that is somewhat puzzling in the context of the rest of the programme. The live performances, two of which were recorded recently (that of Marching to Carcassonne dating back to 2003), are admirably committed and detailed, and very well captured.