English composer Jolyon Brettingham Smith (1949-2008) spent most of his life in Germany, first to study with Isang Yun and then as a teacher, viola player, Darmstadt lecturer and radio producer of Classical and Contemporary music programmes. This disc, on German label ProViva, collects works for voice and solo intrument from the 1970s, and is one of the rare releases documenting Brettingham Smith’s music – in fact, I only know of one other LP of his music, also by ProViva, titled ‘Im Aonar Seal’ (ref. 6493). A branch of the Intersound company from München, Pro Viva was founded by composer and arranger Gerhard Narholz, b.1937, founder of Sonoton Recorded Music Library in 1965.
Ode – The Western Wynde, composed 1976, is a fascinating meditation for flute based on a 16th century folksong known as Westron Wynde: “Westron wynde, when wilt thou blow / The small raine down can raine / Cryst, if my love were in my armes / And I in my bedde again!”. Brettingham Smith uses the lyrics as a pretext for a sensual exploration of the breath’s potentialities, asking the flutist to raise varied sounds from the instrument (breath without tone, chirping or fluttering notes, percussion sounds, etc) as well as using her own breath as a distinct part of the music. At times the flutist seems to be merely listening to the modulations of her own breath, as if inspired by Eastern philosophy, possibly an influence of Isang Yun, who coincidentaly also composed a flute concerto in 1977. Ode – The Western Wynde is not as exploratory or radical as other contemporary composers like Sciarrino or Ferneyhough, who aslo extensively composed for flute, but is immensely enjoyable compared to the latter’s mercilessly radical works. The Two Old Songs have echoes of Britten’s Auden songs and Hans Wener Henze’s Voices cycle (1971-1973) and other guitar music, and it shares a common hedonism with the aforementioned. The piano four-hands Mandrake Root is a sound installation for enigmatic chords and inexplicable pianissimos which retains some of the legendary plant’s own mysteries.
- Ode – The Western Wynde (1976) (24:36)
Beate-Gabirela Schmitt: flute
- Two Old Songs (1979) (10:00)
Marcus Creed: baritone
Rolf Kaiser: guitar
Klaus Kiessner: percussion
- Mandrake Root (1976) (14:17)
Toyoko Yamashita, Mio Takahashi: piano
Total time 48:53
LP released by ProViva, ref. 6542, Germany, 1982