In recent times, Hallowe’en has slowly been catching on as an event somewhat divorced in meaning from the original Pagan celebration, which was perhaps rooted in the Celtic ‘Samhain’. Related to the end of Summer and the harvest festival, some believe it to have originally involved the stock-taking of supplies in preparation for the winter. Now, it has expanded beyond children’s apple-bobbing into an excuse for adults to carouse and revel; and, of course, there are commercial advantages. This gradual expansion of the festival into what, perhaps, one day, will be granted a bank holiday, owes its germination to the influence of American culture. How appropriate then, that the musical programme at The Venue, Leeds College of Music, on Wednesday 31st had its particular origins in the music of the Americas. A happy consequence of the influence of North American, economic and cultural expansionism, and through this influence the amplification of South American culture, the work performed spoke of diversity and was considerably contrasting. The featured performers were Michael Ladley on the flute, and Declan Forde on the piano. Both are alumni of Leeds College of Music.
Ladley was accompanied by pianist, Angela Lloyd-Mostyn, whose interpretation and accommodation spoke of perfectionsim. Their Latin American offering was Mower’s ‘Sonata Latino’. In the first movement – Salsa Montunate – Ladley ‘s unaccompanied, bare, staccato introduction arrested the ear, which was satisfied by the piano entry of bare, salsa, rhythmic reinforcement. This sense was compounded when the accompaniment was fleshed out harmonically. Occasional melodically convoluted and energetic flute runs were reflected competitively by the piano in a sort of call-and-response battle of complexity: technically, most impressive. Fine phrasing, expressive of the merriment of the dance, was sculpted through well blended dynamic contrasts with infinitessimally tight rhythmic execution. Extended instrumental technique came in form of piano string hand-dampening and tonguing on the flute. This section provided extra rhythmic sharpness but seemed slightly unbalanced. A more meditative portion toward the close of the movement saw soloist and accompanist in unison.
The second movement was a Rumbango. The unaccompanied, rubato flute introduction spoke meanderingly, without resolution, of uncertainty, anxiety and fear. This was highly effective. Resolution came with the piano entry, which maintained syncopated regularity throughout the movement, often incorporatting a spooky descending seventh figure. Sustained passages, at times lugubrious, were intersprersed with well executed, complex, energised agitiation. A comically simple, and more positive, ending amused for its impertinence.
We had a Bossa Merengova for the third movement. Fortunately for the assembled, the impulse to dance did not overwhelm this reviewer. Regularity in the accompaniment made the journey through partial cycles of fifths with a descending element below excellent, neuron-firing complexity performed with great accuracy in the flute. Toward the close the main theme returned with arpeggiated, descending harmonic sketches in the piano. The rhythmic and melodic execution combined to produce highly expressive phrasing, which accommodated graceful dynamic contrasts.
Following our foray into South America we made substantial inroads into the North with two jazz piano duets. As mentioned, Declan Forde was featured. On the other piano was none other than Les Chisnall. Their first piece was an arrangement of ‘For all we know (we may never meet again’ by Coots & Lewis. The root and fifth neutality of the initial ostinato with sustain slowly set the pace of the piece and gradually introduced the full arpeggiation. Highly expressive dynamics pierced the room at times. Although fairly sparse and Impressionistic the power of the semitonal shifts in the jazz harmony imparted a strong sense of melancholic nostalgia with a tincture of hope. Perfect and complimentary synchronisation allowed for well measured and balanced dynamic contrasts compounding the expressiveness of the rhythmic execution. A passage near the close became somewhat contrapuntal evoking a degree of formality and was extended with regular one-note repetitions. The decay of the sustained chord at the end of the piece might have been prolongued further owing to the sense of emotional gravity.
Next came ‘Body and Soul’ by Green. Chisnalll began with irregular dissonces, rhythmically spikey and with no apparent resolution forthcoming. With a sense of atonality this became more agitated. For a brief moment, Forde broke the feeling of uncertainty with a running, chromatic passage. Forde’s following entries seemed to be a sort of additive ostinato as Chisnall increased the sense of unresolved uncertainty with dissonant attacks. This was a graceful expression of uncertainty and, perhaps, anxiety. Eventually, a degree of anchoring was introduced with two-note alternating regularity, highly expressive of polytonal, sparse meanderings. What had become a regular ostinato (or riff) might be seen to have been to suggest the titular, bodily housing of the soul – and by no means a harmonious coupling – although the original piece was sensible for the most part. The unresolved uncertainty became more tranquil toward the close with suspensions gradually resolving more and more. A sense of inner peace, gracefully executed and paced, was the extemely moving end result. A highly expressive and moving journey rendered with great measure.