GOSS: Park of Idols. Motherland. The Autumn Song. Welsh Folksongs. Still Life / Kimberly Patterson, cel; Patrick Sutton, gtr / Ravello RR8034
This album of modern music for the unusual duo of guitar and cello was composed by Stephen Goss, a Welsh composer born in 1964. Although his writing style per se is not exactly original, using edge-of-the-strings whines and irregular but persistent rhythms, the pieces themselves are interesting and, to my ears, attractive.
Park of Idols is a six-part suite with such movement titles as “Jump Start” (dedicated to Frank Zappa), “Cold Dark Matter” (actually one of Goss’ more lyrical pieces” and “Fractured Loop.” The latter has a decidedly jazzy feel to it, which Patterson, who is essentially a soft classical guitarist, plays with surprising swing, and her partner plays a pretty darn good “walking cello.” The last piece, “Sharjah,” is a tribute to the prog rock band King Crimson where the cellist imitates the guitar style of Robert Fripp. Fortunately, the end result is more classicalized and less rock-oriented.
Motherlands, commissioned by two musicians from Colorado (who played soprano saxophone and viola, the other guitar), explores their diverse backgrounds, one a Methodist and the other Russian-Jewish. Several hymns were submitted to Goss along with some Hassidic and Klezmer tunes. It, too, is in six movements and played with gusto by this duo. In one of the more clever arrangements, Goss managed to combine “Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child” with “Moscow Nights.” The Autumn Song is a pleasant piece, based on ancient Chinese poems and stories.
The Welsh Folk Songs, assembled for the Welsh-Argentine Guitar Duo in 2008, were again adapted for Patterson and Goss, and they play them very well. I was much more taken by Still Life, a tribute to expressionist artist Clyfford Still (1904-1980). The music grows from a slow, somber piece based on a Still painting entitled Black into jazz-influenced pieces such as Blue, but what fascinated me was the manner in which Goss blended the movements together. Only the cello is heard in Black, but halfway through the guitarist starts playing Groove and the two instruments rather ignore one another. Each piece thus blends into the next until they come together, uniting in perfect synchronicity in Scherzo (the fourth piece) which also has a jazz feel to it. According to the notes, the Patterson-Goss duo gave the premiere of Still Life at the Clyfford Still museum in Denver.
This is, for the most part, really interesting music, even when one reaches the dark, rather morose Space in Still Life. I highly recommend it, and I rarely if ever recommend classical guitar recordings!
—© 2020 Lynn René Bayley
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