Australian low flutes specialist Peter Sheridan’s album Sonorous Sonatas (Move Records, 2014) centres on the sounds and form of that most traditional of Western music forms, the sonata, but explored through the sounds of low flutes. Beginning with Gary Shocker’s beautiful Music for a Lost Planet (alto flute and piano) this album takes the listener on a journey through the amazing variety of sonorities low flutes can produce. Indeed, this whole album is a treasure trove of how versatile, daring, and lightly elegant low flutes can be.
Sheridan has made a wise choice in the formation of this album, alternating sonatas (and sonata like works) with shorter stand-alone pieces, which serve to break up the formic theme. The best thing about this recording is how all of these works sound dramatically different from each other- too often one hears the same tropes being trotted out by composers when they go near a low flute. Here however, Sheridan has done a wonderful job of finding, or commisioning, works that contrast with each other, and ordering them so the difference in low flute sonorities are enhanced rather than blending together. Sheridan’s playing is a masterclass on how to get the most artistry out of low flutes. These beautiful, but frequently unwieldy, beasts rarely get the recognition they deserve beyond the ‘novelty’ status. Here Sheridan reminds us that they are musically (if not physically) just as versatile as the concert flute, with a wide range of sonorities for those willing to take the time to learn them.
In addition to the lovely Music for a Lost Planet several other works particularly stand out to the ear, showcasing the art of low flutes and the artistry of Sheridan’s performance. I was especially drawn to Jane Hammond’s Song Without Words for bass flute and piano, and Andrew Downes’s Sonata Op. 99 for contrabass flute and piano. In addition to the flute and piano works, Sonorous Sonatas also contains three works that showcase flute duets: two of alto and bass flutes, and the third the improbable (but delightful) combination of piccolo (Andrew Macleod) and subcontrabass flute. I found Carolyn Morris’s Forest Over Sea for alto and bass flute and piano to be particularly charming. (This piee was commissioned by Sheridan for his student Jessica Laird, who features on this album on Elegia, though not on this piece- Lisa-Maree Amos takes the alto flute part for this piece)
This is a must-listen album for any fan of low flutes- a delightful album that challenges the listener’s perceptions of what low flutes can and cannot do. Additionally, I would highly recommend it for anyone wanting new and different low flute repertoire for the purpose of recitals. The works on this album deserve to have a wide audience, and indeed if you’re planning some low flute work in a recital this is a must for garnering new and interesting repertoire ideas.
Gary SCHOCKER, Music for a Lost Planet (2009); Jane HAMMOND, Song Without Words (2013); Taran CARTER, Owls Sfutel; Jelle HOGENHUIS, Elegia; Andrew DOWNES, Sonata, Op.99 (2008); Carolyn MORRIS, Forest Over Sea (2013); Houston DUNLEAVY, Clumsy Dances, No.6 (2011); A Clumsy Gigue
Peter Sheridan (flutes) Katherine Day (piano, Music for a Lost Planet and Taran Carter); Jane Hammond (piano, Song Without Words and Sonata Op. 99); Jessica Laird (alto flute, Elegia); Lisa-Maree Amos (alto flute, Forest Over Sea); Andrew Macleod (piccolo)
MOVE RECORDS MD3375 [79:36] Recorded: Move Records studio, Melbourne
For more about Peter Sheridan: http://www.lowflutes.com/
Review by Aleisha Ward
Flutist Aleisha Ward is Flute Journal assistant editor for Australia and New Zealand. She holds an MA in Jazz History and Research from Rutgers University, USA with her thesis focusing on the early history of jazz flute under the supervision of Dr Lewis Porter. She holds a BM in Jazz Performance and a PhD in music from the University of Auckland where her thesis was on Jazz in New Zealand 1920-1955, and where she now works as music librarian.. She is a freelance writer and editor, occasionally lectures and tutors music history courses, and writes about Jazz in New Zealand at her blog nzjazz.wordpress.com
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