The Lotus Pond: Exotic Oboe Sounds – Music of ABEL-RAHIM, TANN, QUAN, SOULAGE, LIMBACK, VERCOE – Cynthia Green Libby, oboe/ Wei-Hn Su, p., /Susanna Reichling & Scott Cameron, percussion/ Peter Collins, p./ Jeremy Chesman, harp – MSR Classics

The Lotus Pond: Exotic Oboe Sounds = ABDEL-RAHIM: Bohayarat Al-Lotus (The Lotus Pond), for oboe and piano; TANN: Shakkei (Diptych arr. for oboe and piano); QUAN: Four Pictures (for oboe, two percussion and piano); SOULAGE: Pastorale (for oboe and harp); LIMBACK: Ripple Effect: Three pieces for Neon (for oboe and harp); VERCOE: Butterfly Effects (arr. for oboe and harp) – Cynthia Green Libby, oboe/ Wei-Hn Su, p., /Susanna Reichling & Scott Cameron, percussion/ Peter Collins, p./ Jeremy Chesman, harp – MSR Classics MS1421, 61:21 [Distr. by Albany] ****:

The poet Maya Angelou said “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”  I’m reminded of this quotation when I listen to this recording, for it makes me feel peaceful and relaxed as on a tropical beach, even though the music is not very memorable.

The first selection, Bohayrat Al-Lotus is by Egyptian composer: Jamal Abdel-Rahim (1924 – 1988), and gives the album its title. It sounds more eastern than middle-eastern and contains accents from several indigenous percussion instruments not credited in the playlist.

Next is Hillary Tann’s (b. 1947) Shakkei and it truly does evoke exotic eastern landscapes. Each of the two parts represents a different Japanese vista – the first, of Mount Hiei in the distance, the second, of a temple in an overgrown garden.  Ms. Tann was born in Wales and teaches music in New York State, but has studied and taught music in Japan.

Do Hong Quan (b. 1956) is represented with Four Pictures, each with a classical title (Allegro, Adagio, Andante) but with an eastern tonality. Quan is Vietnamese and acts as Dean of Composition at the Hanoi University when he’s not composing. The use of percussion through these pieces is most imaginative and enjoyable.

Marcelle Sounage (1894 0 1970) was born in Lima, Peru but spent most of her life in Paris. This short piece, Pastorale, introduces the harp with the oboe – a truly restful pairing. She must have had difficulty getting her music accepted, for she sometimes wrote under the pseudonym Marc Sauval, and this piece, though composed in 1920, was not published until 2010. This is its world premiere recording (along with the Tann above and the two following).

We close our world tour of composers with two from America. Derek Limback (b. 1974) has a background in composition and performance for bands. And he tells an interesting story of how this piece came to be named. “A student of mine… was killed on one of our high school band bus trips. In her memory, the band made T-shirts with the words “Beauty, Resilience, Joy” available in three neon colors” This piece, also for oboe and harp, was commissioned by Cynthia Libby and she suggested that the words suited the movements of  the piece, Ripple Effect: Three Pieces for Neon.

Elizabeth Vercoe (b. 1941) was born in Washington D.C., and has had a long and successful composing career. She now teaches at Regis College in Massachusetts and takes a special interest in feminist and environmental themes. This piece, Butterfly Effects, was originally written for a flute/harp duo, but the composer arranged it for oboe and harp. The inspiration is from a Taoist saying “Am I a human who dreams of being a butterfly, or am I now a butterfly who dreams of being human?” The five sections are written to evoke the butterflys named (Mourning Cloak, Common Jezebel, Question Mark, Monkey Puzzle, and  Psyche).

The featured performer here, Cynthia Green Libby, besides her academic work (Professor at Missouri State University) and orchestral playing (principal oboe in the Springfield Symphony Orchestra), is deeply schooled in producing soothing music. She is a graduate of the International Harp Therapy Program, and is the first Certified Practitioner in her state. She has initiated a course at MSU dealing with the healing power of music.

The other players on this disc are almost all colleagues of Libby at Missouri State or in the Springfield Symphony, and the recording was done at the University.  The accompanying noted describe the composers and performers adequately, and indicates that the recordings were done in May of 2012, produced, engineered and mixed by Darcy Stevens.

There is plenty of enjoyable variety here, always under the arch of the distinctive oboe sound.

—Paul Kennedy

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