Salathé: Imaginary Birds

Album cover art for upc 608410873414
Label: Ravello
Catalog: RR8006
Format: COMPACT DISC

Knebel, Andrew; Huang, Charles; Kennedy, Katie; Taubl, Annabelle; Kang, Ling-Fei; Birt, John; Shih, Yu-Chen; Shams, Mohamed

What can one expect from a musician who spent his youth getting into trouble by furtively composing in chemistry class? Apparently a lot, provided they are cut from the same cloth as multi-faceted composer Phil Salathé, the brains behind Imaginary Birds: Music for Oboe and English Horn. The commissioned duet Mandarin Ducks is as much a natural observation as it is a musical piece of work: With the precise gaze of an ornithologist, Salathé illustrates seven enchanting anatine scenes. Fittingly, these short pieces roam about in free form – just as their natural subjects would. The title also nods to the recent marriage of the two performers, oboist Ling-Fei Kang and Charles Huang on English horn, as mandarin ducks are known for their lifelong fidelity. The upbeat start of the album soon grinds to a halt, however, in The Heart That Loves But Once. Inspired in title and style by the music of Robert Schumann and interspersed by the chilling whispers of a celesta, the rhapsodic work chronicles the disheartening state of a lover who finds his desires unattainable. Imaginary Birds of the Frozen North harks back to an avian theme, musically depicting three very different birds with an accuracy that is equal parts surprising, hilarious, and astonishing: a proud, leery ostrich, a dodo anxious of its forthcoming extinction, and an enigmatic screech owl. The Wood Between The Worlds takes the listener on a walk through a mystical landscape and conjures a cryptic, ethereal kind of beauty. The secret highlight of this mini-cycle is indubitably “IV. A World Shrouded in Forest,” in which the composer fuses his multifarious musical influences into an evocative portrait of not only the world he is painting, but also of a highly recognizable compositional style. Expecting the Spring Breeze rounds off the album with Salathé's arrangement of a lyrical melody composed by Teng Yu-hsien, completing the overarching natural theme of Imaginary Birds.

Price: $17.99