Cecilia McDowall: Piper's Dream
‘A native Scot, Cecilia McDowall was educated at Edinburgh University and London's Trinity College of Music, and studied under Joseph Horovitz and Robert Saxton. After raising a family, she returned to full-time composition and has since received a string of commissions from the likes of Sir James Galway, the London Mozart Players and the Schubert Ensemble of London.
Two works featuring wind quintet frame the present, generous portrait-in-sound: Arctic Circle draws its inspiration from Scottish and Finnish folklore, its dancing outer sections forming a vivid and satisfying contrast with the icy chill at its heart, while the thoughtful Andante centrepiece of Winter Music (based on “Gute Nacht” from Schubert’s Winterreise) is a tribute to the composer’s flautist father, Harold Clarke.
Of the three pieces for solo piano I was particularly taken with Tapsalteerie, which makes ingenious play with a cradle song by the turn-of-the-century Aberdeenshire fiddler James Scott Skinner (the title is Scots for “topsy-turvy”, in case you were wondering). Piper’s Dream and Elven (both for flute and piano) were influenced by Scottish and Hungarian folk music respectively; likewise, Le temps viendra for piano, oboe and clarinet (the latter two instruments also doubling on cor anglais and bass clarinet) reveals a fastidious instrumental resource. Elsewhere, the Six Pastiches, Three Concert Studies and Soundtracks are consistently inventive, tuneful teaching pieces for flute and piano, as are the winsome Seven Impressions for piccolo and piano.
Performances are as polished as they are sympathetic; the sound is admirably real. A most attractive collection.’
Andrew Achenbach, Gramophone (October 2002)