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- Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
The music of Percy Grainger sounds like nobody else's, and the musical world seems to be uncertain exactly how it should view his output (partially that may be because he was a person of questionable values and philosophical ideas, and those values do to an extent permeate his music). His music is full of energy and color, much of it sounds deceptively like light music that employs almost avant-gardistic elements; he is not afraid to employ blatantly oversweet big tunes, but does so in a manner that combines beauty and a tongue-in-cheek distance that makes the results fascinating but very hard to pin down. Most of the music is miniatures, though at least his cycle The Jungle Book collects eleven such miniatures together in a somewhat stylistically unified cycle.
Nonetheless, the music for The Jungle Book was written over a period of almost fifty years, but though the cycle is very variegated (various numbers employ very different forces, for instance) the long span over which the music was written shows up more in the variable quality than style - mostly because Grainger's music is so unpredictable anyways. Overall, however, it is a remarkable work, very much worth hearing though not among Grainger's most important works (it's no Warriors, for instance).
The program as a whole exhibits the range of Grainger's music, ranging from the ultrasentimental "Good-Bye to Love" and the rousing, deliberately banal but remarkably effective "Shallow Brown", to tartly humorous numbers (some of them in arrangements by other hands) to the plain weird, such as "Six Dukes went Afishin'". I have few qualms about the performance in generals, though the wide stylistic variety of the program and the substantial technical challenges - including several hilarious and ingenious vocal effects - inevitably makes some numbers more successful than others. "Shallow Brown" and "Died for Love" are highlights in this respect, though the marvelous "Willow, Willow" lacks a little bit in expressive range. Polyphony generally rises to the challenges magnificently, however, and if the textures sometimes verge on the dense this is probably primarily the composer's fault. The sound is good and overall this is a fascinating and recommendable release.