Geoffrey Allen: Music For Woodwinds

It’s entirely possible we’ve played this more than even the composer; it’s pleasant background music, and we kept just pressing play, and although nothing really sticks in the head, it’s always interesting.

llen was born in 1927 and studied chemistry and geography at Oxford, going on to work in Australian libraries, latterly at the University of Western Australia, and championing Australian music.
The sleeve notes say he acknowledges the major influences on his style as those of early and mid-20th century British and French composers, and he favours repeating passages, frequently transposing a semitone or tone.

The opening sonata for bassoon and piano dates from 1964, a good 30 years earlier than anything else on the CD. It’s spikier and the bassoon more jarring than the accompanying piano, though it never approaches difficult. What follows is more mellow so it’s a welcome lively start to the music.

Outback Sketches for clarinet and piano follows, written in 2004, and things are more harmonious. It obviously references Australia (the bird on the cover is a western Rosella (Platycercus icterotis), or moyadong, a species of parrot endemic to southern Western Australia) but the sound is far more English than Antipodean. The opening movement is lively, perhaps suggestive of the parrot chirruping away, but the rest is more gentle.
The Pastorale for bassoon and piano follows, sounding more generically classical and less English, though still not Australian. The reflective Pastorale, which has a nice melody in there, and the following Sonatina for bassoon and piano both date from 1988 and were written for the Fellowship of Australian Composers, intended for a CD suitable for final year high school students or undergrads.

he CD closes with the Fantasy Trio for flute, clarinet and piano, an on-the-whole dreamier piece. The first movement is “the clearest illustration of the long after-effects of Allen’s youthful enthusiasm for Delius” say the sleeve notes.

It’s a pleasant album, the relatively novel sound of the bassoon (played by Katherine Walpole) always a pleasure, warm and quite often almost amusing while the flute (Michael Waye) and clarinet (Allan Meyer) often add a dreamier feel. A clever mix of easy listening mood music and more intellectual classical. David Wickham plays the piano. This is out on Metier, msv 28607.

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