*Contemporary Pieces* in 3 movements. Fun and lively set of character pieces with some chromaticism.
3. Alsatian (Auto Chaser)
_Score 8 pp. Parts 3 pp._
REVIEWS OF TEN COMPOSITIONS BY LANCE ECCLES
For 20 years, Lance Eccles was a member of the Reluctant Consort, a group based in Sydney, Australia. Most of his compositions have been written for this consort or for meetings of the Sydney Society of Recorder Players. Eccles is retired from his position as a senior lecturer in Chinese at Macquarie University. His current web site states that he is an "honorary senior research fellow in the Department of Ancient History at Macquaie University in Sydney, Australia"; see www.ocs.mq.edu.au/~leccles.
There are generalities that apply to many of the pieces reviewed here. The reader will note that all of the pieces have colorful programmatic titles. Sometimes, the music des indeed match the literary ideas of the titles. In this reviewer's opinion, there are other cases (as specifically noted below) where the literary images of the title and the actual music do not seem to connect. It may be, in some cases, that some words in these titles simply have other connotations in Australian culture. In any case, a simple solution for this problem would be for the publications to include information regarding the literary ideas behind the titles and how these ideas connect to the music.
Concerning his style, rhythms are straightforward and on the easier side, oftentimes using light syncopation. For the most part, the voices are very active, with a common exception being the bass lines. It is rare for the upper voices to hold any note longer than a halfnote, sometimes even in the final measures. Eccles has a remarkable ability to have voices moving every half beat for extended passages. He does a great job keeping his voices in lively contrary motion, but he also uses parallel motion to great effect. He likes abrupt endings.
Some of his music uses lush Romantic harmonies; some is more contemporary and mildly dissonant or even sharply dissonant. Eccles is equally at home in all these harmonic idioms. To enjoy hearing and playing Eccles's music, you will need a taste for contemporary harmony. Having said that the rhythms are easy, I should also mention that most of his music is quite chromatic. If your groups are interested in playing these pieces, get out the chromatic scales; you will need to know all chromatic fingerings.
Eccles likes to use phrase modulations to distantly-related keys. There are no avantgarde techniques in any of these pieces, beyond simple flutter-tonguing. If I had to rate them for difficulty on a scale of one to five, most would rate a three with exceptions noted below.
Regarding prices listed, Orpheus Music will remove taxes from the total for non- Australian customers. Prices vary day to day. These pieces are listed with two purchase options: the published version (in hard copy with the well-known purple and orange covers) and the .pdf instantly-downloadable version from orpheusmusic.com.au.
OMP171 Lance Eccles ROADKILL SONATA.
A sonata dedicated to roadkill surely must be a first. I'm not quite sure where one could perform a piece with this title. If I had heard this music (which is quite nice) with no programmatic titles, I would never have come up with negative images of roadkill!
The first piece, "Wallaby," has a very disjunct, contemporary melodic line. The listener needs to have a taste for an eclectic, "far out" melody that skips all over. Due to its many melodic skips, this piece is, like Goldilocks (see OMP178), one of the more difficult selections. It requires, at the minimum, an advanced intermediate player.
"Echidna," the second, is just wonderful, my opinion - gorgeously contemporary and, unlike the first piece, mostly stepwise. Its lines gently rise and fall in and out of dissonance. The voiceleading shifts on almost every half-beat, and assembling all the parts creates a breathtakingly lovely whole.
Near the end, a more difficult motive involving 16th-note descending sevenths is quite challenging - not only to play the notes, but to achieve a tight ensemble. We all thought it was a shame to have such a lovely contemporary piece clothed in a "roadkill" connotation.
The third piece, "Alsatian (Auto Chaser)," returns to the disjunct melodic style of the first piece. It is altogether a nice piece, but the listener and the performer must have a taste for the more adventurous contemporary harmonies.
Susan Groskreutz, American Recorder, January 2011.